Exercise sucks. Here’s what to do about it.

Two weeks ago, I almost puked and it inspired this article.

My friend Noah was in town, and he invited me to join him in a special workout with some other internet dorks (that’s what I call affectionately those of us who make our living online). Noah lives in Austin, and I haven’t seen in him in a while, so although the idea of going out in public (yikes) and working out in a group setting (nope) are things I try to avoid, I figured I’d be a good sport.

Upon arriving at the gym, I walked into a room with 25 other people and an instructor who looked like he had been picked from a “good looking super jacked trainer” casting call.

What transpired was a 25-minute bootcamp style workout where we all did various things like burpees, box jumps, squats, dips, etc. There was no break, and we moved from one exercise to the next as thumping hip hop played, the training yelling louder and louder to encourage us to push ourselves.


I think I would rather get a root canal than go through that style of workout again. Or watch an episode of the Real Housewives of Rivendell.

Let’s be clear: I’m not saying this just wasn’t my cup of tea…This wasn’t mild-displeasure, but pure misery.

As I finished my gazillionth burpee, wheezing and out of breath, I looked at my friend Roman and we both kind of chuckled: “This is not my thing,” Roman said to me. Okay, actually what he said was more profanity-laced, but I like to keep things relatively clean around here.

When the workout was over, I glanced at some of the other people around the room, also drenched in sweat, but with smiles on their faces:“That was great!” and “I loved it, thanks man!” phrases were shouted.

Although I knew I probably wouldn’t enjoy this type of workout, after realizing just how much I hated it – I knew I needed to write about it.

“Just how many people hate these workout and think they hate working out?” I wondered as I pushed myself to the point of puking.

Today, I’m going to give you permission that you didn’t realize you needed.

Don’t like “exercise” ? It’s probably the type

Sunrise Workout

I have been training in gyms, parks, and playgrounds for 15 years.

I own and operate a health and fitness website and thoroughly enjoy exercise. It’s one of my favorite things to do, and if I miss a workout, it feels like something in my life is missing. And yet, I found myself cursing the exercise gods during that workout – wishing I was doing anything else.

You see, I like exercise to be an enjoyable and solitary experience. Pushing myself to the point of almost puking is not fun for me. Training in a group setting is also not generally enjoyable for me, as I prefer my workouts to be contemplative and meditative: Headphones in, playlist on, eyes down, mouth closed, and doing my routine designed with specific goals in mind.

Because of this, other than going for extended walks around New York City, hiking when I can, or doing ring routines that last for a few minutes, I don’t “do cardio.”

So a bootcamp/crossfit style workout is not one I particularly enjoy.

People look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them I don’t “go for a run” ever. It’s like there’s this law that says “in shape = formal cardio,” which I disagree with strongly.

I couldn’t help but think about somebody that might be in their mid 30s, who has been sitting hunched over a desk for the past decade, potentially also severely overweight, and ends up in a boot camp as their first fitness experience.

I think some people will love it. And maybe they’ll build up to CrossFit or SoulCycle or some other similar type of workout atmosphere. And that’s AMAZING. They love that feeling of pushing themselves harder than they thought possible, they get to work out alongside others, and it gives them a hell of a workout. They end these classes really beat up and fired up.

That’s what some people will do.

I think many other people won’t particularly enjoy this workout style – especially if they’re rookies to fitness or very overweight.

Sure, they might find a way to push through their workout enough times that they learn to “love to hate” them, and they’ll make this a thing they do regularly.

HOWEVER, I imagine the far majority of out-of-shape/new people fit into this category: Hate the workout, assume this “fitness” is the only kind of fitness, and get discouraged and embarrassed. “Screw this, I’m going back to my couch.”

Like Billy Madison getting teased when he HAD to write in cursive, he got discouraged and never wanted to come back to school:

There’s nothing wrong with bootcamps and CrossFit. I would LOVE it if I liked that stuff. But It never worked for me. If that’s your thing, keep killin’ it! These are amazing ways to get in shape for the right type of person. (Here are my official thoughts on CrossFit, btw.)

But for those of you who don’t find these workout styles fun, motivating, and easy to get yourself to do, I want to make something abundantly clear: If you strongly despise a certain style of working out and don’t want to do it, it doesn’t make you a bad person, or lazy, or a quitter.

It might just mean that you don’t like this kind of training! So don’t do it. Ever again. Never ever.

You don’t have to prove anything to anybody but yourself

be yourself

When I ran cross country my freshman year of high school, I hated every day of practice.

But I had friends on the team, and I told myself I was a quitter if I stopped. I made it through the fall season…barely. As I trained for the upcoming season during the next summer, I refused to let myself get ‘beat’ by stopping running even though I hated it.

Finally, after a month of increasing misery went by, I accepted my training preferences and decided that putting myself through another four months of torture to prove a point to nobody that I could do something I hated was the dumbest idea I’ve ever had.

Well, second dumbest. I once thought it was a good idea to cast a fishing rod a few weeks after breaking my collarbone. That was the dumbest thing I’ve ever done.

So, when I stopped running, I decided to try something else: I got a gym membership.

And that gym membership changed my life and started me down a path that led me to Nerd Fitness.

Find your fitness

stop sign

Today, I’m giving you permission to make some changes:

  • If you don’t like “exercise,” it doesn’t make you a bad person.
  • If you don’t like to run, it doesn’t mean you are a quitter or doomed to stay overweight.
  • If you have gone to a bootcamp and it kicked your ass and you hated it, it doesn’t mean you’re weak.  
  • If you have gone to a gym and you hated lifting weights, you never have to pick up another weight again in your life.

Instead, I want you to find the type of fitness that brings you to life. If you haven’t done that yet, you haven’t looked enough places. So look more places.

Have you tried parkour?

How about rock climbing?

Swing dancing?


Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?  






These are all awesome forms of exercise and will get you to a pretty solid baseline of health.

After all, how you eat will determine 80-90% of your physique.

If you are trying to look a certain way or build certain skills, then YES you will need to train and eat a certain way. And next week we’ll show you exactly how to customize your training to your goals.   

For the rest of us muggles just trying to lose some weight, get in better shape, or look a little better, eating healthy and doing a fun form of fitness a few times a week along with some walks will actually get you most of the way there.

Don’t worry about getting your heart rate into the “fat burning zone” which is nonsense.

Don’t worry about “metabolic conditioning” or “WODs” or mile splits.

Don’t feel bad if doing squats and deadlifts aren’t your thing and you’d rather be outside in nature. Or that using an elliptical makes you want to cry out of boredom.  

Instead, do the thing that actually brings you joy and gets you moving. THAT is what “exercise” is: For me, it’s gymnastic rings and power lifting.

The rest of Team Nerd Fitness is quite varied:

  • For Staci, it’s powerlifting and yoga.
  • For Jim, it’s olympic lifting and gymnastics.
  • For Baker, it’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
  • For Alek, it’s ultimate Frisbee and CrossFit.
  • For Margaret it’s rowing.
  • For Darryl it’s martial arts.
  • For Taylor, it’s lifting and bodyweight training.
  • For Noel, it’s the NF Academy workouts.

Despite that list being quite “all over the place,” it’s all tied together by one principle: We exercise in a certain way because we enjoy it. This is why you can create a free character on Nerd Fitness with a focus in whatever reaches out to you.

We also all know that some basic strength training, even if it’s not our main focal point, makes us safer and better at the other activities we choose to do, so we all mix in a bit of that with our routines too.

It’s why principle #1 of NF is to train in a way that you enjoy! This will allow you to stay excited and motivated about moving – if you force yourself to do things you hate all the time, you’ll give up the second you reach an obstacle.

This is built into every element of Nerd Fitness, and we can help you find the path towards the life you want to live. It starts with a foundation of fun and the right attitude towards strength.

Stop today. Start today.

start today

I want you to have an honest conversation with yourself right now:

  1. If you are brand new to fitness, remove any preconceived notions you have about how you’re supposed to train. There’s no perfect way to train, but I’ll tell you there IS a wrong way – forcing yourself to do something you despise because you think you have to.
  2. If you’re already on your fitness journey, is there something you force yourself to do because you’ve always done it or because you think you have to keep doing it? If you’re doing it to reach a specific goal, good for you! But if not (and it just so happens to be what you think exercise is), can you STOP that thing?

I want to hear from you:

What’s one thing, with regard to fitness, that you have been forcing yourself to do, or what’s the mental image you have of fitness that has kept you from starting?

And what’s one NEW thing you’re going to try, or what’s an enjoyable form of exercise you’re going to do more of?  

If you are lost and don’t have any money or time to try new things, do this instead. Load up an audiobook or your favorite podcast, put on a pair of shoes, and go for a walk.

We all have to start somewhere, so we might as well enjoy it from the first day too! This will help you actually build the habit of doing the activity rather than doing something because you think you HAVE to.

Once you’re ready to set some elite performance or physique goals, we can talk about sacrifice and doing things for reasons other than pure enjoyment…but until then, have fun.

We’ll be covering specific performance and physique goals next week. Get ready!


PS: Are you a fan of ours on Facebook? Staci is going to be doing our first ever Facebook Live tonight at 8pm CT. She’ll be talking about how to find the right gym for you!


photo: PROReiterlied: lego, Steven Depolo: start

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  • It’s all about the first few steps isn’t it.

  • It turns out that running was made easier for me because I love listening to music. Running was an excuse to listen to said music….. Now cardio and running are the same thing and something that I would rather not do, became something that I got good at and wanted to keep doing.
    Thanks for the article, good stuff 🙂

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  • Hello all!

    I just got to this article, but I wanted to ask if it was possible to feed a swimming routine into something that could aid weightloss? If so, what would you suggest?

    Comments welcome from Nerds and writer alike.

    Thanks in advance!

  • Hey Sam,

    Its a interesting story of yours. I like to work in a team only.


  • Aegira

    I’ve been to several gyms around town, patiently explaining (while screaming inwardly) that I want to join but as I have Rheumatoid Arthritis I cannot hold a dumb bell. Not one of them came up with alternatives, except to suggest “dumb bell curls” would be a great start, wtf! I’m sure I had just spent the past 5 minutes explaining that I can’t hold a pen, let alone a beep beep dumb bell. Needless to say I have not joined a gym. I even contacted the local Crossfit, they didn’t even bother replying to my email. So I am now taking myself on long walks by the beach and not one dumb bell in sight. =)

  • http://www.butterflyproject.eu

    I really wish I was a person who enjoyed running, because it is something you hardly have to plan and can do everywhere anytime. Instead I like ball sports, which makes me dependent on other people, equipment, fixed schedule. Can you learn to like something or are you fixed into a certain category? #notgivingup

  • Ronin

    If a circuit of basic calisthenics was painful and made you puke, it’s because you’re not fit at all. You say you “just don’t like it”, as if your dislike of it is the same as disliking vanilla ice cream, in preference for chocolate ice cream. But the truth is your very low anaerobic fitness level means that this sort of exercise at that level of intensity causes you pain, and I’ll bet my house on the proposition that that you don’t like this sort of thing just because it’s painful.

  • Tinkle Sharmaa

    Great post! Thank you for sharing your story 🙂
    And if you’d like to explore places online to buy fitness/sports/yoga wear from you can head to http://www.roposo.com 🙂

    All the best and keep up the good work 🙂

  • Jason

    After this post, I reached out to my friend and we are back at it! Thanks for the motivation!

  • Patrick

    This is an awesome post! It gives people permission to be who they are while working to improve. Thanks for writing this.

  • How many bedrooms? 🙂

  • Elliott W

    42-year-old male exomorph. Probably my biggest demotivator is the fear that it’ll take more energy than I’ve got to get where I want to be. That the process won’t be efficient enough, and that I’ll be wasting a ton of effort that could be otherwise directed because I’m missing some key piece.

  • Nancy Miau

    This is what I needed to read today!! I don’t like running at all, I hate it!!!!! And people always think running is the best and I’m there shaking my head, thinking about how to improve my form for squats. I’m totally a gym person, I’m not a cardio fan, but I like HIIT now and then. The “problem” is my coach wants to add a bunch of cardio things BEFORE I lift so I can shed this fat , I do wanna get leaner but I don’t wanna drain myself before hitting the iron, so I am not doing as I’m told cos I know I’ll be toasted, trainers know a lot ,but we also learn about ourselves and what works for us!

  • JJ Pittenger

    Eating right IS key. You can exercise for hours on end, day after day, and not see the results you are looking for. In addition, without the proper diet, you can still be at a high risk for type 2 diabetes, etc. I work shift work and found juicing to help me get plenty of nutrients and fill me up a little. Pretty soon, I discovered that my wallet was getting thin quicker than I because of the price per cup of juice. I started supplementing powered juice blends and haven’t looked back.

  • JJ Pittenger

    Any type of moving is more beneficial than being stagnant. Do what you can and as well as you can. I love the “little bit better each time” mindset. Time will quickly pass and you will see results.

  • Amy Beaudoin

    Right there with you. ABD.

  • Anonymous

    Physical exertion is my personal Hell.
    I was very active, for many years, until graduating college. Despite trying numerous activities, I always hated it, and it didn’t improve my physical wellness. So ai stopped and never looked back. Yes, I’m fit to sit; and everyone should have as few meaningless activities in their lives as possible

  • Cindy Boehm


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  • Antigone10

    I have tried everything from aikido to Zumba and hate all of it. Every activity involves me staring at a clock or watch willing it to move faster. The few times on my life that I maintained consistent exercises were the times that there were limited barriers to entry- ie, the gym was right across the street from work with classes where someone else told me what to do, or it was during the summer where I just had to walk out my door to go for a walk. Well, the gym changed its hours, and it’s -3F degrees outside right now.

    It’s frustrating, because while I don’t give a flying fuck about my weight or muscles, I would like more energy and a more even mood. But I truly, truly hate exercise and there doesn’t seem to be an applicable advice to get over it. Reward yourself? Nothing stops me from rewarding myself now. Go with friends? No one has a consistent schedule or wants to do it. Meetups? Now I’m doing three exhausting things (driving, socializing with strangers, and exercising). Home workouts require me to dig space out of my tiny apartment and remind me to be cleaning instead. I work at a tiny one-level with no stairs or showers, so no office workouts or “just take the stairs”! I don’t have money to risk for punishment. Gamification? I don’t have anywhere to run, and they don’t actually give me any compelling motivation (you’ve moved up 3 points on a scoreboard! Who gives a fuck?). Small goals? No one can tell me how to measure energy besides “journalling” and that’s, again, not am actual measurement and another boring task to go along with a hateful task.

    This isn’t fun to complain about. It’s frustrating as fuck to try all of these things, spend time and money and limited willpower reserves and get no where but sick and hurt and bored to literal tears. It’s more frustrating to be accused of lying and not really trying.

  • Mira Laakso

    Not everyone has a type of exercise they enjoy. Some just hate all forms of exercise. Also, many types of exercise are expensive and not anyone has enough money to just go and try out a million kinds in hopes that maybe they might like something. Maybe.

  • Ashley McMullen

    Fitness looked like running, CrossFit, lifting weights in the gym.

    Fitness, for ME, looks like walking my dog at a brisk pace around our neighborhood, and going to yoga classes. Also swimming, when available.

  • Erin Tomanek

    I do not like traditional exercise. Never have. In Az it gets super hot so walking is tougher in late spring and summer so trying to find something else i enjoy. I walk now bcuz weathers good, not consistently but excited to start becoming a better me. Hiked today with my family and doggos

  • Jason Teitelman

    I dont exercise because everything I tried has sucked. I understand the point that I need to do something I enjoy, but the fact is if my heart rate is elevated, then it’s probably unpleasant. The only reason I’m looking this stuff up is because my therapist keeps insisting I need to exercise to help with my depression, but I fail to see how doing something unpleasant will make me want to do that unpleasant thing more and somehow magically make life worth living

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  • disqus_bfb4tJZbQ0

    I really enjoy other back exercises and jogging in place. Especially compared to running outside in a neighborhood I’m afraid of and becoming discouraged from pullups.

  • Aaron Brandon

    So what do you do when you’re too embarrassed/ashamed to be seen in public, but you also know you won’t keep to a routine on your own?
    I have massive body shame issues, and can’t stand sweating because it reminds me how gross I am. I feel like I’m stuck this way.