“It was just not for me,” Berry says. “I think there’s a fine line between challenging yourself and forcing yourself, and it’s important to know the difference.”
One solid tip is to start any new activity with the intention of discovering what you really like about it, suggests Kourtney Thomas, CSCS, a personal trainer based in St. Louis. Instead of feeling like you have to do something because it’s good for you, see it as more of an experiment, she tells SELF. You’re just gathering data, taking time to determine whether it seems fun or falls flat, and extending a whole lot of kindness toward yourself along the way.
“We don’t have to beat ourselves or our bodies up,” Thomas tells SELF. “There’s no one right way to do any of this.” To get an idea of your actual level of passion for what you’re doing, try Berry’s method of giving it a few attempts and being honest about whether it’s lighting your fire to do more. For instance, if you tried kickboxing and felt awkward, but a second session is making you intrigued to learn more moves, stick with it. If you dread your next session, though, maybe it’s just not for you.
Another way to use that data gathering is to pinpoint what you liked and disliked about each activity. Maybe you loved the punching in that kickboxing class but hated the kicking. That likely means you may benefit from trying something like boxing instead, or another activity with plenty of upper-body movement.
3. Set more goals, make them achievable, and keep stacking them.
Yes, goal setting is a common tip in the fitness field, but it’s worth repeating because goals actually really work to keep you engaged and enable you to enjoy what you’re doing. (And setting goals you can achieve can be easier than you think too.)
For example, Berry says she is currently working toward her purple belt in jujitsu and that goal helps drive her to keep learning new techniques and put in the practice time.
“Every time I set a new goal, it makes me feel empowered, like I’ve created a new path in a journey,” she says. “Also, when I think about the goals I’ve reached, it makes me feel empowered.”
New goals, especially multiple types, are also important for changing variables within a workout, adds Thomas—for example, gradually progressing the amount of weight you lift or your number of reps and sets. Not only does that keep it more interesting, but it also helps move you toward whatever results you’ve been working to achieve.
4. Tease out your fitness “why.”
There are tons of health benefits from exercise, and new studies seem to come out every day about how fitness improves mental health, mobility and flexibility, cognitive function, immune system function, and so much more. But what does it really do for you personally? What’s your “why”? Finding that will be like a pilot light, Berry says.
“For me, I want the best life possible, I want to be around for my children, I want to feel amazing,” Berry says. “When you think of this as a lifestyle, not an activity that you check off your to-do list, you take out the mundane aspect of it. You turn it from a ‘have to do’ into a ‘want to do,’ and that’s a fundamental shift. When you start finding out how good you can feel, it’s impossible for that to be boring.”