The toughest part about committing to—and sticking with—an exercise program is getting your mind to go along with it. Learn how to jump over five mental hurdles and confront common excuses that could derail your best intentions.
Nobody ever said adopting a regular exercise program or consistentlyworking outwould be easy. The biggest obstacle most people face? Their mind. Experts often say fitness is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical, and they’re totally right. Whether you’re a world-class athlete, a workout newbie, or somewhere in between, your mind—and the excuses it comes up with—is often your biggest enemy. Below, experts weigh in on five common mind blocks or excuses not to work out that could be holding you back, with tips for overcoming them so you can make fitness part of your regular routine.
Solution: If you’re truly feeling under the weather, then it’s probably best to skip exercise. But if this fatigue is a daily feeling, know that it’s probably from a lack of exercise. When you sit too much or don’t move enough during the day, there’s not much oxygen being distributed through your body, which can make you lethargic, says Tina Martini, a fitness trainer in San Diego, California, chef, and the author of the book Delicious Medicine.
As soon as you get moving, endorphins begin to kick in and you feel more energized. Do this repeatedly, and you’ll increase your overall energy. Until you get to that point, though, schedule exercise for when you naturally have the most energy, says Julie Driver, a London-based Pilates instructor. For some people, that may mean trying a morning workout before the day wears them out, while others might feel more energetic later in the day. No matter when the exercise happens, remember that a small amount of activity is better than nothing, so commit to doing at least ten minutes or moving through a few stretching exercises. Chances are, you’ll feel so good that you’ll keep going.
Solution: Lack of time was the number one reason a whopping 42 percent of participants in a recent Freeletics survey cited for not working out. It might seem tough to squeeze exercise in, but people often only have a perceived lack of time, as the same survey found that the average American has 89 minutes of free time a day.
Fortunately, you don’t need to spend much time exercising—even a few minutes at a time spread throughout the day or a little exercise at home will work—but you do need to create time for it, Driver says. Schedule it into your day planner just as you would a doctor’s appointment or a haircut and then build more activity into your day by taking the stairs versus the elevator, holding walking meetings, or pacing as you talk on the phone.
Bottom line? “Ask yourself if your health is really a priority,” Martini says. “People always find time for the things that are the most important.”
Solution: No doubt you’re great at walking, which means you can move, and that’s all that’s required.
“You don’t need to be an athlete to exercise,” Driver says. Find activities you love doing, do them at an intensity that feels comfortable, and progress at your own level. Most importantly, don’t compare yourself to others as you get into this exercise mindset. “Everybody has to start somewhere, and small steps add up to bigger results,” Driver says.
Solution: Find new ways to move. “When you feel boredom setting in, it’s time to change things up physically and mentally,” Martini says. From walking groups and dance classes to exercising with a dog (even if that means volunteering as a dog walker at a shelter), there are so many fun ways to get fit that it’s worth experimenting to find ways that interest you.
Start by finding three new fitness-related activities in your area or think about activities you used to love as a kid. Schedule them into your calendar and then give them a try with an open mind. Note if there was one activity you really enjoyed and find ways to do it more often.
Consider, too, what environments stimulate you and make you feel excited. For some people, doing something outdoors, even if it’s solo, keeps them stimulated while others are more motivated by indoor exercise classes. Love listening to music? You might consider adding music to your workouts or choosing fitness classes where music is a focus, as studies show that music can motivate you to move and even exercise longer in some cases.
Solution: If you think you need to over-exert yourself in the gym just to lose weight or get healthier, no wonder you feel like exercise is a chore.
“I hear this a lot, mainly because clients link exercise with punishment,” says Jonathan Jordan, a personal trainer and nutrition coach in San Francisco. Yet rather than thinking about exercise as a negative, shift your mindset and focus on the things that exercise will help you do.
For instance, if you put a little time into the gym, you might be able to play your favorite sport without feeling so much pain or have the stamina to go hiking with your kids. Once you find that a few hours exercising translates to better performance in things you love to do, you’ll probably quit complaining, as most of Jordan’s clients have done. Even better, realize that exercise is a get-to-do versus a got-to-do. “Look at your life and think how different it would be if you couldn’t use your body,” Martini says. “Movement is a gift we give ourselves, not punishment.”
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