Make exercise more fun with creative, machine-free ideas that'll make you more likely to move

By Alla Byrne
Corbis Images

Remember when exercise didn't seem like a chore? As a kid, you'd run around at recess or take your bike for a spin just for fun. Bring that sense of play back to your workouts and you'll be more likely to get moving, stick with it, and see results. (Start with Olivia Wilde's Crazy-Fun Dance Workout for an adrenaline-infused sweat session.)

1. Go outside

Get off the treadmill and work up a sweat in the great outdoors. This allows you to change up your environment, so no two workouts are the same. Plus, you're not limited by the constraints of space or equipment. "When you're outside, you're not locked in a linear plane. You can move laterally or go backwards and challenge your body in different ways," says Lacey Stone, a New York City-based trainer and founder of Lacey Stone Fitness. (Try these 10 New Outdoor Workout Ideas.)

2. Use your surroundings

Who needs fancy equipment when you have benches, bars and stairs available for free? Find a staircase, do step-ups on the way up-for an added challenge try taking two stairs at a time-and run down. Head to your local park where you can do dips or push-ups on benches, pull-ups on the jungle gym, and lunges or calf raises on curbs. (Learn how to Take It to the Streets for a Full-Body Workout.)

3. Find friendly competition

A workout buddy will keep you motivated, while adding an element of teamwork and competition to your sweat session. You tend to push yourself harder when you're racing against someone or vying for a prize. Stone suggests setting up your own drills, such as racing to a lamppost or a pushup competition. The winner gets bragging rights, while the other has to do a set of jumping jacks or crunches.

4. Exercise outside the box

Doing the same workout over and over is not only boring, it can also result in a plateau. Signing up for a new class or a sports league keeps you motivated, especially when you have to make a long-term commitment. It's also a good way to meet new training partners. And trying a different activity sparks new ideas, which you can integrate into your usual routine. "You can go to surf camps, climb a volcano, take trapeze lessons. Doing something totally out of your comfort zone motivates you," Stone says. (See more Plateau-Busting Strategies to Start Seeing Results at the Gym.)

5. Get a mentor

Just as your middle-school coach used to push you to improve your game, so do fitness instructors and trainers. Even if you're short on cash, there are many ways to challenge yourself with the help of a pro. You can download workout applications and podcasts to your smartphone for your very own portable fitness coach. (Like these 5 Digital Coaches to Help You Reach Your Health Goals.) If you belong to a gym, there are plenty of trainers and instructors who are happy to offer advice or answer questions, so don't be afraid to ask. Have a friend who's an inspirational athlete? Invite them to work out with you and challenge each other.

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