Muscle for life

How to Make Fitness an Enjoyable Lifestyle

How to Make Fitness an Enjoyable Lifestyle

“The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook.”
― William James


If you’re new to fitness or if you’re a gym veteran, the chances are that at one point or another, you’ve despised the cliché and common fitness lifestyle.

You know…eating bland “diet” foods, constantly feeling starving and cranky, pounding away on a treadmill for hours every week, and generally feeling imprisoned by your daily routines.

Sadly, it’s incredibly common for people to subscribe to the belief that this kind of lifestyle is the only way to get fit.

Well, the good news is that it’s simply not true.  In fact, getting stuck in a regimen that you hate is an almost surefire way to guarantee that you’ll never reach your fitness goals.

The fact is that fitness is an imperfect, long distance event that requires patience and great mental discipline. It is not a short-term, hell-week kind of experience. No one gets truly fit in 30 days or 3 months, and if you’re paying for services that promise this, then you’ve been hoodwinked, my friend.

The pursuit of fitness can either be something positive and thoroughly enjoyable or something that greatly detracts from your enjoyment of life. The path you follow is yours to choose.

Let’s discuss a few ways you can make fitness something positive that will serve to only enrich your life, rather than make it less fun than a trip to the proctologist.

Plan for Success

So many people dive right into fitness, while putting very little, or no effort whatsoever into finding a quality program.

This is a common pitfall and one that can result in an at-home workout DVD being sent on an outer-window test-flight, because the fact is that some of the most popular fitness programs are complete garbage. They are designed to be brutally difficult and this makes most people give up before realizing much in the way of benefits.

If you see something like a “2 minute ab blaster” routine in the newest issue of your favorite magazine, just have a laugh and be glad you know better than to waste your time on it.  You want real results and not just something you can spin your wheels on.

If you’re going to work hard, you might as well do it right and work towards the results you want.

Do a little research! Find a moderate and livable program that is designed by informed individuals that are not on steroids (unless you are on steroids yourself which I wouldn’t recommend) and put together or purchase a meal plan that dials in the perfect caloric and macronutrient amounts to suit your goals and allows you to eat foods that you can enjoy!

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying to eat whatever tastes good with no regard to the nutritional content. A healthy diet is important, but that doesn’t mean you need to consume pounds of boiled, dry chicken with no seasoning.

Find recipes that are delicious and enjoyable to you or you’ll have a terrible time. Life’s too short to eat food you hate.  With a quality program and meal plan you’ll feel better, enjoy your life and get real results that will motivate you and encourage you to continue.

Enjoy Your Cardio

One of the easiest ways to make yourself dread working out is to commit to the routine performance of an activity that you hate.

I mean, let’s think about it for a moment… if fitness is to be a long-term lifestyle, then we had sure better make it enjoyable.

If you are one of the countless individuals (myself included) that hate running, I’ve got good news for you… you shouldn’t be trying to force yourself to run for your cardio.  If you can find a physical activity that you enjoy and it makes you sweat, use that as your cardio!

If you like boxing, lay into a heavy bag for a bit! If you’re a musician, play the hell out of your drums! Ride your bicycle in beautiful weather, make regular, passionate love to your partner, hike with friends, play tag with your children or hit the batting cages and work out the week’s stresses. The list goes on and on!

If you like running, then by all means, do that too. My point is that cardio doesn’t need to be boring, monotonous and something that sucks the joy out of your day. It should be a fun and enjoyable part of your life.

Stay active, play regularly and both your body and mind will be grateful.

Free Yourself From Worry

So you’ve found a good fitness program and now all that’s left is to simply do it, right?

True, but let me tell you, for most people, it’s not going to go down like that. We all have a terrible and all-consuming tendency to overthink decisions and fret about the outcome.

We worry “is this the best plan I could be on? What about this other diet or program I’ve heard about? Is it better than what I’m doing now?”

This line of thinking is extremely common and a major pitfall to watch out for in your fitness journey.  Not only will worrying like this cause a great deal of stress and rattle your commitment, but the frequent changing of programs is a common mistake that leads to the land of lost gains and forgotten dreams.

Once you’ve done your research and picked a program that you believe is a good one, just relax and settle in for the ride. Focus on keeping your mindset and your discipline sharp and don’t think about how you might be able to hack it for a quicker result.

If you feel good on your program and you’re progressing according to plan, then simply revel in the success! Pat yourself on the back and don’t try to fix what isn’t broken.  Just keep the focus on perfecting the program you’re in and keeping yourself dedicated.

Once you grow comfortable and familiar with a fitness program, the lifestyle becomes something you will look forward to and be proud of. If you overthink and micro-manage your own fitness journey, you’ll likely do more harm than good. Cast aside the common tendency to overthink things and watch the stress melt away.

Going the Distance

It’s important to recognize successful fitness efforts for what they are… a permanent lifestyle choice and not a temporary break in an unhealthy life.

Everyone who possesses a physique you admire has had to make similar commitments. You just won’t find someone with a truly killer body who only eats healthy and works out every now and then.

Absorb the image of an incredibly healthy and dedicated individual and permanently stitch this quality into your character. Once you really begin to identify yourself this way, you’ll find it becomes almost automatic to do what you know is right for your health and physique.

Let go of harmful self-images and notions like “I’m just not a healthy or athletic person” or “I hate working out.” Such negative self-proclamations will only serve to halt your progress and encourage failure. Your mind can be your greatest ally or your greatest enemy. Direct your thoughts to be your own personal cheerleader.

As I mentioned before, fitness is a long-distance event. It’s going to have ups and downs and there will be times that you slip up. Don’t beat yourself up too much about it when it does happen!

One thing I see all too often is people that slip on their diet a bit and subsequently go completely wild for the rest of the week and say they’ll just be extra good next week, or something to that extent, but this is a flawed strategy that will almost always result in pushing you further from your goal.

Do your best every day and if you slip up, don’t let it derail you. Don’t be too hard on yourself! You’re a human being and we’re imperfect creatures. Unless you’re competing or making a living with fitness, you just don’t need to sweat it that much.

Follow your plan to the best of your ability and if you have a weak moment, forgive yourself, but then pick yourself up and get right back at it.  Don’t put all your happiness in the desired result.

Rather, slow down and learn to love yourself in your current condition and enjoy every phase of the journey.  Take the pressure off yourself to be perfect and you’ll find the fitness lifestyle can be enjoyable, flexible and incredibly rewarding.


Jonathan Atterbury is the owner of New American Fitness.

His goal is to help redefine what it means to be an “average American”, by educating and encouraging people to be the healthiest, strongest, most proactive and potent individuals they can be.

Visit his website NewAmericanFitness.net for articles, videos and more. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


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  • Gabriel Cortez

    My wife has always had a really difficult time getting into working out early in the morning with me. We think part the problem is that the workouts I am finding/making for her are “too complicated” as she puts it: X amount of sets, X amount of reps, X amount of rest, etc…This type of working out has always been fine for me but maybe it’s not for everybody.

    I’m considering shelling out $1000 for a Concept2 rowing machine. She used one of these in high school and really enjoyed it. Even though this is tremendously better than traditional running or using an elliptical I know she’d still be missing out on some core muscle groups. What would you recommend to supplement this? I was thinking Mon/Wed/Fri she would do HIIT on the rowing machine. And maybe Tue/Thu she could do some kind of circuit training or HIIT which focused on chest, triceps, and maybe shoulders. Or could she maybe do rowing 5 times a week with shorter supplementary workouts?

    Thanks Mike, you deserve some kind of humanitarian award for offering free fitness advice to people like me who hate forums and are too lazy to do our own research.

    • I could see that with your wife. I think that’s why many people enjoy workout DVDs.

      Rowing machines are awesome. That’s a good idea. Personally I would probably have her do 3 x HIIT rowing and 3 x full-body bodyweight work.


      Hahah thanks brother. 😉

  • Sara

    It’s a long journey… when I first began, I thought I’d look like a fitness model after a year of lifting weights. Boy, was I dead wrong. Now, after having met several fitness models and seeing for myself how slow the transformation is, I have tremendous, *tremendous* respect for those individuals, for their time commitment, their discipline, and the strong will it takes to achieve that physique.

    After a year and a half of strength training, my body has certainly changed and I enjoy watching the progress, but, resigned myself to the fact that it takes years to achieve that fitness model physique. In the meantime, I’ve come to enjoy the journey very much. The fitness model physique sticks in my mind and keeps me determined; in the meantime, however, I feel better about myself more than I ever have in my life, and that alone is enough to push on.

    • Very very true. Going from “normal” to fitness model takes 3-5 years of consistent, dedicated work, and some good genetics too.

  • Jay

    Hey mike, pic below is from my last cut on the macros you set me. Any idea on my bf percentage here?
    I’ve been on a 20 week bulk since then and gained 20 pounds and all lifts have increased by 25 pounds. Do you think that’s a successful bulk? Hoping to have gained a few pounds of muscle on my next cut and come in leaner

  • Gentleman Gym

    Man, that comment: “If you like running, then by all means, do that” – that nearly brought tears to my eyes! I love running; but lately there seems to have been such a backlash against ‘slow steady cardio’ – “It’s catabolic, you’ll never put on muscle”, “It’s not catabolic enough, HIIT is the way to burn fat” – that I’d almost feel guilty for running. Thanks, Mike, for yet another word of wisdom!

    (I think I’ll go for a run now…..)

    • Jonathan Atterbury

      Hey man! So glad you enjoyed the article. enjoy your running and don’t feel guilty at all. Eat right, lift and stay active and you’ll do great.
      Stay strong, brother!

    • Slam

      Right on GG, Most people that trash running just don’t like it or aren’t very good at it. The majority of these studies about that speak to “chronic cardio” seem to be speaking to the triathlete, marathoners, the extreme crowd where too much cardio can put a serious hurting on your body, like any exercise. The average guy or gal that runs 3 to 6 miles a few times a week is at far less risk of the “chronic cardio” breakdown. And if you like HIIT simply add a few hills in your run. If you don’t want to run don’t. Love this site and Mike’s books!! Thanks

  • Jennifer Lie

    This article speaks to me! I am so glad to have read this. I thought I am the only weirdo who keeps overthinking about my fitness journey. Thank you again for writing this.

    • Happy to hear it! You’re not alone. 🙂

      My pleasure Jennifer!

  • Heute war ein ganz wunderbarer Tag und ich war viel in der Natur, um den Kopf frei zu bekommen. Als ich den Berg rauf spazierte, sind mit ein paar Dinge eingefallen. Warum jammern wir eigentlich? fitness Ernährungsplan

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