In my first blog post, I mentioned finding my keys to sticking with exercise. I have also mentioned this on Facebook. It may be a bit corny but it helps illustrate the importance of recognizing and addressing barriers to attaining a healthy exercise habit. Lifestyle, personality, and previous experiences all play a role in finding the right keys.
You should read this post if:
Step 1: Identify & Define
Ask yourself, talk to a friend, or better yet, a fitness professional, about what has been keeping you from exercising regularly. Be honest and explore how the different possibilities make you feel. Having this conversation may be uncomfortable and you may have to admit some things you don’t really want to admit!
Two common barriers are lack of time (perceived or real) and lack of energy or motivation. I posted a poll on the Reuna Fitness Facebook page asking which is the bigger challenge to regular exercise and it was almost an even split! No energy/motivation won out by just 6%.
Finding the time AND the motivation to exercise can be extremely challenging! Especially for women. Statistics show that women are consistently less active than men. I didn’t delve into studies on explanations for this but we can all guess that family, home, and work responsibilities play a role.
In addition to time and motivation, you may need to overcome:
Step 2: Find Your Keys
Once you have identified the locked barriers, you need to find the keys! How do you do it? It depends on your unique circumstances but some suggestions are outlined below:
Lack of time
Document your daily activities from wake until bedtime every day for about a week. Are there periods of time that can be used for exercise? Even 10 to 15 minutes twice a day can work! Be honest, is it really lack of time or lack of the amount of time you would ideally spend exercising? If you don’t have an hour, make use of 20 to 30 minutes! If you can’t fit in a dedicated workout, incorporate physical activity when you can. Bits and pieces will add up into something and that is better than nothing!
Your keys may be: early morning or lunch time exercise, letting go of the all-or-nothing mindset that is keeping you from doing shorter sessions, re-claiming bits of wasted time throughout your day, incorporating your kids, partner, or friends into exercise sessions
Lack of energy/motivation
You know that regular exercise can improve your energy levels, right? But this takes time and consistency. Look for gaps in your nutrition and sleep. If your energy levels are consistently very low, you should see your doctor. If it’s not a medical issue, try exercising at different times of the day over the course of 2 weeks to see if any times feel better to you. (NOT at the expense of sufficient sleep!)
If it’s not necessarily energy but motivation, accountability and goals are critical. If you find you are starting strong but fading about a month or two into it, you are probably doing too much too soon. Consistency beats intensity if that is the case!
Your keys may be: New types of exercise and sessions at a different time of the day than previously done, a workout partner or group, developing goals related to your performance of the exercise, paying for training sessions (you want your $ worth!), using a creative method that makes your exercise session non-negotiable (what MOVES you the most?), modify the duration and intensity of your workouts as necessary
Lack of exercise knowledge/confidence or poor body image
You should not feel badly about being unsure of where to start or what to do. It’s normal to feel a bit awkward and uncomfortable. You will notice others expressing similar sentiments. You may find some comfort in community! At the same time, don’t force yourself to go to the crowded gym or a busy studio if you dislike being there the entire time. Explore other options (*cough* Reuna Fitness *cough*)!
Your keys may be: Finding a facility or trainer who makes you feel at ease and takes the time to explain what you are doing and why, reading health and fitness books and articles (with a healthy dose of skepticism unless research supported), talking to fitness-minded acquaintances, developing goals related to something other than your physical appearance like strength or endurance
Dislike of physical exertion
Participating in moderate to vigorous exercise is challenging. It’s supposed to be in order to create sufficient stimulus for your body to change. Take it at a lower intensity at first. Low intensity is better than no intensity (aka not moving). If you completely dread your workout, you aren't doing the right one!
Your keys may be: Finding a physical activity that you enjoy and adding in short periods of higher intensity work (as in, working hard enough that you are breathing hard and can’t comfortably carry on a conversation), noting your progress in relation to how you feel while exercising after the first 3 to 5 sessions
If injured, read this blog post for a few tips. If you are suffering from disease or pain that inhibits exercise, talk to your doctor first. Once cleared for exercise, start small.
Your keys may be: Breaking exercise up into 10 minute sessions, modifying or removing unsuitable exercises, seeking guidance from a knowledgeable person in relation to your condition, talking to a professional if you feel depressed, anxious, or stressed
Gym or studio membership or trainer or equipment not in the budget
A great facility or trainer can be worth SO much more than the monthly fee. However, if it isn't in the budget, don't sweat it! Or rather, sweat it at home or outside! Exercise can be done almost anywhere and you can get a great workout with just your body weight or minimal equipment. Stay tuned for a circuit workout you can do at home or while traveling that requires only a stopwatch and a resistance band!
Your keys may be: Learning a few basic exercises that you can do at home without special equipment, borrowing exercise DVDs, walking outdoors when weather conditions allow
. . .
You may face several other barriers when it comes to developing your healthy exercise habit. If you cannot seem to find the keys for them, don’t give up! Talk to someone who shares your experience or a qualified fitness professional. You will eventually get to the place where regular exercise is not such a struggle. It will become part of your weekly routine and you and everyone around you will benefit from that!
Give copies of your keys to friends or family! To be consistent and successful, you need support. Have a conversation about the barriers you face as well as your keys to get through them. You may need to compromise with family members in relation to days and times you spend exercising.
Once you are armed with your keys, you can unlock the barriers in front of you and move forward. Sure, sometimes you lose your keys. Fortunately, you can find them again! The most important part is recognizing when they are lost. Contact me if you need assistance! If this post resonated with you, please share.