Health & Fitness

Finding Your Fitness Niche

Written by Tara Hall

In my world, working out is a chore. Exercise is on the same not-so-fun list as laundry, dishes and grocery shopping, except I enjoy the latter three tasks significantly more. The problem isn’t so much the pressure I feel knowing that exercise is imperative to a long, healthy life; it’s more that I really want to like exercise. Most of my friends do — nearly all of them are runners, getting up early in the morning to jog around Austin’s Town Lake, mingle with others and jump start their day. In the meantime, I’m pulling myself out of bed and finding any possible way to trick myself into doing something physical beyond dressing and brushing my teeth. It’s embarrassing and somehow exhausting.

But, as the popular saying goes, the first step is admitting you have a problem, and I can do that. My issue: I haven’t found my workout niche, but it’s not going to be for a lack of trying. I want an activity (more than one would be icing on the proverbial cake!) that I love to do; one where I don’t even realize I’m exercising. Like when I rode my bicycle with friends everyday as a child. For some, it’s as simple as continuing the sport they played as a teenager or throughout college. I was the book nerd, not the athlete, so there goes that option. For me, this is going to require thinking outside the box.

I imagine there are several of you out there who feel the same. Maybe you bought a gym membership — it’s the thing to do — but don’t feel compelled to go regularly enough. Or maybe you find easy excuses to talk yourself out of a planned walk around the neighborhood. Whatever the case, here are a few new ideas that just might help you kick start the search for your favorite activity/workout.

Enlist a like-minded friend: This is a no-brainer. We all know that we feel more compelled to keep our commitments to friends much more than we do to ourselves. This is an imperative part of the exercise process. Either that, or buy yourself an expensive garment that you aim to fit into that can serve as legitimate inspiration. Keep it at the front of your closet so you see it often. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll ruin this option by keeping the tags on that beautiful Anthropologie skirt and knowing exactly where the receipt is stashed, just in case a return is necessary. Which means you’re already setting yourself up for failure, so find that exercise buddy already.

Try new things: Now’s the time to bite the bullet and attempt belly dancing. Remember that photo of a fabulously toned Jennifer Aniston paddle boardingmonths ago? Try it for yourself. Sign up for one-off classes — anything from pole dancing and burlesque lessons to Bikram yoga and pilates. You never know what might strike your fancy if you don’t try, so get out there. And those daily deal websites like Groupon give you many creative opportunities at reduced prices, making the experience much more fun in my book.

Pay attention to your feelings: It’s easy to get excited about a new experience, but finding your fitness niche requires more than that. You want to inherently love what you’re doing — at least most of the time. So once you’ve tried something that you really enjoy, do it again and again. Don’t feel like you have to instantly make a long-term commitment, because oftentimes that can be enough to scare us exercise-phobes. Instead, slowly build up your experiences while continuing to try new things. As time goes by, if your excitement about the activity tapers off, keep looking. But, if you’re eagerly awaiting the next appointment, game or lesson, you might be on to something!

Don’t beat yourself up: Trying new things means not being an expert — something I’m not too good at. It can be difficult getting over the concept of being the newbie, but when it comes to finding an exercise you genuinely love, it’s something that’s just got to happen. Going it alone can heighten this feeling, so here’s another reason it’s a good idea to join up with a friend for your more adventurous (read: anxiety-producing) experiences.

Personally, I’m still in the midst of finding my niche. I’ve explored traditional gym workouts, at-home DVDs, Bikram yoga and running. Some I’ve liked; some I don’t ever want to do again. But that’s the point.

Next on my list: paddle boarding, pilates and hip-hop dancing — I may be the clumsiest girl out there, but I’ve still got this vision in my head of Julia Stiles in “Save the Last Dance” that I just can’t shake.

About the author

Tara Hall

For the longest time, Texas transplant Tara Hall wanted to be a profiler when she grew up. A bona fide FBI agent with mad analytic skills who could take on crime and the jacked up minds that commit it.

Instead, the long and winding road has led straight to writing.

It all started with an obscure undergrad study spot: the usually empty upstairs of a local live music dive in Austin, TX. Psychology books in tow, Tara would grab a seat in the balcony and read her assignments between performances of local musicians, ultimately leading to an internship with Austin's Citysearch office in the late '90s.

Skip ahead a little more than a decade to present-day. Tara now spends her time interviewing musicians, researching stories and penning articles for entertainment-centered publications and websites such as Metro.pop magazine and SoundSpike.com.

Best part of the job: Researching topics I'm perplexed by and interested in.

Secretly obsessed with: Eyelash extensions. Instant femininity and loads of compliments!

Current dream vacation: An exotic beach locale with a beach bag full of new fiction. A hot man alongside wouldn't hurt either.

Theme song: Nina Simone's "Feeling Good"

Snacking on: Light rye Wasa crackers, little dollop of Dijon and thinly sliced turkey. That, or a spoonful of Nutella, my semi-healthy chocolate fix.

If trapped on a desert island: Cherry Chapstick and a fun, resourceful companion.