Effort vs. Eff it
To an exercise novice—and I'm fully including people who have worked out every day for the last twenty years but all they've ever done is pedal frantically on the elliptical followed by a bunch of shoulder presses—it seems like exercise is a synonym for either Cardio or Weight Lifting. Even experienced, committed gym-goers can have no idea that fitness goes far beyond the pop media masturbation material of Get Thin By Doing Cardio!
OK, OK. They don't just report on cardio, you're right. When they're feeling rebellious, we get New Ideas In Science: Get Thin By Lifting Weights!
Have you ever worked on the style of your movement?
Y'all, movement is so much cooler than this. Cardio, strength, sure, these are good. But what about agility? Power? Balance? Visual acuity? Coordination? Precision? Speed? Mobility? Searching the New York Times for "joint mobility" brings up a hodgepodge of articles about corporate mergers and arthritis. The only time they're talking about joint mobility is for people who don't have it anymore. Where are the articles for you and me like "Avoid Hip Replacement By Deadlifting!"
Anything in the Wall Street Journal about improving your football, tennis, or gymnastics game by doing visual training?
No. A lot of results about Metaphorical Visions and Bob Dylans (This shall be the title of volume one of my memoir) but nothing about visual training and exercise. Yet just look at Randy Moss, Serena Williams, and Nastia Liukin. Check out their eyeballs.
Yeah, surely visuals have nothing to do with excellence of movement.
How about style? Have you ever really worked on the style of your movement? If you haven't, or if you didn't know that every movement has style, check out this chick's flow:
You know a movement is perfect when you can't tell where the gif starts and ends. That's style and precision and coordination, and yes, they can be trained.
Not a cheetah yet? That's ok. If you're a shuffle jogger, there's still a whole world of America's Next Top Shuffle Jogger waiting for you. Look at this tender vittle. Come on. Imagine this guy when you're feeling low and you've got your tail tucked between your legs. He'll shuffle the shit out of every day and be super proud. That tail is HIGH.
You might never be quite as fly as this meerkat but you can come close. At least get your damn tail up.
There are countless modes of exercise. And unless you're actively training for peak performance in an event, you should feel chained to none of them and free to explore all of them. For me, one of the most important pieces of my fitness puzzle is the daily decision of what I want to work on. Unless I'm deep in my competition season, I never feel obligated to do anything. Nothing is more demotivating than when going to the gym feels like scrubbing bathtubs. If this is how you feel about spinning, then may Soul Cycle and Soul Cycle Moms be banished from your life forever. I can't say this enough: You never HAVE to do anything at the gym.
Your body is different *literally* every day. So your workouts can reflect that. Don't feel like doing cardio today? Don't feel like doing cardio ever? Bye Felicia. See you never. You're so much better off skipping cardio forever and enjoying most workouts than doing cardio like you're being hazed and hating most workouts. I once told a guy who lives and breathes weight lifting but dreads cardio that he never has to do it again if he doesn't want to and it was like a verbal incendiary had exploded in his ears. He said, "I thought you were going to say three times a week." I said, "How does zero times a week sound?" I mean it. Do the exercise you want to do. It's not supposed to be torture unless you're driven by torture.
You never have to do anything at the gym.
So if what's keeping you away from fitness is that heavy feeling of obligation, send that into the atmosphere like a bevy of balloons. (Except OMG don't do that in real life bc dead animals.) Exercise won't feel like an obligation if you want to be there. You won't be bored practicing skills if you're into the skills you're practicing.
The more tools in your toolbox, the more likely it is that you'll have the right pieces for the job on any given day. So try expanding your idea of fitness. If cardio and weight lifting aren't loosening up your buttons, keep trying new things until something does. An agility ladder is a great place to start. Don't forget that asking for help is the smartest thing you can do, not the dumbest thing. Put effort into the things you like. Put eff it into everything else.