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.
- 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
- Dance classes (ballroom dancing, Zumba, hip hop)
- Flag football
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!