By Dr. Carolyn Anderson
At one point in your life you either have the things you want or the reasons why you don’t.– Andy Roddick
I was recently interviewed about common obstacles to exercise and how to overcome them. I’ll let you know when the full article is published next year but for now I’d like to share some of my strategies for making exercise a habit.
We know exercise is so important for our health and well-being but often struggle to make it a priority. We’ve told ourselves the same excuses so often that we start to believe them. If you’re not exercising on a regular basis, look at the following top six obstacles to exercise and see how you can overcome them.
1) Exercise Obstacle: I Don’t Have Enough Time to Exercise
I think that not having enough time is the most common excuse people give for not exercising.
Nike ran a brilliant ad campaign that had the tagline, “Someone who is busier than you is running right now.” It can easily be adapted to say that “Someone who is busier than you is exercising right now.”
We are all given the same 24 hours in a day and if top CEOs can find time to exercise we all can. When you look at the habits of some of the most successful business people, you’ll find that they are up before dawn and exercising before they hit the office. They realize that exercise must be a priority for their physical and mental health.
To avoid letting time be an obstacle to your exercise you have to schedule it. Don’t wait for an opening in your day. If you can, try to exercise in the morning because things will happen during the day that can alter your plans to exercise later. But if a lunch time workout or night-time exercise session works best for you then work with it.
Remember exercise does have to last hours to be effective. In you only have 10-20 minutes free you can still use it to exercise. Don’t fall in the all-or-nothing trap with exercise. Even if you don’t have time for an ideal workout it is better to do something rather nothing.
My favorite way of exercising is with a Tabata exercise. In this program you can adapt any cardio workout or exercise. You go hard for 20 seconds and slow or rest for 10 seconds and then go hard for 20 seconds and slow or rest for 10 seconds. This makes up one minute of exercise repeat x 4 and each Tabata takes just 4 minutes. Research is showing that high-intensity interval training is as effective as traditional endurance training at a moderate pace.
2) Exercise Obstacle: I Don’t Have the Energy to Exercise
The paradox of this excuse is that you will likely never have the extra energy unless you make changes in your lifestyle like exercising regularly. Energy is an essential part of your life force, and without energy you’ll never reach your full potential.
To get over the energy slump, commit to going for a five minute walk or lifting weights for a few minutes. If you can get started you’ll often find some untapped energy and be able to continue a bit longer.
You also need to get at least 7 hours sleep a night, drink enough water (about half your body weight in ounces a day) and eat a well-balanced diet for maximum energy.
3) Exercise Obstacle: I Can’t Stay Motivated
It’s important to set goals when exercising. You may want to be in great shape for an upcoming school reunion or a trip to Mexico. If you don’t have a specific occasion you can set up mini challenges. Can you cut 30 seconds off your run time, lift 10% more weight or lose 2 inches off your waist in the next 4 weeks?
With any goal or challenge you need to be accountable and have a short, specific goal in mind. While your overall goal may be to lose 50 pounds, you should have a realistic goal for the next few weeks. While many women tend to use weight as their overall goal, you should also track your accomplishments in terms of inches lost, overall wellbeing and increased fitness levels.
If you meet your challenge you can reward yourself with a massage, work-out outfit, weekend getaway or new exercise video.
I recently started using My Fitness Pal, a free website that lets you track your workouts and caloric intake. There are support forums where you can connect with others who are trying to achieve similar goals. It’s a fantastic way to track your workouts and helps you stay motivated and on track.
4) Exercise Obstacle: I Hate Exercising
Some people have rigid ideas of exercise and believe that they need to hit the gym for a standard run on the treadmill and circuit around the weight machines. For some people that sounds like the most boring thing to do and if they’re not seeing results it’s even more discouraging.
Remind yourself that exercise doesn’t have to happen in a gym. Try out activities like rock climbing, ballroom dancing or martial arts. If you enjoy these activities, you might find yourself motivated to do more traditional cardio and strength conditioning to get stronger, faster or more flexible to be better at your chosen activity.
You can also make your exercise more enjoyable by listening to your favorite music or by watching a taped TV show on the treadmill or stationary bike.
If you have a dog, make it your job to run with the dog. Find an exercise buddy to motivate you to show up and to give you someone to talk to during the exercise.
5) Exercise Obstacle: I Don’t Know What to Do
I admit that that there is a ton of information out there about exercise and how to do it properly. For now the important thing isn’t to get caught up in the technical details. In most cases doing something is better than doing nothing.
Figure out what sport or exercise you’d like to pursue and buy a fitness magazine, look up information online, ask a friend or hire a personal trainer. As you get more fit and experienced you can fine tune your exercise details and routine.
6) Exercise Obstacle: I’m Too Old to Exercise
The Impowerage magazine is dedicated to combating this myth. As the title of our fitness book says, “It’s Never Too Late to Be Fit.” We’ve featured people running triathlons in their 80s, a 77-year-old who roller skates, a woman who ran a marathon at the age of 61 after only starting to exercise at age 57, a 72-year-old personal trainer, and a man who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro at the age of 60.
As always you should check with your doctor before starting an exercise routine. Start off slow and you’ll be amazed at what your body can accomplish.
What exercise obstacles do you face?
About the Author: Dr. Carolyn Anderson is an eye surgeon who founded Impowerage to raise money for macular degeneration research. She practices cataract surgery in Langley, BC and is a professional speaker who speaks on managing your energy. She recently co-wrote a book, “Pushing to the Front: Front Line Strategies from the World’s Leading Experts, with Brian Tracy.