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Body Experiment #2: Make a Habit of Trying New Forms of Exercise

I’ve already established that exercise does wonders for my body and for my happiness. I have more energy. I gain muscle and stamina. I can even see an ab or two! The happiness I feel from working out the first few weeks is EUPHORIC. Researchers attribute this feeling to the release of a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor). It’s released along with endorphins to minimize the discomfort of exercise.

But according to best selling author Gretchen Reynolds, it’s really the first 20 minutes that give your brain that high.

This makes sense to me. The beginning is always the most rewarding – especially in the context of a month or two. One month into a workout routine, and the high I felt fades into boredom. The fun workout I looked forward to suddenly feels like a chore. I’m not discrediting the mastery of professional athletes, this is a different kind of happiness goal. However, for the average person, happiness does not come from expertise, but from facing and pushing through the new challenge.

After considering these 4 facts:

  1. The body’s long-term happiness relies on making exercise a habit.

  2. The highest level of happiness from exercise comes when you first start out.

  3. The release of endorphins has an addictive effect, and more exercise is needed to achieve the same level of euphoria over time [McGovern]

  4. The brain is motivated and strengthened by novelty.

…I hypothesized that the exercise habit that will bring me the most happiness is consistently challenging myself by trying something new. If something sticks along the way, that is an added bonus.

Today: Research and compile a list of NEW exercises to try out. Here is my list to help you get started!

1. Kangoo Jumping If you grew up in the 90’s, you may have had Moon Shoes. If you are now a twentysomething and want to shamelessly relive the good old days, GO KANGOO JUMPING. I had never heard of this type of exercise until I saw a herd of girls bouncing through a park with what looked like a military leader commanding them. I immediately went home and signed up for a class. WOW. Not only was it fun, but it was the third hardest workout I’ve ever had (#1 being Capoeira and #2 Insanity).

2. Hot Yoga/Aerial Yoga Yoga is an amazing workout and if you haven’t tried it…well then, seriously, where have you been? If you love yoga, but are looking to shake things up, look up the closest studio that offers Hot Yoga (Bikram Yoga) or Aerial Yoga. Hot Yoga heats your muscles up (in a 105degree room!) allowing you to deepen your poses. Aerial (Anti-Gravity) Yoga frees your joints from pressure and suspends you in fabric for the workout. If you have ever wondered what it feels like to be P!nk at the Grammy’s, give it a go.

3. Capoeira is a Brazilian Martial Art that combines elements of dance and acrobatics. The “mestres” or masters of Capoeira would easily school the cast of Magic Mike XXL in a battle of the abs. If you want to get into peak shape, this is the workout for you. But you don’t have to be a gymnast to do Capoeira. Anyone can learn the basics, just expect to be sorer than you’ve ever been before.

4. Pole Dancing Relaxxxxxx. I’m not telling you to turn in your career for a life of exotic dancing. I’m merely suggesting you try this grueling workout! Sex sells. That’s why more and more dance studios are offering pole dancing classes. I mean, what is more motivating than feeling sexy? Improve your flexibility and your core with this exotic workout.

5. Hiking/Rock Climbing If you live near mountains or trails, you have to take advantage of this rewarding workout. A dose of nature and the view from the top are worth every minute of the uphill climb. Surrounded by flat land like I am here in South Florida? Try an indoor rock climbing course. If you’re really competitive, give the Freedom Climber a go.

6. Precision Running As of now, this group fitness class is only available at Equinox, but I’m hoping it will catch on! I don’t think anyone enjoys the “dreadmill” but this class combines interval training and competition for an enjoyable spin on running in place.

7. Barre Class It may look like ballet, but it’s not. Beginners and experts alike can enjoy this amalgamation of pilates, dance, yoga, and functional training. Never boring and always fun, this group class is bound to boost your happiness, if not your flexibility, strength and balance.

8. Obstacle Races The best part of signing up for a race is that you’re locked in. You have the support of a community to keep you training and going during the race. Better yet, your body and mind are challenged at full speed by obstacles that you may never encounter in another workout. In the Tough Mudder, you face electric shocks, while in the Warrior Dash you hurdle over fire. Getting down and dirty in these races is not only a ridiculous workout but a fun experience to share with friends.

9. Insanity This is exactly what you think it is, INSANE. But if you are regimented, don’t like the gym, and are looking for real results – insanity is the perfect new workout to try. This 6-disc, 90-day program led by fitness celebrity Shaun T is heavy in cardio and guaranteed to drench you in sweat. If you are anything like me, you will also find yourself cursing the b*tch in the front left smiling like she’s taking a light breezy jog.

Biking down a volcano in Arequipa, Peru

10. Mountain Biking With all of the indoor comforts we have today, (Netflix, gyms, movie theaters, et cetera) we could always use an excuse to get outside. Whether its in real mountains or not, off-road biking is a real workout.  And enjoying the beautiful outdoors is just another way to stimulate your mind during your workout. Downhill mountain biking is my favorite! 

Does this method help you keep the habit of exercise alive? Please share any forms of exercise you have tried in order to spice up your workouts. Hoping that you try and enjoy some of the above suggestions!

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