Dec. 30, 2013 at 12:20 PM ET
It’s not that you don’t want to exercise, honestly, but some days it seems nearly impossible—work obligations, a gym bully and a host of other saboteurs can sidetrack the best of intentions. Check out these expert tips on ways to get past even your best excuses (because that’s all they really are) and keep you on track with your fitness goals.
It never fails. You just start to see results when you end up with an injury that stops you from continuing. What gives? Most likely you’re ramping up too fast, said Harrison, Mette Harrison, fitness expert, marathoner and author of the new book, Ironmom.
Or, you are tired or feeling crampy...there's always something with you, isn't there?
What to do? If it's an injury: “Keep in mind the 10 percent rule. This means if you’re running you should only increase your longest run by 10 percent each week.” Ditto for weight increases—bump up resistance by no more than 10 percent. And only increase one aspect at a time. Increase either reps or pounds—not both. “Your body’s better off with small changes in terms of injury prevention,” Harrison said.
If it's exhaustion or a headache, get it checked out if it seems to be chronic—in other words, this should not be your excuse on a regular basis unless you are dying. In most cases, you can probably work through that cramp or ache. Take it easy and feel it out but there's no reason to not go to the gym all together.
You admit that no new outfit, motivational poster or gym special is enough to help you get over your distaste for all things exercise.
What to do? “Even if you never learn to love exercise entirely, misery loves company!” said Liz Neporent, coauthor of The Thin in 10 Weight-Loss Plan. “Join a workout group or club. Or buy a package of sessions with a personal trainer.” You’ll then have paid your hard-earned cash and committed to appointments, so you’re less likely to bail. Or, find a fitness friend willing to call or text you to meet at a certain time. If you flake, you pay for her lunch.
Even if you beat the traffic rush, it still takes you an hour to get to work. That eliminates chances for an early-morning or post-work workout (although, you know, Michelle Obama goes to the gym at 4:30).
What to do? That leaves lunch. “Take a walk during your lunch break whenever you can,” said Neoprent. “Even 15 minutes is better than nothing.” Neporent also recommends adding in little movements into your day such as walking the stairs, walking to the next office instead of sending an email, etc. “Get a pedometer and aim for a certain number of steps (10,000 is recommended) during the day and double up on workouts on the weekend,” she said.
You’re about to leave for your favorite cycling class when your boss throws a project on your desk—and he needs it finished by tomorrow morning. You counted on burning a few hundred calories but are now stuck at your desk burning the midnight oil.
What to do? “You need to rethink your definition of fitness,” said Ellen Barrett, Connecticut based fitness instructor and DVD creator. “It doesn’t have to involve taking a formal class. Kick off your shoes and do a few sun salutations in your office or pack a jump rope in your purse and aim for a five-minute energy boost.” Plan to make up for those full hour cycling classes on the weekend days instead.
Now that you’re finally sticking to your program, your partner seems to look for reasons to make you skip your workouts. Instead of praising your results, he complains about the time you spend away from home. He’s also started bringing Doritos home on a regular basis.
What to do? “First, figure out why he doesn’t support you,” said Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, psychologist and author of A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness. “Is he afraid you won’t have time for him? Does he think you’ll leave him if you lose weight? Is he feeling guilty that he is not exercising, too?” Then look for ways to address his concerns. Show him that you can workout and still have time for him. Let him know he is the sexiest man in the world to you, and you want to be healthier so you can be better with him. Find ways he can join you, said Lombardo. “Try taking a bootcamp class or sharing a personal training session together.”
It’s hard enough to find time to workout when it’s just you, but it’s harder when your little ones are waiting for you at home. You want to be there for them.
What to do? Stay home and workout with exercise DVDs, said Barrett, a mom herself. “DVDs and online workouts are the most flexible options for working moms.” If they’re young enough, take them with you in a stroller for a walking workout. Or, if they’re a little older, have them scooter or bike along next to you as you run, suggested Barrett.
When you live out in the boonies, where no one’s even heard of Zumba, it can be tough to figure out what to do on your own.
What to do? Aside from DVDs and online workouts, try jumping rope, suggested Harrison. It’s one of the best and easiest workouts you can do. “You can also run up and down stairs for cardio and use canned goods for weights if you can’t afford a weight set.” Harrison also recommends body-weight exercises—push-ups, sit-ups, squats, lunges, planks, burpees and bicycles. Consider buying a treadmill for your home, or other piece of cardio equipment, and a simple weight set to create your own home gym.
Muscular, sweaty guys and buff bodies can make the gym a scary place, especially if you’re a newbie.
What to do? “Remember that most people are more concerned about themselves than they are critiquing others,” said Lombardo. If you’re feeling insecure, try going with a friend or someone with whom you feel comfortable. Since instructors and participants vary, find out which are most open to new people, suggested Lombardo. And dress in a way that makes you feel good about yourself. “Wear an outfit you’re comfortable in—a dumpy outfit can leave you feeling rather dumpy.” Finally, focus on fun over perfection, said Lombardo. “If you’re taking a new class, move your body, get into the rhythm and have fun!”
You’ve been down this road before. You’re gung-ho in the beginning and then the novelty fades and you’re back on the couch. Why bother getting started?
What to do? Focus on why you want to exercise (less stress, happier mood, better sleep, greater creativity and problem solving, weight loss, better self-esteem, healthier body…), said Lombardo. “That can help you stay on course. And, if you do get off course, view it as ‘data’ rather than ‘failure.’ What happened that got in your way? Work, stress, the weather? Then address these issues.” In addition, keep in mind that you can restart at any time. “There’s no need to wait for the beginning of the month or year to resume working out,” said Lombardo.
You expect to become an “after” photo within a couple of weeks of starting an exercise program. Reality check: It won’t happen.
What to do? While it’s great to set goals, consider measuring your success in some other ways that focus more on your health, said Harrison. “For instance, get a scale that will tell your body composition. It may be that you are putting on muscle weight while you are taking off fat, and that won't show on a regular scale. You can measure your cholesterol level, especially your HDL's (good cholesterol), which will go up as your health increases.” Or chart your resting heart rate, which should decrease as you become more cardiovascularly fit, your waist circumference or your blood pressure. “All of these are far better measures of health, and can all be improved with exercise,” said Harrison.
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A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.