Warning: Reading this article may make you start exercising. If you really hate exercise, then you should not risk reading further. If you do hate it, but wish you didn’t, then read on. You may soon feel satisfied with yourself for actually taking care of your body, rather than feeling guilty for not exercising!
Here’s how to tackle each one of your exercise excuses, get into action, and give your body the attention it craves.
1. “I need to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day to get results.”
Most of us have a number that we think we should “hit” in order to exercise “enough.” For some people, this is the daily recommended minimum of 30 minutes. For others, it’s 45 minutes of weight-training plus another 45 minutes of cardio.
I’m not going to put up a fight with your number here. What I am going to do is challenge your idea of starting with that number right away. You see, even though 30 minutes a day might not seem like a lot, 30 minutes a day for the next 5 years is actually too much for your habitual brain to process.
So yes, everyone can do 30 minutes of daily exercise for one week. But how many people can do that for the next 5 years?
Exactly. Starting small–like really small, maybe 5 minutes or less–has the advantage of bypassing your brain’s fight-or-flight response, the mechanism that make you sabotage yourself when you are trying to do something that seems “big” for too long.
This way, instead of mindlessly starting with an exercise program, you focus on building the habit first, and then once you are exercising a little bit every day, you are ready to expand how much exercise you do.
2. “I don’t want to have to force myself to do it.”
If you have to force yourself to do it, then there is a 90% chance that you are doing it wrong and you will never stick to exercise.
“Buuuut,”you might say, “I have friends who have made that happen.”
Yes, some people are motivated by challenges and others pushing them. Others hate it.
If you are one of the people who hate it, stop trying to change yourself. And of course, stop treating yourself as if you were one of those people who are motivated by challenges and being pushed. The more you use this approach on yourself, the more you’ll hate exercise and of course, the more you won’t do it!
Instead, change the way you approach exercise. Stop falling into what I call the “Happiness Paradox Trap.” Instead of starting with what you think you “should do,” start with what feels good.
This video from Exercise Bliss, a 10-week course that helps you make exercise a daily ritual, shows you what to do:
3. “I’m not motivated enough.”
We think that motivation is the answer to sticking to exercise. If only we wanted it enough, then we would make it happen.
It might be the activated fight-or-flight response we talked about in #1. For example, when you feel that you have too much to do, the fight-or-flight response kicks in, and you do nothing. Does this ring a bell?
People who have already made exercise a daily ritual, don’t depend on boosting their motivation to get off the couch and exercise. They just do it, naturally, without debating it with themselves, desperately trying to get themselves into action.
Again, motivation is not the real issue here. It’s something else that holds you back. Maybe you think you need to devote 1 hour and you don’t know how to do that. Or, maybe you think you need to suffer to get results. Whatever the real reason is, find it. Only then will you be able to figure out a way to remove the obstacle that is on your way.
4. “I don’t need exercise. I only want to lose weight.”
Many people just care about their weight, nothing else. Yet, our bodies are naturally wired to feel good when we move. Here is a quick list of the benefits of exercise:
- Decreases the risk of various diseases and bad health conditions, like high cholesterol, diabetes, stroke, certain types of cancer, arthritis, cardiovascular diseases.
- Increases longevity. According to a Taiwanese study, just 15 minutes of daily exercise prolong life by three years. Not bad, huh?
- Improves mood. Exercise does not just help depressed people, it helps everyone. A quick workout or walk stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed.
- Increases your energy levels. Regular physical activity boosts your endurance, and helps your heart and lungs work more efficiently. And yes, that means more energy available for you. It seems that if you feel “too tired” to exercise, then you must exercise!
- Improves sleep. Yes, regular physical activity can help you sleep better and fall asleep more easily, as long as you don’t exercise a couple of hours prior to bedtime.
- Improves sex life. Erectile dysfunction? Lack of libido? Just lack of energy? Exercise may help with all of that.
- Helps you better control your weight. Exercise helps you burn calories, plus you build muscle that generally burns more calories than fat. Exercise is a great add-on to a diet, or weight maintenance plan.
- Gets you better lab results, even if you are fat. Did you know that an obese person who is fit, i.e., exercises regularly, will show better lab results than a thin person who never exercises? That’s right. The weight does matter. But fitness matters even more.
Do you still think that exercise won’t help you?
5. “I need ‘all my ducks in a row’ before I start thinking about exercise.”
Maybe you are currently busy. Or, you are planning a trip next week. Or, your child just got sick. Shouldn’t you just wait until you can give exercise 100% of your attention?
This rationale once again sounds plausible, but just like the “I don’t have time” excuse, is it really true? Is not starting because you are not “ready,” the best thing for you right now? Is neglecting yourself and your body for a few more weeks/months/years a good strategy?
Finally, how many months or years will you spend before you get “all your ducks in a row?”
6. “I find exercise boring.”
I feel for you. Sometimes I find it boring too. Especially when I attend fitness classes that last for an hour or an hour and a half. Yet, is really moving your body for 5-10 minutes boring?
I could go on and say to find something that you actually like. Yet I know that for most people, exercise itself is rarely the issue. Having to do it for “too long” is the issue.
That’s why I said that if 30 minutes are boring, try 5 or 10.
Now if this idea of starting small stresses you out, let me remind you the wisdom of tip #1–the fact that you may want to be exercising one hour daily, doesn’t mean you have to start from one hour right away! You can start small, and as you feel more and more comfortable build your way up!
7. “I have negative past experiences.”
I understand that you came last at the sprint race when you were at school. I understand that you may feel embarrassed when you attend fitness classes. Luckily, your past does not need to define your future.
A client of mine wanted to start jogging. She started by walking around the neighborhood. Yet, she found out she felt really uncomfortable feeling that her neighbors were watching her.
She accepted that, and worked her way around it. Instead of walking around her own block, she walked around the block next to her own block. Ta-da! Problem solved. A few months later she was already jogging 2 miles a couple of time a week.
8. “I dislike the whole package of exercise, but not exercise itself.”
If you think you need to exercise for an hour, take a shower, and drive to the gym and back, then you have two hours gone, just like that.
You might like moving your body, but you certainly don’t like having to spend all this time working out! Who could blame you?
Luckily, exercise that gets you results doesn’t have to take all this time and scheduling brainpower.
1. Do something that takes less time – e.g., exercise at home.
2. Automate. For example, if you go to the gym after work, make sure your gym is bag is ready from the day before, so you don’t have to deal with that as well during your busy morning.
9. “I don’t have enough time to exercise.”
I love this one. Even though we know people busier than us, who actually exercise, we keep saying “we are busy.”
Have you ever thought that being “busy” is actually a lie? If there are busier people than you who make it happen, then so could you. Yet even though we acknowledge that, we still believe that yes, “we are too busy to exercise”.
What is even better is that the people around us also believe us. You see, they too use the “I don’t have time” excuse. Maybe not for exercise. They may do with cleaning, de-cluttering, or something else. If they spoil it for you, then you will be able to spoil it for them.
So admit that time is not an issue. It’s probably something else. Maybe you don’t like it. Maybe you are afraid you’ll have to give up something else in favor of exercise. Whatever the real reason, you need to find it if you want to give your body a chance to thrive!:)
10. “I have so much to do, and exercise will have to take time from things I don’t want to give up.”
Now you might indeed be worried that exercise will take too much of your time. Time that you are not sure you should “sacrifice” in order to take care of your body.
You are not helpless. If not taking care of your body makes you feel guilty, then know that you can change that. You can become one of those people who exercise regularly and like it. There’s even a course that teaches that.
I believe in you.
Now make a strategic exercise plan and remember: you don’t have to start with something big. Instead start with what feels good. That’s the best recipe for success!