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There is no doubt that exercise is good for you, and I try to incorporate exercise into my life as often as possible. Some of the main types of exercise I do are running, going for long walks and going to Pilates class. It’s great to get out in the fresh air and get moving!
Sometimes for whatever reason, I don’t manage to get out for a walk or run. On these days I aim to do some exercise at home, usually some pilates, as well as crunches, press-ups and other toning exercises. This is convenient because I can exercise in my bedroom, whatever the weather or time of day, and I don’t need to take the time to travel anywhere.
The problem is, often I don’t feel motivated to exercise at home. There always seems to be something more pressing to do, even though I know how important exercise is for physical and mental health. I think the main reason for this is that my home exercise sessions are too vague. I never really know exactly which exercises to do, or how long to do them for. It’s said that the best goals are specific goals, so I needed to come up with a way to make my exercise session ‘goals’ more specific – but without just doing the same old routine every time.
While pondering this, I had an idea. As Mary Poppins said, “In every job that must be done there is an element of fun. You find the fun and snap! The job’s a game.”. I thought, why not make my exercise sessions into a game, and then they will be more fun, as well as more specific? Turning things into games or challenges tends to motivate me, so I had a feeling this would work.
The rules of the game
- Make a list of all the different exercises you can think of.
- Assign a number to each of the exercises.
- Decide how long you want your exercise session to be (for example, 30 minutes), and set a timer (or take note of what time to finish your session).
- Use a random number generator (you can use a scientific calculator, or install an app on your phone) to generate a number and pick the corresponding exercise.
- Set a timer for 2 minutes.
- Do the exercise until the timer goes off.
- Generate a new number and repeat, until your exercise session time is up.
I think 2 minutes is a good amount of time to spend on each exercise, but you can choose to set the timer for longer or shorter than 2 minutes if you prefer. Some exercises will be harder than others, so you can tailor them to your ability. For the exercises you find easy, you can power through and do as many repetitions as possible within the time. For exercises you find more difficult, you can do a small number of repetitions, take a break, and repeat until the time is up.
Why would this game work?
You may not exactly call this a game, but the point is that it creates specific goals and timeframes within the exercise session, and takes the decision making out. You don’t have to think about what exercise to do next, how many sets or reps to do, and when to stop. This means you can fully focus on the exercise itself, and on doing your best. You won’t be tempted to stop early, because you know to carry on until the time is up.
You will feel a sense of completion and achievement when you finish your exercise session, rather than thinking, ‘Should I have exercised for longer?’, because you already decided in advance how long you would exercise for. It is clear cut and certain whether you completed your session or not.
Your exercise sessions will never get ‘samey’, because you will be doing different exercises each time. There is an element of surprise because you never know which exercise will come up next.
This game stops you from dreading certain parts of your exercise routine, or being put off from exercising because of exercises you dislike. Within the game, you are still likely to get some exercises you dislike, but you won’t know about it in advance! Even if you do get one you don’t like, you know you only have to do it for 2 minutes.
You will live in hope of getting lucky and ‘winning’ your favourite or most comfortable exercises, which may happen sometimes! But of course, you truly win by getting the difficult exercises and getting fitter because of it!
What types of exercise would this game work for?
This game could be adapted to work for any kind of exercise, but it is particularly suitable for exercises that don’t require a lot of space or equipment and can be done within your home, such as the following:
- Weight training
- Cardio exercises on the spot, such as jumping jacks.
- Toning exercises such as press-ups and crunches.
In my list, I have a mixture of pilates, weights and toning exercises. I like to mix them up within an exercise session to make it even more interesting and varied. However, you can stick to one type of exercise if you prefer. You can even have sub-lists for each type of exercise, or for different muscle groups. Sometimes you can work from a particular sub-list, and other times you can mix everything up!
Warm-ups and stretches
It is a good idea to warm up at the start of an exercise session, and to stretch afterwards. You could either do a few general warm-ups before you start your session, or you could have a sub-list of gentle warm-up exercises to choose from for the first few sets.
Likewise at the end of your session, you could either do some general stretches, make a sub-list, or perhaps choose suitable stretches based on what parts of your body you have worked the most during your session.
Did it work for me?
I have tried this game twice, first for 20 minutes and then for a 30 minute session. In my most recent session, I fitted 11 exercises into the 30 minutes (for 2 minutes each). This adds up to 22 minutes, with 8 minutes of in-between time, which was spent resting, picking the next exercise and setting the timer. I did forget to set the timer straight away a couple of times, and I also took a break to write some things down. I think normally I could do 12 different exercises within 30 minutes, with 30 seconds or so between each exercise.
Earlier in the year, I bought a couple of free weights. They came with a poster showing various different exercises to do with them. I numbered each of these and included them in my list. Some of the weights exercises are too challenging for me at the moment, but when those came up in my sessions, I simplified them to a variant I could manage.
I didn’t remember to do any warm-ups in my most recent session, but the first exercise I chose happened to be a gentle one anyway, which made a good warm-up. At the end, I did some arm stretches because I had worked my arms particularly hard!
A couple of times, an exercise came up that I had already done within the session. I chose to skip these repeats, and move on to a different exercise. However, repeating the same exercise again would be an equally valid option.
The time went really fast in my sessions. I was surprised when my time was up, because it didn’t feel as though I had been exercising for very long. I enjoyed the variety of exercises and it definitely made my exercise session more fun!
So what are you waiting for? Make a list and get moving!
This game is a great way to freshen up your existing exercise routine, or start a brand new one! It would also make a great 30 day challenge – play this game every day for a month and see how your strength, fitness and/or flexibility improves!
Have any of you tried making exercise into a game, similar to this? If not, would you consider it? Do you think it would help motivate you to exercise? Let me know in the comments!