I’m too busy to exercise.” “It’s hard to motivate myself.” “I’m too tired.” “I don’t know what to do.” “I might get hurt.” Sound familiar? Whether you are new to exercise or have been at it for years, these barriers to exercise regularly pop up and sidetrack us from our best intentions.
If you find exercise escaping you, identifying what your most frequent barriers are and then choosing solutions that resonate with you are key to seamlessly incorporating exercise into your life. Try these winning strategies to bust through the top five barriers to exercise.
Prepare to meet those exercise speed bumps along the way, strategize your responses ahead of time, and then celebrate your wins and the joy of exercise along the way to keep you motivated and coming back for more.
“I’m so busy! I just don’t have time to exercise.”
As the most-often quoted barrier for not exercising, the lack of time is one of the most formidable hurdles to overcome.
If your approach has been to “fit it in” when you can, exercise will find its way to the bottom of your priority list. Purposefully scheduling exercise in is imperative.
The Time Barrier Buster
Pair exercise with something you already do.
You take your kids to soccer twice a week
Try this > Bring your runners and do a H.I.I.T. & Run Workout (see last issue) at the park during soccer practice.
Tuesdays and Thursdays are your crazy Zoom days
Try this > Pre-schedule breaks and pull up your favourite yoga app on your smartphone for a 30-minute mat session.
Binging Netflix is your evening thing
Try this > Set up your tablet in front of your treadmill and commit to breaking a sweat while you watch your favourite characters.
“It’s hard to motivate myself to exercise.”
Too often in our past, exercise has had negative connotations—injury, fear, shame, failure. Recognizing this and then finding ways to associate exercise with positive feelings—such as accomplishment, pride, confidence, and happiness—is extremely empowering. If you look for joy in exercise, in your ability to simply move your body, motivating yourself will come with ease.
The Motivation Barrier Buster
Find and keep your motivation.
Try this > Research shows that rewards account for 75% of personal motivation. Whether you treat yourself at the end of the week if you’ve done all your workouts, or you receive a medal in the mail after completing an online event, rewards are a very positive way to keep motivation up.
Shake it up
Try this > Try something completely new for one season and celebrate being the newbie.
Watch your numbers
Try this > Use a smart watch to monitor your heart rate, steps, workout days, etc. and be proud as you watch your numbers improve. Visual evidence of progress is one of the largest motivators there is.
Make it social
Try this > Catch up with a friend while meeting for a weekly run, or join a local club or online community with a common exercise goal.
“I’m too tired to exercise.”
First, determine if you are simply trying to talk yourself out of a workout or if you are actually exhausted. If fatigue is the issue, assessing your sleep, training, diet, or any medical issues is a priority.
The Energy Barrier Buster
Stop your brain from tricking you out of a workout.
Pick your exercise time wisely
Try this > Plan your workout times when your energy is at its highest or before you switch into relaxation mode at the end of the day.
Try this > Much like plunging into a chilly lake, take quick action. Remind your brain how much more energy you have after you exercise, then count backwards, “3, 2, 1…” and jump in!
Trick yourself into starting
Try this > Set a bare minimum and tell yourself: “Just walk once around the block,” or “just do a 7-minute workout.” Overcome the start barrier, then allow momentum to carry you along.
“I want to exercise regularly, but I don’t know what to do.”
Want to learn to dance or do a 10 km run but have no idea how to start?
COVID isolation exponentially expanded exercise options that have sprung up online. Online fitness is a fabulous way to explore new physical activities in the safety, comfort, and privacy of your own home.
The Confidence Barrier Buster
Exercise at home with remote instruction
- Online one-on-one personal coaching
- Live online “group” fitness classes through a local gym/studio
- Recorded classes and programs with monthly membership sites
- Fitness apps on a smart phone
“I’m afraid to start exercising because I might get hurt.”
If it’s been a long time since you last exercised or if you’re coming off an injury, there are some key ways to maximize your efforts while minimizing your risk of injury.
The Fear Barrier Buster
- Get assessed by a health care professional to get the all-clear or any specific recommendations.
- Seek expert guidance or coaching to ease you into the activity.
TAMMY UYEDA, BSc(PT) is a clinical Physiotherapist, certified group fitness instructor and owner of FitSpark Health. She is passionate about motivating and inspiring people to live an active lifestyle and can usually be found shuttling her three pre-teen and teenaged sons between soccer fields. She shares workouts, exercise tips, and her favourite fitness-related finds on her Instagram page. @tinkam