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How Do I, A Guy Who Hates Working Out, Make Going to the Gym Actually Enjoyable?

The gym will never be ‘fun,’ but if you change your mindset about what you’re doing there, you can get pretty close

When it comes to working out, we’re not all strongmen like Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (aka The Mountain). In fact, many of us could go our entire lives and still have no clue how a lat pull-down differs from an incline bench. Which is to say, there’s no shame in not knowing your way around a gym, or how to start the process of getting in shape. Plus, that’s what we’re here for — to make sure that when you’re in the gym, you at least never have to sweat the small stuff.

I’m maybe 30 pounds overweight; I gasp for air on beginners-level hikes; and I eat like I’m Michael Phelps. Problem is, I fucking hate the gym. It’s not fun at all, and I get panic attacks just thinking about going. Any tips for making working out more enjoyable?
Working out is exactly that: Work. If you’re hoping your visits to the gym can be as fun as sitting on your couch rewatching every episode of Breaking Bad before El Camino comes out, I’ve got news for you — it ain’t gonna happen. 

Exercise is a commitment, and to do it right, requires you to get uncomfortable. No one would ever describe being uncomfortable as “fun,” but with the right tips and tricks, you can at least make it tolerable — maybe even borderline enjoyable. Here are three big ones…

  1. Work out with a like-minded friend, or significant other. Nothing gets people in the gym like accountability, and when you’ve got someone you’re going to gym with who you have to meet at a set time, or who’s elbowing you in the ribs at 6 a.m. to get dressed and ready to go, it takes away a lot of the temptation to roll back over and hit the snooze button. Plus, if you enjoy being around your gym buddy, it might even be fun, too.
  2. Find an activity you actually enjoy, and turn it into a workout. Like riding your bike? Make that your primary form of exercise. Think you’re a good dancer? Sign up for a hip-hop class. There are plenty of ways to get your heart rate going even if you’re doing things not immediately associated with working out. Hell, you can even burn calories on your Xbox or PlayStation if you pick the right games.
  3. Don’t tie your gym workouts to a specific goal. Just go, man. Fuck around. Try out different machines for the hell of it. Get comfortable. Put in 15 minutes. Put in five minutes. Whatever you do, don’t walk in there thinking, “I have to lose weight. I have to lose weight.” Because if you set huge goals and you fail, you’ll hate yourself for it, and you’ll associate that shitty feeling with the gym. But if start by dipping your toe in the water (maybe even literally if your gym has a pool), you’ll always be successful, and goals can come later once you’re feeling good about being there.

Without a doubt, tricks like these can change how your body and mind experience exercise, but even still, you might need an extra push to get started. And since the best advice for how to make working out more enjoyable often comes from people who actually enjoy working out, I asked Kristin Kurihara, director of athleisure brand Carbon38’s Global Ambassador Program and one of those unicorns who truly loves kicking their own ass in the gym, how she gets pumped up to break a sweat. 

“There are three things that I recommend for beginners that help make working out more fun,” she tells me. “The first thing is getting a new pair of shoes, or a killer set of workout clothes you can get excited about wearing. I know that it’s kinda cheating considering I work for a brand that sells workout clothes, but when you feel good about how you look, you’d be surprised at how that translates into confidence and energy to move.” 

“Also, make a commitment to a morning workout the night before,” she says. “Don’t decide in the morning when you’re tired — book a class or set your alarm with the mindset that ‘this is scheduled.’ Prepping everything you need to get-up-and-go while you’re awake and coherent can relieve a lot of gym anxiety, so all you have to do is roll out of bed.”

If all else fails and you’re not ready to commit to going to the gym, there are also ways to have fun working out on your own time, either at home or around your neighborhood. “Get outside and go for a walk or a short run, or stay indoors and workout in your living room,” says Kurihara. “There are a TON of online workout apps — FitOn or Nike Training Club or even YouTube channels with great trainers — to try and discover what’s fun for you.”

Now excuse me while I go do 10 push-ups every time Jesse Pinkman says “yo” or “bitch.”