When I was reading Carrie Fisher’s A I highlighted a line about working out: “I hate doing it, but I love having done it.” I said to Paul, “That’s exactly how I feel about working out.”
But as soon as I said it, I realized, that’s how I used to feel about working out. I actually enjoy it much of the time now. I spent a week doing various workouts as part of my usual routine, and made a point to be mindful about how I felt during them.
The results were surprising, and have made me wonder about the benefits of enjoying a work out during the workout. Conversely: Does hating a work out while you are working out mean it’s the one you need most? Should I enjoy working out if I’m doing it right?
I regularly do five things: Orange Theory Fitness, Yoga, Soul Cycle, Peloton, and running outside.
The most enjoyable mid-workout, hands-down is Orange Theory Fitness. I rarely am looking at the clock or anxious for it to end. That’s shocking to me because it involves two things I don’t love: Weight training and the treadmill. I think it’s the fact that no workout is the same and so even doing something I hate—like burpees—are over pretty quickly, and I don’t anticipate I have to do them again next time I come in the door. There’s also so much switching of stations, of high intensity and low intensity, that it makes it go by quickly.
The second most enjoyable workout for me is running outside. I love nothing more than a long hour-plus run in the countryside or even through a large not-to-crowded urban park. If a run is flat and the weather isn’t humid and I’m running in nature, this could easily stack up against OTF, which is funny because the merits are oppositional. I’m able to zone out precisely because I’m doing the same thing for so long and there’s absolutely no variety. It feels like a luxurious escape for me to listen to an audiobook that long and just be outdoors away from screens with no one talking to me.
This is doubly shocking, because a year ago I couldn’t run five minutes without feeling pain. Running, in fact, used to be the exercise I absolutely hated doing most but loved having done.
The third most enjoyable workout for me is Soul Cycle, again a shock because Soul Cycle is the most emotional workout for me. Of everything I do, I feel like I leave Soul Cycle the most transformed inside and out and the most inspired. I feel like I get the most emotional catharsis from Soul Cycle. But there is always—ALWAYS—a point during the workout of “Ugh, how much longer” or “I hate this part” or “Seriously? We are still pushing???”
That’s part of why Soul Cycle is so emotionally impactful for me: It’s a 45-minute darkened studio metaphor for how I tend to live my life. Pushing through pain, not giving up, not wanting to regret that I hadn’t done more. Soul Cycle is the only workout I’ve cried during from this catharsis.
The fourth most enjoyable is yoga—again a shock because it’s the second most transformative for me on a level beyond physicality. It is also the “easiest” in terms of effort and calorie burn. I have the most community around my yoga gang. I travel to exotic locales several times a year just to do yoga.
But my gangly, long-limbed, not-at-all-flexible body makes yoga a challenge for me. I’ve been doing it for years and holding a pretty basic post can feel way harder for some reason than a kinetic 30-second all-out at OTF. I don’t see the improvement I do with running, Soul Cycle or OTF. My body just won’t do certain things. But I leave feeling cleansed from the inside out. If I leave Soul Cycle amped up to kick life’s a**, I leave yoga at peace with my obstacles.
OTF does nothing for me spiritually. Zero. Is that why it feels more fun? It’s just about working my muscles?
That leaves Peloton the last. Don’t get me wrong—I adore my Peloton. I have talked so many people into buying one. It allows me to always have a backup so that I can work out even if I don’t have childcare or just have a spare 30 minutes or so in my day. The bike itself is gorgeous, and the programming is so well done. And even with the cost of the bike, it’s the cheapest alternative of all of the above, save running.
But I don’t get excited about doing it. The instructors aren’t anywhere near as inspiring as Soul Cycle and to really push in class I need the social pressure of folks around me and an instructor who can see when I skip the weights.
I guess the answer is a mixed diet or somewhere in the middle: Enough for your soul and enough for your body. Something you love enough you keep going but hate enough you know it’s hard.