Are you doing what you love best?

How long has it been since you’ve truly enjoyed exercising?

What is the sport you loved to play as a child? Do you remember how good it feels to do what you love, without soreness or stiffness? We learn to play naturally, to do sports and even to compete while our bodies are young and limber. And then it happens – an injury or a setback or a change in habits – and many of us lose that youthful fearlessness.

What can we do to return to the exercise and play we grew up loving? Why do we dread exercise so much now?

Michelle Segar, PhD, a motivation psychologist at the University of Michigan and associate director of the Sport, Health, and Activity Research and Policy Center for Women and Girls, notes: “Many women hate to work out because we’ve been taught to do it for the wrong reasons. The problem is that we see exercise as something we should force our bodies to do, whether we like it or not, to meet an impossible standard. It’s fitness as the modern corset. When it comes to physical activity, it’s like we all need to go back to kindergarten and just play for a while—then we can graduate.” 

Taking up an activity or sport after a break of many years can be a great idea – especially since sticking to an exercise routine hinges on actually enjoying what you are doing. Returning to your “first love” can begin a process that continues to lead you to fitness as a natural, fun part of your life.

When you decide to make exercise and play fun again, you can follow these simple injury prevention tips from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases:

  • Don’t be a “weekend warrior,” packing a week’s worth of activity into a day or two. Try to maintain a moderate level of activity throughout the week.
  • Learn to do your sport right. Using proper form can reduce your risk of “overuse” injuries such as tendinitis and stress fractures.
  • Remember safety gear. Depending on the sport, this may mean knee or wrist pads or a helmet.
  • Accept your body’s limits. You may not be able to perform at the same level you did 10 or 20 years ago. Modify activities as necessary.
  • Increase your exercise level gradually.

Get off the couch and take that first step. Go back to the sport or activity you love the most, even if you haven’t tried it for years. Start slow – be a “new beginner.” You can put the joy back into the exercise your body needs.

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