31st December 2015
Author of “What’s Your Excuse for not Getting Fit?” Joanne Henson discusses the most common obstacles to getting fit:
As a health and weight loss coach many of my clients come to me saying that they’d like to be fit, lean and healthy, but then go on to give me various reasons, or excuses, for why they can’t stick to an exercise regime. In fact these excuses have become beliefs, and when you believe something about yourself it reduces your confidence in your ability to change. So I spend a lot of time working with people to understand what’s holding them back, why they believe certain things about themselves, and what they can do to change that.
Here are some of the most common excuses I hear in relation to exercise, with some ideas on how to tackle them:
I don’t look the part
There’s a temptation when you start exercising if you’re not particularly happy with your body to cover up and wear baggy clothes. You might dig out some old faded leggings and an unflattering tee-shirt which is past its best, because you don’t want to invest in new kit until you know you’re going to stick with whatever you’re trying out. But the fact is that if you’re wearing old, baggy clothes you could well end up feeling old and baggy yourself! So invest in some new, bright and flattering kit (it doesn’t have to be expensive, high street shops such as H&M and Primark do great reasonably priced stuff), so that you feel as good you possibly can when you walk into that class or weights room – you’ll walk taller, feel more energised, and more up for that workout. You’ll enjoy the whole experience more if you’re looking your best.
And if you’re unsure about what to wear, pop in before your first session and check out what other people are wearing, so that when you do go along you’ll fit right in.
I don’t have the time
The NHS currently recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (or 75 minutes of vigorous activity) per week, plus two sessions of strength training. But if you’re really time poor, don’t beat yourself up for not achieving that. Remember that any exercise is better than no exercise, so do what you can when you can.
If you have limited time, when you do exercise, make sure it’s as effective as possible – get advice from gym staff or experienced exercisers on the best workouts for your goals. And look up HIIT (high intensity interval training) which has deservedly become really popular. It involves a 10-20 minute session of short blasts of intense exercise interspersed with short rest periods. It is more effective at producing a post-exercise metabolic boost than longer periods of steady-state exercise, so it burns more fat over time. There are masses of HIIT workouts on YouTube and another good thing is that many of them can be done at home, so you won’t have to find the time to travel to the gym either!
Also, try to get creative with the time you do have – instead of going to the cinema with a friend, how about going to a spin class? Or go for a walk rather than a coffee?
And don’t join a gym which takes ages to travel to! It’s better to join a basic place which you have the time to visit than some swanky place that’s too far away.
Finally, sometimes this one boils down to priorities – if you’ve got a hectic social life, sometimes you may have to choose the gym over the wine bar (you could always go to the wine bar after your workout!!)
I’ll be rubbish at it
Try to remember that everyone starts out as a beginner, even professional athletes. You probably won’t be great at anything the first time you try it – but you’ll improve quickly if you stick with it, and that improvement will be really rewarding.
And note that there is a big difference between sport and exercise. In fact I believe that this is why there was no “Olympic Legacy”, because the emphasis was on sport rather than exercise, implying competition and the need to strive for excellence. Getting fit doesn’t have to be a competition – exercise for yourself and to enjoy what your own body can do.
And if you’re worried about being uncoordinated there are lots of activities which don’t require too much skill to get you started – walking, swimming, running, spin classes all require less coordination than dance classes, obstacle courses, etc. So start with something simple and once your physical confidence starts to increase, if you do want to get more ambitious, then consider switching to the more challenging activities.
I feel guilty for spending time away from my partner/family
Exercise is an investment in your own health, and if you’re healthy and happy you’ll be better able to look after your loved ones, do your job and participate in all other activities. Feeling fit and strong will boost your mood and your confidence so it will make you nicer to be around – good for everyone in your life! So don’t see exercise as time wasted, or time which could be spent on other things – your body is the most precious thing you’ve got and if you take care of it, it will take care of you.
I hate exercise
All too frequently we women use exercise as a form of punishment – to burn off a bad diet, or because we don’t like what we see in the mirror.
If you start a fitness regime with this mind set it’s going to be very hard to stick with it. Who wants regular punishment sessions?
If this is you, seek out exercise which is fun – Zumba, charity races, softball with your girlfriends, whatever makes you smile. If you find something you enjoy you’ll be more likely to stick with it, improve, feel proud, not give up, and reap the benefits. Try to get away from the calorie burning mentality, where you’re spending hours on a treadmill simply to burn off what you ate over the weekend – boring!!!
I believe that there is a form of exercise for everyone – you just have to find your own thing. So if you hate running and don’t like gyms, what else could you do? Salsa, wall climbing, weight lifting, yoga? Keep trying things until you find something you like.
I hope I’ve given you some ideas on how you can rethink your approach to fitness. Remember that any exercise is better than no exercise so find something you like, ease yourself into and enjoy the confidence and energy that being fit brings. Overcoming your excuses is the key to your success.
If you want to read more from Joanne, you can buy her books here.