An overweight exerciser rests on the back of a UPS truck.

Image: Cole Saladino | Thrillist | Huffington Post

Working out can sometimes be the very, very last thing I want to do. It comes more naturally to me to come home from work, flop over on the couch, and release a steady stream of drool while I watch Parks and Recreation. Of course, I know, as you probably do, that getting regular exercise is just a necessary part of being a healthy human. With the new year about to turn over, a lot of people—and especially women—are going to force themselves into a fierce regimen and highly restricted diet. But I’m here to tell you that not only does getting healthy not have to be that way, it shouldn’t.

A lot of people actually enjoy exercise. I do, too, but it can be awfully hard to get a good routine going and to stick with it. When largely inactive people start a new plan to lose weight, they think that they really need to put in 30 or 45 minutes of cardio and weights each. For some people, that’s fine! But for most of us, that’s just too much. Studies suggest that just 20 minutes of exercise a day is great for your body and great for sharpening your mind. Don’t be afraid to start small.

20 minutes a day feels manageable, right? Okay, so there’s step one: a time limit. But if you feel like you have to “force” yourself to exercise, then you might still be going about it wrong. Exercise should feel good, so think about activities you enjoy doing. Change the way you approach exercise and do what feels good to you. If you like walking around your neighborhood instead of going insane on the gym’s Stair Master, then that’s fine. If you like kayaking, do that!

Positive thoughts will help you get those 20 or 30 minutes in, too. Exercise can still be hard even when it’s something you enjoy doing, so change the way you think when you’re working out. “It’s only 20 minutes! I can do anything for that amount of time” is a mantra I chant to myself while huffing and puffing. Reframe the conversation you have with yourself. Think about what else the time you spend exercising represents: time to yourself, time to be alone with your thoughts, time to get that excellent booty you’ve always wanted. If you dread the exercise, you won’t stick with your plan.

Get out there and find something you love! And if you have no idea what that is, just keep trying new things. Poke around on the machines at the gym. Rent a bike or a kayak or go swimming. There will be something you like—you just have to find it.