“The only thing holding you back is the belief that something is holding you back.”
In my last post, I talked about the huge array of mental and physical health benefits which exercise can offer you. But to get to that stage and reap all of these rewards, we first need to find and maintain a healthy fitness routine which works for us – and this (like everything else!) begins with our mindset.
If the thought of exercising has you immediately conjuring up any excuse to get out of it, you’re not alone! In this post, we’ll go through five of the most common barriers to exercise which I hear (and have used myself!) every single day.
- “I won’t know what I’m doing” / “I’ll look stupid”
Whenever we start anything new or do anything which takes us out of our normal comfort zone, most of us will feel some level of anxiety and our mind will come up with a million excuses not to do it.
Walking in to a gym for the first time is daunting (whether people like to admit it or not!), especially if you’re not really sure where to start and don’t feel comfortable using the equipment. All gyms should offer you a thorough induction, however in my experience the quality of these can vary greatly. Depending on what your gym can offer you, it can be a good idea to have one or two sessions with a PT who will design an individual programme tailored to your goals, make sure you’re using the right weights and show you the correct technique to avoid injury. Alternatively, trying some different group fitness classes can also be a good way to build up your confidence, technique and find out what you enjoy.
If you’re feeling self-conscious, it’s also worth reminding yourself that most people are far more worried about themselves and how they look to notice what you’re doing! Stick with it consistently and you’ll be surprised at how quickly your mind and body adapt and your confidence grows.
2. “I’m too busy”
A classic. I used this one for a long time – even when my gym was at the end of my road!
We love to complain about how busy we are, don’t we? I hear it (and say it!) every single day. It’s almost like we don’t feel good enough or hard-working enough unless we tell ourselves and everyone else how busy we’ve been – which makes this the easiest excuse in the book to not exercise!
But there is so much variety in the fitness world, there will always be something that works for you no matter how hectic your diary is. You don’t even have to leave your home if you don’t want to! Start by working out what time of day you would prefer to exercise and what time you have available. Some people prefer exercising in the morning to get that energy boost which sets them up for the day, whilst others find that an evening workout can release the stress of the day and help them to sleep better.
You don’t have to dedicate hours to the gym. In fact, this can actually be counter-productive. The most effective training comes from shorter, more focused workouts, designed specifically for you and your body type. Remember that quality over quantity is what gets results and is far more rewarding and sustainable than going flat out in the gym for hours with no real purpose.
3. “I don’t like exercise”
This is something I used to tell myself a lot, along with “I’m not sporty enough” and “it’s just not my thing”.
A balanced workout is key but there are a multitude of ways you can get this – whether that’s through sport, joining a club, gym, fitness classes, getting outside in the fresh air, training solo, with a friend or PT. Exercise is so varied and adaptable that there really is something for everyone – you just need to find what works for you and your body. And, most importantly, stop forcing yourself to do exercise you genuinely hate. There’s no point – because if you have to force yourself to do it, there’s no way you’ll be able to sustain it (and nor should you). And there’s also no need – because with a bit of trial and error you can easily find something you enjoy.
I hate running. I love the idea of it and when I hear other people talking about it, I really wish that I loved it too. I have tried so many times to force myself to do it but it just made me miserable – and then out crept the dread, the excuses and there was no chance I was going to keep it up. But when I started to work with myself, instead of against myself, that’s when I found a fitness routine which I really enjoyed and could happily sustain.
So, instead of jumping straight in with what you think you should do, start with what actually feels good. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to health and fitness. Find the exercise which fits your personality, your lifestyle, fuels your motivation and gives you that natural high – and you won’t look back.
4. “I’m too tired” / “I don’t have enough energy”
This can become a vicious circle and is one I can definitely relate to. But the scientifically-proven truth is, exercise really does give you more energy.
When you’re feeling exhausted after a long day, the last thing you feel like doing is exercise but, if you can get yourself to the gym or out for a run, it’ll get your blood pumping, boost your mood and leave you feeling energised – and you’ll be so glad you did it. And, over time, your body will begin to adapt to consistent exercise. This will improve your cardiovascular health and help your body to function more efficiently, so you’ll find it easier to go about your daily life feeling less tired, less stressed and you’ll have energy left over. The improved blood flow, rich in oxygen and nutrients, will fuel your cells, muscles and brain. You’ll notice fewer aches and pains, your body will strengthen and you’ll feel more alert.
Equally, if you’ve had a lazy few days or find yourself out of a routine and feeling a bit sluggish, exercise is often the perfect antidote. Again, it’ll be the last thing you feel like doing but it’ll do the trick every time.
A short, sharp HIIT workout has pulled me out of a rut on so many occasions and now I’ve learnt that when I feel lethargic, unmotivated and least like exercising, this is actually when need it the most!
That being said, it is so important that you listen to and understand when your body genuinely needs rest, as this is a crucial part of a healthy fitness routine. I’ll be explaining this in more detail in my next post.
5. “But you’re already slim – you don’t need to exercise”
If I had a pound for every time someone has said this to me…
When we think of exercise, we tend to think of weight loss. But size alone is not an accurate reflection of fitness or an indicator of health. Some people can live off junk food, do no exercise at all and not put on any weight – but this doesn’t mean they’re physically fit and healthy. In fact, some research has suggested that those who are slim and don’t workout can have the same high levels of bad cholesterol as obese non-exercisers, which can narrow the arteries and increase the risk of heart disease. This is why I prefer to track my clients’ progress through increases in strength and fitness levels, instead of weight or measurements.
Fitness, by definition, refers to our body’s ability to function efficiently and carry out daily tasks without undue fatigue. And the bottom line is this: in order to improve our fitness levels, maintain strong bones, a healthy heart and function at our optimal level in our daily lives, exercise is key – whatever our size!
So there you have it. With this post I wanted to shine a light on some of the most common barriers to exercise which we all face at one point or another, because once we’re aware of them we can override them. And once you’ve done this and made the decision to give your mind and body the attention they deserve, the next step is to get started!
In my next post, I’ll be sharing some top tips to get you and your body prepped for your new fitness journey.