How To ACTUALLY Enjoy Your Workout

Photographed By Winnie Au.
Some days, it's impossible to find a "runner’s high" — or, really, any resemblance of inner peace while exercising. It doesn't matter what those motivational posts on Pinterest tell you; there are some things "fitspiration" can't fix. So, we've pinpointed your 15 biggest workout woes — from nagging problems such as shin splints and chafing to a lack of motivation and a too-packed schedule. And, we've got the smart solutions.
Have a specific question or problem you want answered? Send us an email and we'll answer it in an upcoming Ask A Fit Person column.
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You’re more familiar with airports and hotels than with gyms and yoga studios.

When you’re constantly traveling for work, sticking with a routine can be tough; there’s always a new, unfamiliar location to deal with, and often a less-than-appealing, dingy hotel gym. “Traveling can make workouts a challenge, but it doesn't have to if you pack just a few simple things,” explains celebrity trainer and fitness expert Michelle Lovitt. “Toss a resistance band into your suitcase, and you’ll have everything you need, right in your hotel room.” The portable tools are effective for total-body toning, and exercises can be made more difficult as you get stronger.

Of course, your body is your greatest fitness tool. Set aside 10 minutes and try doing a quick body-weight circuit of 10 jumping jacks, 10 squats, 10 push-ups, and 10 jumping lunges. Then, repeat that set for as many rounds as possible within the allotted time period.

2 of 15
You've never tried this type of workout, and you're clueless.

"Everyone has dealt with that nervous feeling before doing something new — athletes included," explains Alonzo Wilson, founder of Tone House fitness studio in NYC. (His workouts are known as some of the toughest in the city.) As with most things in life, there’s a learning curve, and no one expects you to be an all-star on day one. So, manage your expectations and set achievable goals for yourself during that first class.

To put your worries at ease, try a three-tiered approach to prep for your first class, so you can feel confident when you walk through the door. First, prepare by reading online reviews of the class to understand what to expect. Some studios offer a sneak peek via “workout trailers.” Then, be sure to come to class early and mention to the instructor that this is your first time; express any concerns or questions you have before starting. Finally, work at your own pace — don’t try to match your neighbor’s speed or intensity.

"Your instructor is there to make working out fun and accessible,” Wilson says. “At my studio, we let students know at the beginning of class that they can go at their own pace. That means doing as many reps as you can, (then one more!), and taking a break when you need.”

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You forget to eat before class and start to feel woozy mid-workout. Or, you chow down on a burrito and feel too stuffed to move.

Before your workout, you want fuel that will deliver the energy your body needs during exercise. “With the right combination of carbohydrates and protein, you will have enough energy to power through your routine,” explains Samantha Lynch, MS, RD, CDN. “Look for a snack with 100-250 calories and at least 10 grams of protein and 20 grams of carbs, a 1:2 ratio.” Her top picks include: a slice of whole-wheat toast and one hard-boiled egg; a slice of whole-wheat toast and a half a cup of whipped, 1% cottage cheese; or a travel-friendly bar like ZING.
4 of 15
You skip dinner after working out — and feel terrible the next day.

Fueling up post-workout is one of the best things you can do to speed up recovery. “The key to improving your body composition, performance, and overall recovery after a workout is consuming mostly carbohydrates and some protein within 30 minutes after training,” explains Lynch. “Protein is important as it replenishes energy stores, increases muscle size and quality, and helps repair damage caused by the workout.”

Her top post-workout snacks include: oatmeal, ¼ cup blueberries, one tablespoon of chia seeds, and hemp milk; or a cup of cubed sweet potatoes and two egg whites. She also recommends a refreshing smoothie made with a scoop of your favorite protein powder, a cup of almond milk, and one small banana. Try freezing the almond milk in ice cube trays and adding to your blender for a frostier consistency. Whatever you eat, “look to consume 160-320 calories and aim for 10 grams of protein and 30 grams of carbs, or a 1:3 ratio,” Lynch explains.
5 of 15
You use the "I have nowhere to work out" excuse.

No gym? No dumbbells? No problem. Go digital with your exercise. The Internet can be a great resource for effective workouts that don’t require a gym. Studios such as Barre3, Ballet Beautiful, Physique 57, and even Crunch Gym offer their popular group fitness classes through online streaming services, delivering a class experience to your living room — for a fraction of the cost. There are also dedicated streaming services (such as DailyBurn, YogaGlo, and Yoga Download) that tap top trainers and allow you to filter your workouts based off your desired intensity, style, and duration.

Or, just follow these fitness pros on Instagram and scroll through for access to their next-level training tips, exercise videos, and circuit routines.
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6 of 15
Waking up is hard to do.

Sign up for a class with a buddy. Training with a friend creates an added layer of accountability and tends to be more enjoyable — after all, you can laugh and commiserate together. But, if your workout personality isn't compatible with that of your bestie, a virtual buddy also gets the job done. Research published in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine found that training with a virtual pal motivated participants to cycle longer than those who thought they were exercising solo.
7 of 15
You’ve hit a wall (hopefully a metaphorical one).

Sometimes the simplest solution is the most effective. When you hit a wall mid-workout, look no further than your playlist. Research shows that music is both a welcomed distraction and a major motivator that can help you go harder, faster, and longer. A study from Brunel University found that music can increase your endurance by up to 15%.

When you’re feeling tired, blast your “power song,” the track that can’t help but make you feel a little badass — may we suggest something with a sick beat?
8 of 15
Shin splints. Ow.

Shin splints are the most commonly reported complaint among runners. They can be caused by poor running form, weak muscles, or increasing your mileage too soon, explains Ron Noy, MD, orthopaedic surgeon, sports medicine specialist, and founder of the Prestige Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine practice in NYC. “People with flat feet that pronate are especially susceptible to this issue, as the alignment of their legs can also contribute to the problem.”

Prevention is key. The first thing is to make sure that you have good footwear that isn’t worn down and is properly fit for your foot and arch style. Dr. Noy also suggests trying out running orthotics and scheduling a session with a running coach (many offer free trials) to understand proper running technique, gait, and stride. “Make sure you do leg-strengthening exercises on "off" days to improve the muscle tone of your lower body, and if you’re just starting a running program, make sure that you incrementally increase your mileage.”

If you’re currently dealing with shin splints, ice is the initial treatment to help reduce inflammation. Try gently massaging the area, too. Runner’s World magazine also suggests the simple strengthening exercise of tracing the alphabet on the floor with your toes while you’re in a seated position.
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You’re too busy putting in extra hours at the office and hosting visiting friends.

Start small and make exercise a daily habit — even if it’s just for a quick 10 minutes when you first wake up. And, make that time a non-negotiable commitment — no rescheduling, canceling, or bailing allowed. “Make your workout an appointment with yourself,” explains Lovitt. “It will kick-start the endorphin release associated with exercise and improve your mood.” When your brain associates exercise with positive feelings, it will make it easier to incorporate the practice into your jam-packed daily routine, she explains.

Also, remember that every workout session doesn’t have to be an hour-long ordeal. High-intensity exercise styles such as the Tabata protocol are only four minutes long. On the days you’re really stressed, commit to just a few minutes rather than having an “all-or-nothing” mentality that says you have to log 45 minutes on a treadmill for it to "count." (Just keep in mind that only doing four minutes per day won’t necessarily help you get closer to your long-term training goals.)
10 of 15
Rub-a-dub-dub's got you down.

Moisture plus friction often leads to the not-so-fun situation of chafing. It can happen under your arms, along the bottom of your sports bra, and between the thighs. And, it can range from a slight irritation to super-raw skin. Similar to experiencing blisters or a sunburn, the discomfort is so great that it sidelines future activities until it heals.

The anti-chafing warriors are balms such as Body Glide and Aquaphor Healing Ointment. These cheap products are favorites among runners and can be picked up at most drugstores or running shops. Apply to sensitive areas before exercising for a non-greasy, invisible, protective barrier that fights irritating rubbing. Also, look for fitted, seamless, moisture-wicking workout gear that will help keep you cool, dry, and comfy.
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11 of 15
You'd rather head to happy hour.

A trick our editors have tried is dropping off something important at the gym in the morning. Then, you have to swing by before heading home to pick it up — and since you’re already there, you might as well work out. (This has admittedly backfired a few times when we forgot we left our apartment keys in a locker until we arrived home.) This guarantees to get you through the front door of the gym at some point, which is always the hardest part.
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You start your run freezing, and you end up overheated.

Nailing fall layering for outdoor runs involves a delicate dance — if you don't live in Florida, that is. You need enough apparel to keep you warm, but you've also got to prevent overheating. (After all, you can only take off so many layers before you’re running naked.) Create the perfect running ecosystem with these tips from Miranda Webster, sales specialist at REI’s Soho store.

1. Ditch the cotton. Start with a bottom layer (sports bra included) that will wick away sweat. Short-sleeved performance tees will work during the not-yet-freezing fall weather, but if you run cold, start with a long-sleeved top.

2. You’ll want to look for an insulating layer next, either a jacket that's lightly lined with fleece or with down-like insulation at its core. A quarter- or full-zip jacket is great for transitional months, as you can unzip the neck to get a little extra air if you start to overheat.

3. The biggest mistake people make with layering is ignoring your ears, ankles, and wrists — so look for a long-sleeved shirt with thumb holes, and a light pair of gloves to close that gap at your wrist. And, opt for socks with a higher cut paired with long leggings. For your ears, a headband or beanie (in a moisture-wicking fabric) will suffice. Check out more seasonal layering tips from REI.
13 of 15
Those blisters are a buzzkill.

Blisters can easily derail even the best fitness intentions, creating an excuse to skip your current training session — and the next few, until they heal. The solution is investing in a good pair of socks. Yes, it’s that simple. R29 editors love this pair from Asics because it has the no-show style that looks good, but also incorporates functional design. The cut covers the high-rub ankle zone and the seamless design helps prevent irritation. They are also lightweight and breathable, so they won’t get drenched during longer, sweatier workouts.
14 of 15
Is this what it feels like when muscles cry?

“If you feel sore, the first step is to ice the muscle to reduce the inflammation,” explains Dr. Noy. If it's just minor aches, try incorporating low-intensity activity, like a leisurely walk, to help keep blood moving and reduce fatigue. If you’re really sore, take a few days off to rest. “Don't push through the pain; you need to give your muscles a chance to recover properly, or you’ll find yourself in a never-ending cycle of exercise and re-injury,” he says. Massage is also a recovery option, as it helps break up scar tissue. “A good therapist can gage how to progress and help the recovery process,” says Dr. Noy.
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There's no way around it: You just hate exercise.

“Training is an automatic mood booster,” explains Lovitt. “Rather than looking at it as something you ‘have’ to do, look at it as something you ‘get’ to do. That will make you more excited about heading over to the gym or park, similar to the way you look forward to meeting up with a friend.”

You can also play mind tricks on yourself. For example, make the mental commitment that you’re just going to do 15 minutes of exercise — any type of movement will suffice. More likely than not, once you get going, you'll keep going.

Also, adopt a fitness mantra — a little saying you repeat to yourself that either inspires you or fires you up. Both will get you moving. A study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that self-talkers cycled longer than silent bikers and reported that their workout felt easier.
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