Dear Lifehacker, I get extremely bored while working out. When I go for a run, I'm just counting down the minutes until I get home. When I exercise, I'm too distracted. Listening to music doesn't help. What can I do to make working out more entertaining so I won't give up and do something more interesting to my brain? Sincerely, Unenthusiastic Workout
Man, I'm right there with you. Some people have a harder time focusing on physical tasks without some kind of mental stimulation to make it more engaging. Or at least that's the excuse I tell myself when I get bored doing workouts in my office after 20 minutes. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to make working out interesting as well as healthy.
Mix Up Your Routine
When you do the same thing day in and day out, it doesn't matter how fulfilling you found it to begin with. You're going to get bored. Apps like Runtastic can help you spice up your routine for runners by taking you into a story mode (similar to Zombies, Run! but with less of a game twist), as well as encouraging you to take different routes. Of course, you don't need an app to switch up your route.
If you prefer to go to a gym, there's another very simple way to make things more interesting: workout somewhere else. As Men's Health suggests, just going to a different part of your gym, hanging out with a different group of people, or switching gyms altogether can be all you need to break the monotony and get re-engaged.
You can also get your friends involved and turn working out into an entertaining goal. Health Magazine recommends planning trips with your friends, such as kayaking or any other major outdoor excursion. In the weeks leading up to your trip, you not only have extra motivation for working out, but you have a fun, tangible goal to work towards that can help narrow down what to do (for example, you may not need to work out your legs too much for kayaking, but they should be a primary focus for a bushwalking trip). Plus it's easier to socialise while bushwalking or kayaking than it is jogging.
Turn Your Workout Into a Game
If you've got a decent imagination (and let's face it, yours is probably overactive if you're reading this), apps like Teemo can take you on a virtual adventure while you workout. The iOS app challenges you to scale Mount Everest or trek through a desert. It will give you specific workouts that can be done anywhere and tell you how far along on your journey you are.
Another option if you enjoy virtual worlds for runners (though strictly speaking it's not a fitness game) is Ingress. Around a year ago, Google introduced an augmented reality game that requires players to travel all over their city, finding historical landmarks and interacting with virtual "portals". The game itself is pretty great (and finally open to everyone), but it can also add an element of fun to your workout. You can plot out routes in your area with the online portal discovery tool, and give yourself specific goals to reach on every leg of your route.
Along the same vein, zombie-related fitness training is so pervasive, it almost needs a category of its own. If you're a runner, Zombies, Run! is the app you're looking for. Every time you run, you'll get a new episode in a larger plotline about Earth after the zombie apocalypse. During your run you can listen to your own music, but audio prompts will interrupt to inform you that you are currently being chased by zombies. At that point, you have to book it to survive. It's not a difficult game, but it encourages you to challenge yourself periodically while still being entertaining.
If audio stories aren't your speed, try an entire zombie apocalypse workout routine. This program will trick you into getting a proper workout while preparing you for the coming undead armageddon. If you think you're ready to take it to the next level, be on the lookout for Zombie 5Ks in your area. There are actually a number of groups that put these together and they'll vary by organisation, location, and even the time of year, but they all have a similar point: zombies chase, you flee. Or get eaten.
Compete with Friends for Fun or Profit (Literally)
If you prefer something a bit more down-to-earth (what, you think interdimensional portals and pretend mountains are weird?), you can still turn your workout into a game with apps like Fitocracy. This service connects you to others who are also trying to work out. You can make friends, compete in challenges, and compare your stats with others.
If you want to up the ante though, you can put your money where your sweatbands are. Previously mentioned Fitsby will let you and your friends play with real money. If you fail to do your workouts, your money goes into the pot and will reward your friends who do. While it might not be entertaining you while you do it, Fitsby will make sure you don't forget what's on the line.
Of course, how you make your workout entertaining is going to be mostly up to you. Some people just need the right music mix, while others might rather read while they exercise. If you're trying to find a good routine you'll stick to, just knowing what questions to ask yourself can mean all the difference.
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This article has been updated since its original publication.