Lesson #99: How to Make Working Out Your Hobby

by Rachel on August 23, 2011

If you played sports in middle school or high school, then you probably already have experience with exercise as a hobby. Think about it: in high school, we never thought, “Ugh, I have to go work out for three hours tonight.” No…you just went to practice. You liked going. Your friends were there. You wanted to be there. You wanted to be there so badly, in fact, you were willing to compete just for a chance to be there.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could approach working out with the same mindset?


When we think of hobbies, we tend to think of activities like scrapbooking or photography. But we can easily expand this list to include hobbies that require us to be physically active, thus counting as a workout…that doesn’t feel at all like a workout.

And motivation is easy! You’ll skip a workout. You won’t skip a hobby.

Step 1. Find a hobby. 

Dictionary.com defines a hobby as “an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation.” OK — that’s simple enough. I’d like to expand on that to include a few more things. To me, a hobby…

  • makes you more interesting.
  • keeps you from getting bored.
  • provides opportunities to socialize with like-minded people.
  • come with a built-in culture that is bigger than just you (i.e. if you Google it, you can find lots of enthusiasts all over the world).
  • is something you make time for.
  • teaches you something new or helps you maintain/improve a skill you already have.
  • is something you’ll invest money in even though you don’t expect to make money.

Here is a short list of physically active things you can do that don’t involve just going and slaving away on the treadmill for 30 minutes at a time.

  • Hiking
  • Training for a half-marathon with a group
  • Biking once a week with a friend or a group
  • Yoga, pilates, or Core Fusion classes
  • Playing tennis or golfing with friends
  • Fencing
  • Soccer
  • Dance classes (ballroom dancing, Zumba, hip hop)
  • Flag football
  • Gardening

I’m sure there are many more, but I think that’s a good start!

OK so choose one of those or pick your own. At the moment, mine is yoga!

Step 2. Find a way to do the hobby regularly and make sure you’re doing it in a way that provides opportunities to socialize with like-minded people.

We can all try to get to the gym X amount of times per week, but there is no real reason to do it, except because we feel like we should. With a hobby though, we typically find a way to do it it regularly without even thinking about it. Whether it’s once or twice a week or a couple times a month, we don’t question it; we just go because we want to go.

I think the easiest way to make sure you’re making time for your new exercise hobby is to take classes or lessons. A lot of times, classes or lessons have a set start and end date, so you feel like you have to be there. You pay money for a set amount of weeks or classes and you don’t want to miss one.

Classes and lessons also bring a social factor. You have an instructor and other people who are expecting you to be there. And they actually want you to be there because they genuinely like you.

To me, this is the biggest difference between just working out and working out as a hobby. You don’t approach it thinking, Oh, I have to go because it’s good for me and my workout buddy is depending on me. You’re thinking, Oh, I want to go because I enjoy this activity and I want to see my friends.

Meeting like-minded people had a lot to do with me starting classes at Define and now starting yoga. I mean, I need friends. It’s hard to make them. A hobby seemed like a really good way to do that.

Step 3. Don’t  feel bad about investing money in it.

People spend money on their hobbies. We all know the amateur photographer who drops tons of money on a camera and tripod or the scrapbooker who spends hundreds of dollars every time she goes into Michael’s. But we think, hey, it’s her thing. On the other hand, we often try to spend as little money as possible on our workouts. And that makes sense, because working out is a chore. We don’t want to be doing it at all so we certainly don’t want to spend any money on it.

With hobbies, we have to stop ourselves from spending more money on them. You want to go on the hiking trip in the mountains so you don’t mind paying. You’ll buy shiny new shoes because everyone in your cycling group is raving about a particular brand. You’ll spend more on your dance class than you ever would on a gym because it’s a hell of a lot more fun. And there is nothing wrong with that!

And investing money in it might mean spending money on it outside your gym membership. While a lot of gyms have classes that will work as a hobby, I’m a big fan of getting out of the gym, mainly because there are so many classes and most don’t have a start/end date, a separate price, or a set class list. You can get the hobby experience from a gym, but it’s more difficult. I think it’s worth paying for the hobby experience.

This was actually the thing that sort of pushed me to appreciate working out as a hobby. I mean, I do love an excuse to spend money. And when I went into Lululemon and realized I couldn’t justify buying anything because I never worked out…I decided to make yoga my hobby.

Step 4. Make it all about the hobby. 

I really think you should only have one exercise-related hobby at a time because then you can give it the attention (time/money) it deserves. And you should be comfortable doing it often and letting it take the place of some of your time at the gym. But if you still want/need to do traditional workouts, rethink them in a way that benefits your hobby. Instead of going to the gym and doing the elliptical, start a strength training routine that will help improve your golf swing. Do cardio intervals with the mindset, “This will help me on my next hike.” Get your hobby friends to do it with you so it feels even more related to your hobby.

Even if strength training or cardio isn’t your hobby, seeing it as part of your hobby — the same way soccer practice wasn’t fun, exactly, but you did it because you knew it would help you with your game — can be really motivating. Keep an eye on daily deal sites for new ideas (even if you don’t buy the deal, save the name of the fitness studio or class in Evernote!) or use Meetup.com to find inspiration.

Step 5. Don’t hesitate to try new hobbies on occasion. 

You should commit to your hobby for long enough to connect with it and get something out of it, but you don’t have to marry it. Just like we used to do different sports in high school based on the seasons, we can — and probably should! — change our hobbies in the same way. I plan to do yoga for a few months, but when it gets cooler, I might start running as a hobby. Mixing it up will keep you from getting bored and will mean you’re always really pumped about what you’re doing.

The thing I really love about this approach is that it doesn’t have anything to do with losing weight. Sure, that might be a nice bonus, but that’s not what’s going to get you excited about it and isn’t going to be what is going through your head when you’re in the moment. Running on the treadmill, you’re thinking “calories in, calories out.” In hip hop class, you’re only thinking about your moves. Thinking of your workout like a hobby is thinking of it as a way to be healthy, active, social, and enjoying life.

I mean, I’m sore as hell from my yoga class last night. It’s hard to stay motivated about a workout that leaves me aching this much. But a hobby? Well, that’s different.

Thoughts? Anyone already doing this? Anyone willing to give it a shot?? Let me know what you think!

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lisa @ I'm an Okie August 23, 2011 at 10:11 am

I think these are all great tips. I think you HAVE to make it a hobby. Make it fun and interesting.

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2 Cynthia (It All Changes) August 23, 2011 at 10:17 am

Such great tips. Kayaking and hiking with Hunni are a blast but the soreness later let me know I got a great workout. I love workouts as a hobby as well as traditional workouts. Combining the two let me know that working out can be fun and functional.

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3 Kaleigh August 23, 2011 at 10:26 am

I’m oving this post because I feel like I’ve just recently changed my mind set to thinking about working out as a hobby. I’m just starting to train for a half marathon but it’s more about it being a hobby and the cool location/experience of the race (it’s on Mackinac Island!) than losing weight or feeling obligated to exercise. So now when I’m doing something like yoga (which I usually don’t care for) or strenght training, I’m thinking that it will help with my sore muscles from running, keep me injury free, and help me feel great on the day of the race. It’s a whole new type of motivation!

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4 Rachel August 23, 2011 at 10:58 am

Love this! And the best part is I’ve found it’s when you stop thinking “I need to lose weight. I need to lose weight. I need to lose weight” that is when you actually DO. That’s when it comes off naturally, and in a much happier, healthier way.

Great article as always Rach!

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5 Colleen August 23, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Great post, Rachel! I found myself at a loss a few years ago regarding exercise once I reached my weight loss goal. I started exercising to meet my goal, and then didn’t really know how to approach exercising anymore. I love the idea of working out as a hobby–it makes perfect sense! Thank you for your insight.

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6 Rachel August 23, 2011 at 1:10 pm

You raise another a good point — I think once you’ve hit a weight loss goal, you have to find a different way to stay motivated, or you’re never going to get yourself to work out! I hope this helps!!

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7 Jes August 23, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Thank’s for the insight! I love this idea, I was injured in the spring and could barely walk, let alone run or lift (both of which I loved doing), but have lacked to motivation to get back into it… This might help! =)

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8 [SMASH] at Sweat. Style. Swoon. August 23, 2011 at 1:49 pm

I’m trying to start thinking of it as a part of my day… like brushing my teeth [or watching tv]. A great new FUN way to exercise that I’m really digging is playing Dance Central on the XBOX Kinect. It has a calorie count mode to keep up with what you’re burning while you dance. SO FUN.

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9 Jackie August 23, 2011 at 2:47 pm

YOU are bloody brilliant! Thank you Rachel =)

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10 Caroline August 23, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Umm, yes. 100% agree! I started viewing my workouts as a hobby a few months ago, and it really helps me enjoy myself. I go to a Pure Barre studio (I’m thinking it’s the same type of workout as Define) and I love that the other women ask me where I was if I miss a class and vice versa. Once I grow bored of this studio, which is inevitable, I’m thinking of trying out TRX or reformer pilates or something else far away from an elliptical machine!

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11 nikkiana August 23, 2011 at 3:35 pm

This exact mindset is pretty much the only way that I’m able to work out in any capacity. I live in NYC so when the weather’s warm and I have extra time, I’ll walk the length of several subway stops instead of heading underground for a ride. I tend to think of it as exploring and seeing what’s going on in the neighborhood rather than exercise. I’m also beginning to get into dance again because I’ve started doing burlesque, and been taking classes on and off. It’s so much easier to do the classes because I actually want to be there.

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12 Ashley August 23, 2011 at 8:22 pm

I think thats an awesome way to approach exercise~ I don’t really think it works for me though because being a personal trainer is my job and staying fit and it shape comes with that. I enjoy working out so I don’t see it as “work” but it def comes with the job description.

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13 Elizabeth August 24, 2011 at 9:56 am

I totally agree! My hobby is yoga, too – I love the way it makes me feel and think about things. Last week on vacation, I tried out kayacking for the first time… I think I know what I’ll be doing next summer!

I really like your idea of switching up our hobbies. Often I can burn out from an activity and feel guilty about abandoning it. If the switch-up is intentional, it would definitely keep me enthusiastic and energized.

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14 Christa August 24, 2011 at 10:49 am

I love this approach! About 3 weeks ago I started a training program to run a 5K. Not very far I know, but still it was something I wanted to commit to doing. Due to my scheduling at work, I won’t be able to do the run anymore, but to get myself in better shape I am still doing the training program. Hopefully it will be beneficial when I finally do get to compete. I started doing yoga the other day too. HOLY aching thighs Batman! I got a DVD and did it at home, and 2 days later my legs are still like Jell-O. I definitley feel your pain

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15 Savananh August 24, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Great post Rachel! I know I need to working out but am not feeling that motivated. I am going to start going to dance classes a few times a week and I know that will help.

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16 Maggie August 24, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Love this Rach! I’ve been really bored with the same old run routes that are not inspiring and looking for new ideas. I’ve grown up in the same city my whole life and still there are so many places I never knew about! So after reading your post I’ve decided instead of starting every run at my doorstep and tweeking my paths, I will drive to a new location to run and see where it takes me. This way I am discovering new places that are right aroud my city and keeping it interesting. Also been doing the same with kayaking, so easy to put the kayak in the back of a truck and throw it in one of the many lakes around my area that I’ve never been in.

Officially inspired. New hobby=exploring
Dove Love :)

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17 Rachel August 24, 2011 at 8:10 pm

Oh this makes my day!! 1 heart 1 wayyyyy 4 evaaa!!!!

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18 Lisa September 1, 2011 at 11:29 am

When I was 250+ pounds and sedentary, eating and watching TV on my couch was my hobby. When I got healthy, lost the weight, I realized that my hobby was fitness. I loved it. I loved how I felt. I LOVED being active. My hobbies now are biking, hiking, running. When the boyfriend and I go on vacation, we go on active vacations with hiking and cycling involved. I love it!

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19 Taylor September 28, 2011 at 11:39 am

Love this post! I started going to a pilates class that I really love, and it’s only offered twice a week. Monday afternoon it was pouring down rain (I walk to the gym) but I didn’t want to miss class since I only go twice; I grabbed a jumbo umbrella and made my way there. The fact that I went there despite the pouring down rain made me think that I’m actually turning this into a hobby; it’s something I enjoy!

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