Having Fun Is Essential to Fitness Success: Here's How

POPSUGAR Photography | Benjamin Stone
POPSUGAR Photography | Benjamin Stone

Pulling myself out of bed at 6:14 a.m. to catch the 6:29 bus to make a 7 a.m. cardio class would've sounded absolutely effing nuts if you had proposed the idea to me a couple years ago.

That's because working out never sounded fun to me — in fact, it sounded kind of miserable. I didn't know of anyone actually enjoying their workouts; they were just doing it to lose weight, be skinny, or reach some kind of body goal. And when they did work out, they were sweaty, tired, and often quite sore. I never saw the fun side of fitness, which is super unfortunate.

I look at classes like SoulCycle and events like the Nike Women's Half Marathon as my "gateway drug" to fitness, because they have the essential ingredients that had been missing; they had the factor that drew me in and kept me firmly planted in the fitness world: fun!

It might sound silly, but fun is essential to breaking into fitness for the first time, setting up good habits, and staying healthy consistently. Here's how.

Overcoming Fear

One of the biggest obstacles to getting into a workout is fear. Fear of failure, fear of not being able to keep up, fear of judgment. Want to know what counters fear? The idea of having fun. Aerialist and circus performer Ashley Vargas does death-defying stunts as her form of staying active, and how does she overcome that fear? By reminding herself that no matter how scary her activity might seem, it's going to be way more fun.

Find something that seems more fun than scary; I lived by that principle when I signed up for my first half-marathon. Had I ever run anything longer than the mandatory PE-class mile? No. Had I ever been an athlete? Absolutely not. But I signed up because that event looked so fun, and there were Tiffany necklaces, and the experience was in a cool city, and I could go up with my girlfriends and make a weekend of it . . . the list goes on. Fun helped me overcome a scary obstacle of running an intimidatingly long race; fun duped me into becoming a half-marathoner, and I've never looked back.

Staying Motivated

It's much harder to drag yourself to the gym when you're not having fun and you don't enjoy your workout. Fun will motivate you on days when losing weight doesn't sound as appealing anymore or when you don't care about what your body looks like. A fun exercise will give you something to be excited about, even in the toughest of times. On days when you're losing steam, something that sounds fun will always pick you back up and give you something to look forward to.

Think about having a really long, hard day at work — then next on the agenda is a workout you don't love. How motivated are you to get out there and exercise? You're probably getting in the car and going straight home to the couch, right? Conversely, if it's a workout that brings you a lot of joy and makes you feel good, it'll be the bright spot at the end of the day and a total pick-me-up, not something you'd blow off.

Staying Consistent

Remember that feeling when you were a little kid and you were so excited about something happening the next morning, you couldn't sleep? Whether it was Christmas morning or your parents were taking you to Disneyland, you simply couldn't keep your eyes closed past 5 a.m. The same concept applies to a fitness style or class you're excited about. What will make you excited? A new type of class or one that you just love so much you can't wait to go back?

For me, treating myself to a Friday morning SoulCycle class with one of my favorite instructors (and, you know, maybe getting a Philz Coffee after class) is enough to pull me out of bed consistently at 6 a.m., at least once a week.

Find that form of exercise that you love, something that feels so electric and exciting. You'll go back again and again and again. No more need to make excuses to blow off workouts; you'll be booking your schedule solid with your new favorite activity.

Opening You Up to MORE Fitness

Like I said, the fun stuff is the gateway drug. If you had dropped me into a competitive, traditional cycling class two years ago, I would've run right out of the studio, tripping on my cycling shoes. But because I tried a fun, dance-oriented format that really meshed with my personality, I got comfortable with movement in a way that was exciting, not a punishment.

And that's just the thing: working out should never feel like a punishment. You should only be moving in a way that makes your body feel good . . . and that makes your brain feel good, too! Finding the right exercise can take some trial and error, but it's so important to keep trying. Even yogi Kathryn Budig told POPSUGAR that she hated her first yoga class — and now she's one of the world's most popular yoga teachers. "I really believe there's a teacher and style for everyone; it's just a matter of patience. Just keep trying," she said.

After you find that one workout you love and start getting more comfortable with exercise, you'll open the door to more workouts. You'll find something else that you love and start to think, "Wow, how am I supposed to choose between hip-hop cardio and aerial yoga?!"

Did I ever think that fitness would be my favorite activity? Hell. No. The me of two years ago would've laughed at the concept. But because I found the classes and activities that were exceptionally fun, exciting, and motivating (enough for me to get out of bed at 6 a.m. consistently), I've turned my life around, gotten in the best shape of my life, and set myself up for the healthiest future. You can do the same!