I was doing a Free Screening with a weight loss client the other day when she announced – half joking, half begging, “I  will do anything you say, but please don’t make me exercise. I hate to exercise.”

How many times have I heard this? And not just from weight loss clients. Everyone from Oprah to the latest size two starlet has said “I hate to exercise” at one time or another. Years ago, a statement like this may have worried me, but after a decade of experience helping people find a more fulfilling life, it doesn’t even faze me any more. It just makes me ask questions. The first of which is usually:

How do you define exercise?

That’s when I get the stories of crowded gyms, treadmills, stair steppers, stationary bikes, weight machines and countless hours of bored-out-of-your-mind lifting, pushing, walking, and jogging your way to no where. If exercise means drag yourself to the gym, put your head down, and grunt and strain for your requisite 30 minutes until you can go home, I would hate to exercise too.

It all reminds of a pet I had as a child – a tiny orange and tan hamster, saddled with the unfortunate name of Hammy **Please don’t judge six-year-old me. I didn’t choose the name. He came to me pre-named – the product of  hamster babysitting job that happily (for me, not so much for my mom) turned into full-time addition to the family.

Hammy came with pretty limited accommodations. A simple cage. Food and water containers. A rickety wheel. He also came to me a bit out of shape. He was little too round. A little too sluggish. It didn’t take long to figure out why. Hammy was bored to death.

Oh, he’d get on the wheel. He’d do a few half-hearted circuits, his little feet scurrying to keep up with the whir of the plastic, but it wouldn’t be long before he’d jump off and stick his pointy nose in his food trough. You could practically hear his sigh of defeat.

Just watching Hammy made me said. So it wasn’t too long until I got the idea to take him out of his cage and let him explore the bedroom.If a hamster could cry tears of joy, Hammy certainly would have. His entire demeanor changed. In fact, Hammy may have been one of the first parkour aficionados, bouncing off of chair legs and free-climbing window blinds in a undaunted spirit of curiosity and fur-tingling energy.

Hammy’s and my play got more involved as time went by. Obstacle courses were created and mastered. Ladders were built. Even my brother’s race track was used in a hamster versus car Indy 500 that would have made You Tube proud.

The funny thing was that even though Hammy and I were just playing – a few minutes of fun after school, that little hamster started to change – from a round, sluggish ball of fur to a sleeker, more active ball of fur. He even started to play on his wheel more – so much so that I had to convince mom to replace the squeaky old one with a newer model since Hammy’s “exercise” was keeping me up at night. He was even less likely to bite, and more inclined to cuddle when it was time to clean his cage. He just seemed like a happier hamster, overall.

Which is kind of what we’re all looking for, isn’t it? A little more happiness overall?

So, my next question to the clients who hate to exercise is this:

How do you play?

Because bottom-line, the body is created to move. In fact, when you start to really connect with your body (in the way we talk about in our coaching program and with tools like the Body Connection Scale) you will notice that your body actually craves movement – regularly.

We were built with joints and muscles, legs, arms, feet, and hands – all parts designed to push, pull, walk, run, swim, dance, stretch and twirl. So think about it. How does your body like to move? How did you like to move in your body when you were a child?

Did you love jumping on the trampoline? Swimming? Did Dance Dance Revolution get your blood pumping? Or were you a master jump roper – double-dutch style? Have you always wondered about yoga or do you wish you took that hip-hop class in college? Did a new Pole Dance Fitness studio open up around the block? Did a Karate dojo? Maybe there’s a hill in your town you’ve always wanted to climb or maybe you’d just like to take a swing around the block and see what the neighbors are up to.

Take a minute, breathe, and notice the ways your body pulls you into movement as you go through that list. Then ask yourself, which one sounds the most fun?

Because that’s what you’re looking for – the most fun. So, put on your tennis shoes, grab the jump-rope, sign up for the class or swim time and make a commitment to yourself to have some fun!

The client I mentioned above remembered a deep love of riding her bicycle as a child. So she dusted off her daughter’s old bike and started riding around her neighborhood ever day after work. She came back to her next session full of stories of how she felt young and free for the first time in years. We didn’t even talk about weight loss or muscle gain or any of that personal trainer stuff that has to do with exercise. We didn’t have to.

That’s the deep dark secret of exercise that naturally fit people (and hamsters) know. If you do something you enjoy, it’s not work. Heck, it’s not even exercise. It’s just a good time. The fact that it keeps you fit – that’s just a bonus.

What’s your favorite fun activity – your go to none-exercise way of moving your body? Please share it in the comments section below.

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