Fitness is a funny thing: We all want it, but most of us hate doing what (we think) is necessary to obtain it. Much of this angst is completely unnecessary - it's based on long-standing misconceptions that most people have about what it takes to have a lean, healthy, attractive body.

Just to be clear, improving yourself in any respect requires effort, and fitness is no exception. With that said, however, "paying your dues" can be an enriching, satisfying experience, If you can adopt the following paradigm shift:

Pain is not the measure of a good workout

Most bad exercise decisions stem from the idea that the more it hurts, the better it must be. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you buy into the "no pain, no gain" philosophy hook, line and sinker, you'll focus your efforts on stuff that even I would hate: long, mind-numbing jaunts on the treadmill, hundreds of crunches and sit-ups, and painful stretching exercises.

While the aforementioned painful stuff is probably better than eating Cheetos on the couch in front of the TV, there are much more effective (and enjoyable) alternatives. One example of a very beneficial activity that most people ignore or avoid is free-weight training. People ignore it because it simply isn't unpleasant enough, and/or they avoid it because it requires skill. On this second point, I'd like to make an argument for the idea that learning new things is actually fun. Isn't that a big reason why people take yoga, dance and martial arts classes after all?

This fall, assuming you're not entirely satisfied with your previous explorations, I'd like to urge you to try something new. Don't continue with things that haven't worked for you with the assumption that the problem is your own lack of discipline. It's much more likely that you're making bad decisions based on a "no pain, no gain" paradigm.

Don't continue to use methods that don't work. Do something different. Anything different. There are many satisfying options out there if you'll just take the time to look.

• Charles Staley is an author, coach, presenter and director of Staley Performance Institute at Arizona Grand Resort in Ahwatukee. Reach him at (602) 453-5567 or

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