Working out is a lot easier when it doesn’t feel like, well, work.

Luckily, how hard you’re exercising and how hard you think you’re exercising are two different things. And the latter—called the rate of perceived exertion (RTE)—might be more in your head than in your muscles.

After all, there’s a reason the treadmill’s nicknamed the “dreadmill,” and that people forgo their workouts when their playlists run dry. In fact, a 2012 review published in the International Revue of Sport and Exercise Psychology concluded that listening to upbeat music not only reduces ratings of perceived exertion, but improves the body’s energy efficiency and spurs better performances.

That’s the true beauty of playing with your RPE. Employ a few tricks to lower it, and you can actually work out harder, longer, and without breaking a sweat (or at least feeling like you are.) Plus, chances are, you’ll have a lot more fun while you’re at it, explains exercise physiologist Mike T. Nelson, Ph.D., C.S.C.S. And that’s key to sticking with any workout over the long haul.