Newsflash: Your workout isn’t supposed to feel terrible. That’s right, a ‘no pain no gain’ approach is more likely to land you among the quitters than among the healthy and strong. What will keep you coming back for more, on the other hand, is striking a balance between what makes you fit and what makes you happy. Read on for eight ways you and your fellow men can both find your best workout and bypass common gripes that come with the territory.
(You can fall in love with your workout too, ladies.)
Don’t fight the wrong battle. While setting a personal goal like running a marathon might seem like the perfect solution to getting rid of that belly, it’s probably not going to hit your sweet spot if you hate running and can barely find time to exercise as it is. The best recipe for fitness is a combination of cardio and strength training, but how you get there is personal. Some guys like the camaraderie and motivation of spin class, while others prefer the open road; some like pushing giant tires while others prefer yoga. But this isn’t about other men—it’s about you.
Ditch the sweats. Seriously. Any weight lost by sweat will be replaced as fast as you can lap that water out of the drinking fountain, and unless you’re trying to make a weight class for a wrestling match you won’t be doing much more than weighing yourself down. That’s because unlike newer synthetic materials designed to wick sweat away from your body where it can dry quickly, cotton soaks up moisture and holds onto it for ultimate sogginess. And nobody likes soggy pants.
Buddy up. Recruiting a friend to work out with you doesn’t just give you an excuse to hang out—it could help you both get a better workout. That’s because working out with others may increase the amount of feel-good endorphins you release, allowing you to work out harder without feeling like you are. In a British study of rowers who worked out either alone or with a crew, the group rowers measured a higher pain tolerance than those who went solo.
Go for briefs, not boxers. Face it, you are going to need some support, and nobody wears jock straps these days (unless your workout is a contact sport, that is). So opt for briefs, even if they’re not usually your thing. Or, as an even better alternative, skip the skivies altogether and trust the built-in liners in many athletic shorts to keep things in place without extra material. (Shorts with built-in underwear also work well under long warm-up pants for cool weather workouts.)
Don’t be afraid to show some leg. Speaking of shorts, the shin-length baggy mesh kind just add bulk and get in the way. Trust us—nobody is going to ridicule you for wearing knee- or even thigh-length shorts. But you may find you can crank it up a notch on the elliptical without all that extra fabric in the way.
Lube up. Chaffing happens. Ever watched a marathon and saw guys around mile 20 with two reddish brown spots on their t-shirts? Yeah, those are bloody nipples. But before you run in the other direction, a bit of strategically-placed petroleum jelly or specialized anti-chaffing cream (look for it at sporting goods stores) can go a long way to preventing friction and its uncomfortable aftermath. Apply it wherever you get hot spots, from your armpits to your feet.
Make sure you’re fueled. Sure you can get through a post-work session on the lingering fumes from lunch five hours ago. But if you show up at the gym with low blood sugar, you will be dragging through your workout—mentally if not physically. That’s because when you allow your energy to be depleted you’re not just robbing your muscles of fuel, but your brain, too. Try a banana and a handful of almonds to get your blood sugar on the upswing even if you have to eat them in the car on the way to the gym.
Crank some top-40 tunes. Researchers have found catchy, familiar music has the power to improve treadmill endurance by some 15 percent and improve free throw shooting among players prone to choking under pressure. But perhaps best of all, years of evidence suggests that music doesn’t just make exercise more enjoyable (which it does, but you knew that already); it also makes your workout feel easier as you work out harder, according to a 2012 overview of the research in the International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology.