6 creative ways to transform your workouts | News
Most people know that playing sports is good for your health, both physical and mental. But staying motivated, especially over the long term, can be tough. Sure, you may be excited about training for a 5K or 10K, but once the race is over, your interest in running can quickly wane. Or you may be crazy about your new spin class, only to get tired of it after a few weeks.
Getting bored with exercise is normal. A recent study from the National Institutes of Health found that boredom with sports activities is a common emotion among amateur, college, and even professional athletes.
People get tired of their exercise routines because the mind-body unit is like a Jack Russell terrier, said Plymouth, New Hampshire-based sports psychologist and orthopedic surgeon Dr. Dan O’Neill. “You always have to give him new challenges, new ideas, new ideas, new toys, new workout clothes – new, new, new.”
That means varying your workouts is key to staying motivated, O’Neill said. And now that the calendar has shifted to a whole new year, it’s the perfect time to inject some creativity into your exercise routine. Here are six ways to get started.
Important note: Before starting any new exercise program, consult your doctor. Stop immediately if you feel pain.
Create a word or picture with your exercise route
Runners often plot routes on city streets that create a word or image, then use a GPS device to “draw” it as they run. You can do the same whether your favorite exercise is running, walking, or cycling.
First, download a fitness app on your cell phone, smartwatch or fitness tracker. A few options are Nike+ Run Club, Strava Training, and Runtastic. Then sketch your message (HOPE!) or your favorite image (eg a heart or a dog) online, using a mapping tool such as Map My Run. This way you will know exactly where to go. When you’re ready to go, don’t forget to start your device’s GPS tracker. Next, be sure to stop your tracker and save your artwork so you can share it with others.
Not sure what image or message to create? You can always follow the artistic routes that others have created and shared in the applications. Some are impressively complex and may require several excursions. But that’s part of the fun.
Join a free fitness group
Many communities offer free exercise opportunities. Fitness in the Park is a summer activity that has been running in New York State for a decade. Everyone is invited to visit one of 18 different parks and participate in Pilates, Zumba, kickboxing and more. In Washington, DC, the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District hosts TriFit during the warmer months, a series of free evening workouts held in Farragut Square. And in 53 locations around the world, an average of 4,200 people per week join November Project workouts throughout the year.
The November Project workouts include running, stair climbing, jumping, bodyweight exercises and circuits, and some goofy antics. A Halloween practice session with the November Project group in Madison, Wisconsin, consisted of tossing pumpkins back and forth with a partner; another linked specific exercises with the Uno cards you selected. Attendees ranged in age from around 10 to over 70, co-leader Aaron Cahn said, with 40 to 100 people showing up regularly for the group’s Wednesday and Friday morning sessions.
The camaraderie of the group has kept Austin Frion, 38, coming for about seven years now. “The best part is catching a partner you don’t know or ending up with one you know,” Frion said. “It’s always inclusive and so much fun.”
Dancing doesn’t seem like exercise to many people, which is why it’s still a popular option. It’s also something you can do anywhere, to any type of music. Salsa, jazz, hip-hop, it all works.
Monica Monfre, a certified yoga teacher based in Scantlebury, Massachusetts, studied dance in college. To keep her yoga students engaged, she created Dance to Flow, a class that starts with 25 minutes of choreographed dance, transitioning to 25 minutes of a hip-opening yoga flow.
“The workout allows for a creative aspect and meditation at the same time,” she said. “A lot of people come because it’s an opportunity to try something different, as well as to dance in a non-judgmental space.”
Register for an event for newcomers
Sure, you can run a 5K. But why not try orienteering? This timed navigation sport requires you to use detailed maps to find hidden orange and white flags in remote parks or terrain. The event is timed, so people often jog or briskly walk from flag to flag. Races such as Tough Mudder involve obstacle-filled race courses, where teamwork is encouraged so that everyone ends up victorious. And adventure racing combines orienteering with several sports — usually hiking, biking, and paddling — and sometimes a surprise obstacle, like a ropes course or a climbing wall.
Take parkour lessons
Parkour is both a non-competitive sport, an art and a training discipline. Created in France in the 1980s, its aim is to help people overcome obstacles encountered in urban or natural environments through jumps, leaps, balances and other movements. Think of walking on top of a low retaining wall or crossing a stream while jumping from rock to rock. Movements like these are often intuitive. But add a little speed and creativity, and your next walk might have you jumping over a bench, down the steps two at a time, and running along the edge of the sidewalk. Although flashier parkour moves are best attempted after instruction and lots of practice, there are plenty of easy moves that most people can master.
Take the road
If travel drives you, book a retreat or boot camp in an intriguing location. Nike operates a high-altitude cross-country ski camp in Colorado Springs, Colorado, while a luxurious hiking and wellness retreat awaits in the scenic Canadian province of British Columbia. You can also experience great classes whenever you’re out of town, like goat yoga and flying trapeze classes.
No matter what you choose to do, O’Neill said it’s important to remember these four basics of sports psychology: No negative talk; just showing up is important; you will feel better after exercise; and go outside.
“Any time with Mother Nature is well spent,” O’Neill said. “And she’s easily the greatest motivator of all time.”
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