Life is short. Too short to be spent following strict diets and exercise plans you don’t enjoy. So you need to make your workouts fun in order to be able to stick to your routine, says Christina Neal.

If you have tried and failed in the past to stick to an exercise plan, my guess as a former personal trainer is that you just didn’t find it fun. You have to make exercise fun to stick at it. You may have relied upon willpower at first and in the beginning, that may have worked for you. But in reality, none of us will stick to an activity or pursuit in the long term if we find it boring. So how can you make exercise more fun?

Firstly, if the idea of doing a 30 minute session on a cardio machine like the cross-trainer or treadmill fills you with dread, and you know you’ll be bored, then don’t do it. Find something else that you enjoy and find it fun. If you don’t like steady-state cardio, you can still use one of these machines to get fit, but mix up the pace and intensity. Try one-minute fast, two minutes easier-paced recovery, then repeat. You may find the variety makes it enjoyable.

Find what you like

If you simply don’t enjoy cycling, swimming, running or any form of rhythmical cardio, then replace it with something that takes your mind off the time. Doing a class like circuits, BodyAttack, Boxercise or even an energising dance class will burn lots of calories. The key is to find something you like. And do it in an environment you’re comfortable in. That means picking an exercise class with a friendly atmosphere, a supportive exercise instructor (and not a snooty, bossy one who makes you feel guilty when you get tired!). Aim to enjoy it. It’s not a crime to make friends during the class and have a coffee afterwards (but steer clear of the post-workout muffins – they’re not worth the short-lived joy of eating them!).

Train anywhere

If you hate the sterile environment of the gym, then the exercises we’ve given you can be done anywhere – at home, in your living room, with your mates or even outside in the back garden if you get a half-decent, sunny day. If the gym isn’t your thing, don’t force yourself to go there and don’t fork out for a gym membership you won’t use beyond the first few weeks.

If the treadmill isn’t for you, but you like the idea of running, head outside. You’ll be amazed at how much more fun it can be with good scenery. Trail running is becoming increasingly popular, as it offers you a chance to take in nature and be at one with the environment. Varied scenery is much more interesting than the TV screens in the gym, after all.

Whatever you choose for your cardio exercise, answer the following questions before you commit to doing it week in, week out, for the next eight weeks (and hopefully beyond)…

• Can I imagine myself doing this regularly, three to five times per week?

• Will I enjoy it, or will I get bored very quickly?

• Is it something I can do with a friend for motivation?

• Is it something I can vary in terms of environment or type of session so that I don’t get bored?

• Will it get me fitter and help me achieve my goals?

Be prepared

Decide on a contingency plan for what to do if you start to get bored. Ask friends to be your support network. Tell them you’re starting a new eight-week exercise plan to get a lean belly and ask them if they will encourage you when you start to lose motivation. Maybe they will send you supportive texts every few days or compliment you when they start to notice your body shape changing. One or two friends may even want to follow the plan with you. Others may be happy to take part in some of the exercise sessions and make it more sociable for you. Think about other friends who have lost weight in the past and ask them how it has changed their life for the better. Most of all, avoid negative types who will hold you back.

Trick your mind

Make sure you have positive answers to most of the questions here, as there may be some days when you’ll feel tired and don’t feel like doing the workouts. Do them anyway! Fatigue at the end of the day is most likely to be mental fatigue. Once you warm up and the oxygen and blood begins to pump itself around the body, the chances are you’ll feel much better.

If you’re not convinced, then you can do what works for me and trick your mind. I do this by following my the 20-minute rule. Tell yourself you’re going to exercise for just 20 minutes and, if you don’t feel better, you’ll give yourself permission to stop at that point. But in most cases, you will feel better once you get moving and the blood flow and oxygen around your body is increasing –  you’ll want to carry on and do more and more. At the end of the session, you’ll be so glad you completed a workout.