Is It Better To Do a Workout You Really Love, or a Workout That Pushes You Out of Your Comfort Zone? Motivation Experts Weigh In

PPerhaps one of the lasting (if misguided) impacts of the “no pain, no gain” approach to fitness marketing is that it made pleasure seem like something you shouldn’t expect from a good sweat session. In truth, workouts that push you out of your comfort zone can also make you feel good, like increase your maximum strength. And there’s plenty of evidence that low-intensity exercise can be fun and beneficial. Hello, walking. However, when it comes to the basic question “should workouts be enjoyable?” mental health experts say the answer is complex.

In simple psychological terms, we’re much more likely to repeat movement styles we enjoy than movement styles we hate, he says. Evan Lawrence, a licensed mental health counselor and certified personal trainer. “Perception affects everything. If you like what you do, you’re more likely to do it again. And since one of the main ways to get the most out of exercise is to develop consistency around it, there’s certainly a benefit of enjoying it,” he says.

Workouts that make you feel good play on self-determination theorya framework for understanding human motivation first created in 1985. “Self-determination theory is based on the idea that motivation comes from three things: competence, autonomy, and relatedness,” says the performance consultant. Sarah Haapanen, PhD candidate in sport and exercise psychology at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland. Competence is your ability to perform an activity; autonomy refers to your freedom to choose that activity, and relationship means your ability to do that activity in the company of others. When he has all three components in a single training environment, he has the “trifecta” motivation, according to Haapanen.

Workouts driven by these three qualities also make it easier for you to find your “why” for exercising. For example, maybe you go to dance classes because you love the relationship benefits you get from making a move on your friends. Or maybe you love going for a run because it makes you feel competent and autonomous in your body. “The best workout you can do is the one you enjoy, because you’re going to get it. Motivation is something that doesn’t necessarily last, so you have to know the ‘why’ you’re doing a certain behavior,” says Haapanen.

Of course, there is also something to be said for pursuing higher fitness goals, such as rrun a marathon or go hiking to a big mountain. In these cases, Haapanen says that Really you need to find your “why” so that when the going gets tough, you don’t give up. And you can still look for those qualities of self-determination: competence, autonomy, and relationship in more physically demanding workouts.

That said, Lawrence points out that there is minimal research when it comes to exercises that push the limits of what you can do. “Biologically, there are studies that show there is a benefit to exercising in certain [challenging] intensities, although a dose-response relationship has not been established, meaning more intense exercise does not necessarily correlate with greater benefit,” he says. The feeling of achieving a big goal dovetails with other life-changing feelings:including a sense of satisfaction and self-confidence However, that can help drive future goals.

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In short… it’s complicated! As Haapanen and Lawrence point out, the best workout is the one that keeps you coming back again and again. Ultimately, it’s up to you how to break up your exercise regimen so you experience pure joy and more. Complicated, anticipated satisfaction. “Make decisions relative to your goals. If you have a fairly specific physical goal, you may have to make decisions that prioritize the biological aspect and not necessarily the enjoyment aspect,” says Lawrence. “However, if you stay healthy and practicing self careso there’s more flexibility to find a balance between the two.”

So, like most fitness tips, the answer to this one boils down to:.

Find your joy with this fun cardio dance class:

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