Each of us has, at some time or other, used an excuse to avoid exercising. We usually tell ourselves that we don’t have enough time, that we didn’t sleep well, we don’t really know what to do, or that the slight headache you are experiencing means you should rest… but these are all just excuses and not actual reasons why we miss out on a workout.
Once we identify the actual reasons, then maybe we can address the real problems, and get ourselves going! Here are some possible reasons for you to consider:
- You are not used to being active: Most people are not accustomed to formal, structured exercise. This results in feelings of stress, anxiety and even resentment when we need to make changes to accommodate our exercise routine into our daily schedules. It is all of the change, and “unknown” elements related to working out that causes these feelings.
- Our daily tasks don’t require much movement: The modern lifestyle is geared towards getting as much as possible done whilst moving as little as possible (this is called ergonomics). This means that exercise, or the need to be able to move around efficiently and effectively, feels redundant in some ways. If you don’t live and active lifestyle, or do not come from a physically active background, it is possible that you do not yet see the practicality – or the point – of exercise, even if you know it logically.
- Exercise is considered a luxury: Very often we have the preconceived idea that exercise is for those who have enough money to spend time on things outside of work and family. Even though this can be logically untrue (you don’t need to have a gym membership to exercise efficiently), it is still a widely held perception that only those with nothing better to do, or enough money that they don’t need to work, are fit and healthy.
- You just don’t see the point: In spite of experts warning – and begging – society to get active for their own health, it is often still difficult to believe that the benefits of exercise are real; by the same token, it sometimes just feels like a “scare tactic” when you hear about the consequences of lack of physical activity, unless you have actually experienced it yourself. It is very much like showing someone who has never eaten an apple, what an apple looks like, and then asking them to imagine what it tastes like simply by looking at it. The apprehension of the true benefits, coupled with the perception of what exercise entails, can often be overwhelming, and discouraging. When most people think of exercise, images of a never-ending treadmill run, or massive guys wearing tiny shirt and even smaller short whilst hoisting huge weights comes to mind… or maybe even Jane Fonda in her luminous leg warmers. Either way, none of these images are east to relate if you are someone with no prior exposure to exercise.
- Delayed gratification: In a world where we are accustomed to getting instant reactions to every action, exercise can be frustrating or disheartening when seeing results takes time. If you are conditioned to see results almost immediately, it will be a difficult process for you to consistently put in work and only get results weeks, months or even years later.
Now that we have identified the actual reasons for struggling with exercise (instead of all the sugar-coated BS we tell ourselves), how do we address it?
- Accept and make peace with the fact that you body needs to move, even if your lifestyle doesn’t require it to move. Exercise is like medicine: if we know we are sick, and we know the pill is bitter, we accept that we will have to swallow the bitter pill to get better. So, if you want to improve your health, and you want to lost weight and feel better about yourself, you will have to accept the fact that you actually HAVE TO MOVE.
- Make a cognitive mindset change: Instead of thinking of your perceived idea of exercise rather think of ways to move your body that you would actually enjoy. You don’t need a mind-numbing, never-ending treadmill run. You can go for a mountain hike, a stroll through the park with your dog… you don’t even have to lift weights! Spring clean your house (not just a cursory counter-top wipe, an actual, nitty-gritty clean), or go outside and play soccer with your kids.
- Acknowledge that the responsibility for your lifestyle lies with YOU: Most likely, your lifestyle will not require you to suddenly start moving around, picking up heavy things and trekking long distance. So, acknowledge the fact that your lifestyle isn’t ideal, and take the responsibility to start moving. Do not be swallowed up by that comfy arm chair, day in and day out!
- Find a purpose to move: Wanting to lose weight or get healthy are not purposeful goals to start moving – they are consequences of moving. Being able to run and play with your son – thus spending quality time with him – is a purposeful goal. By finding similar purposeful, meaningful goals, we are more likely to stick with our exercise programs. Most people focus on the consequences, like losing weight, but that will not keep you motivated in the long run. If you feel you want to lose weight, asking yourself: is the goal to lose weight, or is it rather to have a healthier relationship with my body?
I hope this helps you to identify what is really holding you back, and helps to get you moving forward again – literally, and figuratively!