Recently, I was in a Facebook group where the question was asked "Why don't you exercise?" Here is a list of reasons that were given. Do they resonate with you? I know a lot of the reasons resonate with me. Let's just be honest here: we all have our excuses if we don't really want to do something.
But I also know that I can't afford to let my excuses get in the way of my health. So along with the list of excuses below, I will also offer some ways to overcome each excuse.
1. I don't make exercise a priority. I put this excuse at the very top of the list because from this excuse all others come. And let's unpack this excuse. Is it really "exercise" that isn't the priority, or is it yourself? Are you putting everything else ahead of your own health and wellbeing? That's one possibility. Another possibility is that you are letting other people make your priorities for you. To some extent, that's expected. Your boss determines the hours you will work. Your family has needs. And maybe you have just never listed out exactly what your priorities should be and in what order. If not, that would be a good "exercise" to engage in. If this is your excuse, spend some time thinking out why that is the case. If you need a good reason to put yourself at the top of your priority list, read my blog post The Guilt Gremlin.
2. I don't have the time. We are all so busy that it's easy to just throw up our hands and say, "I don't have the time." But as Tony Robbins has famously said, "If you don't have 10 minutes, you don't have a life." Did you know you can squeeze a thorough body weight exercise into 7 minutes? The fact is, we don't have the time, so we have to make the time, just as we do with anything else we have to do. Try scheduling your exercise time into your calendar as if it were a meeting or an appointment you have to keep. And check out my list of 21 Ways to Make Time for Fitness in Your Daily Routine.
3. I don't have the motivation. If you aren't motivated to exercise, perhaps you don't have a strong enough "Why". If you don't have a strong "why" for what you want to do, your motivation will quickly fizzle out. A simple exercise to help you find your why is to ask yourself a series of questions. You could start with "Why should I exercise?" You will likely come up with a general answer like "So I can lose weight." Don't stop with that answer! Ask yourself why that answer would be important to you. With each new answer, ask the question again: Why is that important? Why is that important? Eventually, you will reach a deeply meaningful purpose. Once you have it, write it down, put it where you will see it every day, and spend a few minutes focusing on that purpose.
4. I just don't like to exercise. Even the great Muhammad Ali did not like to train, but because he wanted to achieve his goals, he did it anyway. If this is your excuse, try doing things that don't feel like exercise. Maybe an aerobics class isn't your thing, but you love to dance. Or you don't want to lift weights, but you would be fine with lugging bags of compost into your garden. The point is to do something physical that gets your body moving.
5. My children/grandchildren interrupt me. The excuse of young moms and young grandmoms everywhere. Guess what? Kids LOVE to exercise. They love to jump around, dance, lift things, hop, skip, and roll around on the floor. Try involving them in your exercise - chances are, they will adore being your exercise partners.
6. I'm too fat. This one makes me sad, because not only does it have a feeling of shame, but of defeat as well. A sort of "it's too late for me" and "I'm embarrassed about my body." Please don't ever feel ashamed of your body, and please don't ever feel that it is too late for you to improve your health. It's not! I try to get myself, and you, to improve our health because I want all of us to live longer, healthier lives - doing the things we want to do and that bring us joy and that make us feel good about ourselves. But we are not just our bodies. We are our minds and souls as well. Believe that you are beautiful, because you are. And believe that you are worth it, because you are! Don't fall into the limiting belief that you can't improve your health. Believe that you can, and you will make it happen.
7. I'm too lazy. For this excuse, first distinguish between whether you just need some downtime to relax or if laziness has become a habit. If it is the latter, setting small baby step goals with a very specific plan can help you to break your laziness habit and make progress on your goals. For example, if your habit is to come home from work and flop onto the couch, try setting a baby step goal to walk for 10 minutes first. Create a "When-Then" statement: When I first get home from work (get up in the morning, leave my office for lunch break), I will put on my gym shoes and walk for 10 minutes. Experts have shown that creating small, achievable goals with small behavioral changes can lead to establishing long-lasting healthy habits.
8. I don't have the energy. I feel you. I'm often so wiped out when I get home from work that even the thought of taking a walk seems overwhelming. And when I wake up in the morning, some days it's just so hard to get out of bed! When do you have the most energy? That would be a good time to get in your exercise. But what if that time is during your work hours? Then you will have to develop a certain amount of discipline. Consider again the time of day outside of your workday when you feel most energetic. Schedule your workout time during that time frame. By actually adding your workout time onto your schedule or calendar, you are making a commitment to yourself. To increase your energy and make your workout more fun, play upbeat music or bring a partner. The good thing about exercising is that it will help to increase your energy!
9. I have too much pain/arthritis or my health conditions are stopping me. This is a reason that you should discuss with your doctor. Many chronic health conditions actually benefit from exercise. For example, joint pain may decrease with weight loss and strength training. Many heart conditions benefit from exercise that strengthens the cardiovascular system. Your health condition may not allow for certain types of exercise, but perhaps other forms such as biking, swimming, or yoga would be just the ticket. Have a discussion with your physician about what types of exercise you should avoid and what you can do given your condition. You may also wish to consult with a physical therapist or a fitness trainer who specializes in working with people with chronic health conditions to help you create your own adaptive exercise plan.
10. I can't get to the gym or I can't afford a gym. I have good news for you - you don't need a gym to exercise. One of the very best exercises - walking - is completely free, and you can do it whenever you can fit it in to your day. You don't even have to do it all at once. All those old calisthenic exercises you learned in gym class - jumping jacks, squats, push ups, sit ups, etc. - don't need a gym, and they use your own body weight to help you build strength. And there are bazillions of free workout videos on YouTube. Invest in some cheap weights from a sporting goods store, and you are set.
11. I'm too tired. See excuse number 8! And if you really are too tired, consider your sleep schedule. Can you go to bed earlier? Are you burning the candle at both ends between work and family life? Remember that you need to put yourself as a priority, and that includes your health and your sleep.
12. I talk myself out of it. Mel Robbins' 5 Second Rule will help you out with this one. The trick is to not give your brain time to talk you out of doing what you know you need to do. Count backwards from 5 to 1, and then just do it.
13. I feel anxiety at the gym. I really relate to this one. Once again, you don't need a gym to exercise. You can get a good workout in without having to go to the gym and feel like a total dork around all the young, highly fit, muscular young folks. But if you decide that you are ready for a gym, or want to take advantage of the amenities a gym offers, it will help to remember that everyone felt anxious the first few times they went. You're not alone. Whenever we are trying something that is new to us or out of our comfort zone, we feel anxiety. You can change your language around this feeling, by describing it to yourself as excitement to try something new or learn new skills. You can check reviews to find a gym that is friendly to beginners or a gym that caters to women, such as Curves. You may also wish to work with a personal trainer who can help you learn to use proper form and effort while exercising and using the equipment.
14. I feel guilt about taking time away from other responsibilities. I think this is one of the hardest excuses to answer for women. We have so many other responsibilities and they are all crying out for us (sometimes literally!) Squeezing time in for ourselves seems so selfish. But if we don't take the time to take care of ourselves, we won't be there to take care of our other responsibilities. And we may need to consider if we really need to own all those responsibilities. Some of them can most likely be delegated, or even dropped. Think carefully about everything that you are doing, and prioritize what you really need to be doing - and top of that list should be taking care of yourself.
15. I sabotage myself. A couple of ways that we sabotage ourselves are through words and through actions. When we sabotage through words, we tell ourselves we can't do things. We establish a mindset that is disempowering. Learn how you can change your mindset to empower you. When we sabotage through actions, we fail to create a plan that includes how we will overcome roadblocks - both environmental and those we throw up ourselves. List the ways in which you might find yourself sabotaging yourself - and then create a plan with action steps you will take to overcome your self sabotage.
16. The weather is too hot or too cold. One thing I know for sure: If I wait for the perfect conditions, I will never get out and exercise. If you plan to exercise out of doors, dress for the weather. If you plan to exercise indoors, the weather won't matter unless you have to drive to a gym. But as we have learned, you don't need a gym to exercise. If the weather is truly just too hot or cold, plan for 7 minutes of exercise in your home.
17. I don't have a plan. It's hard to be successful when you don't have a plan. I can help you with that! Download my free workbook which will take you step-by-step through creating your own plan to improve your health.
8. I procrastinate. Procrastination is a way of avoiding things we think are going to be painful or uncomfortable in favor of things that are easy or fun. It's all too easy to distract ourselves from what we need to do. Email needs checking, tv needs watching, books need reading. Bodies need exercising. (See what I did there?) If procrastination is your bugaboo, work out first thing in the day before you do anything else. Use the 5-second rule to help you get started.
19. I don't have the discipline. The secret to developing self discipline is through habits. Establishing one small habit and then building on it over time is a way to successfully build the discipline to accomplish your goals. For example, most of us have the self discipline to brush our teeth each day. We established this small habit as children, and we continue the habit into adulthood. But you don't have to be a child to establish a good habit. We are always establishing or engaging in habits. We just need to make sure they are habits that are good for us. Pick one small healthy habit change that you feel confident you can stick to every day. Your habit could be as small as a 5 minute walk or 10 daily squats or a 20 second plank, or something even smaller and simpler. Once you can successfully participate in this habit every day over a period of time, say a week, then build on that habit by adding on another small healthy habit. Once you begin building these small habits, you will find that this self-discipline will spill over into other areas of your life as well. For more on why we create the habits we do, and how we can create good habits, I recommend reading The Power of Habit.
20. I'm afraid of how I will look if I lose weight. This is a natural fear. You are used to having a certain body image. If you lose weight, particularly a great amount of weight, you may worry about loose skin or clothes that no longer fit, or just looking different. But don't let these fears scare you away from the health benefits of regular exercise and fitness. Whether you lose weight or not, improving your fitness through regular exercise will have significant benefits for your health and wellbeing.
21. I don't have any accountability. Do you have a friend or significant other who can provide you with accountability? There are also online groups (including the free YesICanHealth Facebook Group)where you can post your daily results.
22. I don't like how exercise makes me feel. I know - heart racing, out of breath, sweaty, muscles aching. Try using more empowering language instead. Exercise makes me feel "Strong, proud, energetic, fierce, vibrant..." Once you begin to get a taste for the sense of accomplishment when you complete your fitness routine, you may even like how exercise makes you feel.
23. My significant other, family, or friend doesn't support me or sabotages me. Did you know that a survey found that 24,000 overweight women reported that losing weight created problems in their relationships that gaining the weight back would have resolved? If the sabotage is unconscious (because the saboteur feels guilty that he or she is not exercising or misses the way things used to be), trying having a heart-to-heart conversation or write a letter in which you state specifically what you need in the way of support and ask for their help. On the other hand, if the sabotage is deliberate, you may need to either avoid that friend or family member, find a support group to help you deal with the sabotage, or consider counseling if it is your significant other.
24. I would rather watch tv, read a book, play a computer game, etc. This excuse goes back to the first excuse of priorities. And it also involves inertia - an object at rest wants to stay at rest unless something acts upon it to make it move. Who hasn't plopped themselves down on the couch to catch an episode of their favorite show on Netflix and then binge-watched for hours. But if you have set exercise as a priority, then you can use your show or game or book as a reward for a job well done - but only after you complete your exercise for the day.
25. I'm too out of shape. You won't get in shape by not exercising, so start where you are and do what you can.
Do you have some tips for beating the excuses for not exercising?
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