Overcoming Inertia

by DavalosMcCormack on December 3, 2007

There is an old saying that a problem shared is a problem halved. Wouldn’t it be cool if that applied to exercise; the more you talked about it, the more you shared your problems with exercise with others the smaller those problems became! Sadly that is about as realistic as believing that one day a pill will take care of all your exercise needs. Let’s face it, no matter how many people you share it with, the problem remains the same. In the end the only person who can do anything about it is you. So here are some simple tips on how to overcome exercise inertia and get around the excuses we all use to avoid working out. 

1) I am too busy: This is the most common excuse, and probably the most plausible. Let’s face it, who does have the time! But if the President of the United States can find time to go running or working out in the gym most days of the week, then surely you can. OK so he has some advantages in that he never has to sit in traffic on his way home, doesn’t have to do the shopping or laundry, but there are other matters that take up his time that you probably don’t encounter – such as trying to stop the middle east turning into a bloodbath, trying to decide if you can put the President of France next to the Italian Premier at a state dinner.

The key is to find the time. Just as you schedule a hair cut or a business meeting, you need to learn to schedule exercise. Put it in your diary, make it a regular date and time. And don’t cancel it. This is important for you, so don’t shortchange yourself by failing to keep your appointment.

Find time before work or after it. Instead of taking the dog for a walk, take it for a run. You’ll both get extra benefits out of it. At lunchtime instead of walking out to get a sandwich or snack go for a brisk walk. If it’s raining, go up and down the stairs a couple of times. Be creative. It’s amazing how many ways you’ll find to workout, and how many places, once you start looking.

2) I’m too out of shape: But that’s all the more reason why you should go to the gym. A lot of people feel too embarrassed by their physical condition to go to a gym and get undressed in front of others, or hang out in shorts and a t-shirt. But there are plenty of gyms where people go to workout and not to pose.

Avoid the super fancy, ultra-trendy gyms (they’re way too expensive anyway) and instead find a neighborhood gym where you are going to feel more comfortable. There are plenty of places like the YMCA that cater to a wide range of ages and physical conditions, where you won’t look or feel out of place.

3) It takes too long: You can get a great workout in 30 minutes, the amount of time you spend watching a really bad sitcom on TV. If you don’t have that much time, break it down into more manageable segments, say ten minutes at a time. Go for a brisk ten minute walk at work during the day. Take another ten minute walk/jog on your way home. Have small weights handy at work or home and use them for ten minutes. Every little bit helps. You’ll soon find that you don’t need to do everything in one big block, you can get just as much out of it by doing it a little at a time.

4) There is no gym near me, it’s not convenient: So who said you have to work out in a gym? There are lots of places you can get the exercise you need. At home. At work. Going from home to work. All you really need is a pair of athletic shoes, a bit of imagination and a willingness to try different things. You can use hand weights, rubber balls, resistance bands etc to work every part of your body. You’ll be amazed how complete a workout you can get without ever setting foot into a gym.

5) I find exercise boring: Maybe you are just doing the wrong exercises. There are so many different ways to get a workout that sooner or later you will find something you enjoy. It may be something as simple as just bringing your iPod and a book to distract you while you are on the stairmaster at the gym, to ignoring conventional workouts and going dancing several times a week. Working up a sweat on the dance floor, regardless of whether you are doing salsa, line dancing or the polka, is a great way to stay in shape.

Or you could try working out with a friend. Having someone to go to the gym with, someone to chat with while you are there can help not only distract you but also motivate you to keep going back.

But maybe the easiest way to stop exercise being boring, is to stop thinking of it as boring. Think of it as being the best way to get the energy you need to be able to play with your kids or grandkids. Think of it as being a great way to release some of the stress that builds up after a tough day at work. Think of it as being a great way to unwind and just be by yourself, doing something good for yourself.

Once you start thinking about it in different ways, you may even surprise yourself and find you actually like it. And think about the alternative. There is nothing exciting or fun about diabetes or heart disease, or being out of breath every time you walk more than a few steps. Sometimes boring is much better than the alternatives.

6) It’s too expensive: Joining some gyms can cost the equivalent of a small nation’s GNP, but there are plenty of other ways to get exercise and plenty of other places that won’t cost you an arm and a leg to join.

Many offices or workplaces have a small gym for employees. They may not be fancy or filled with the latest hi-tech equipment – in fact that rowing machine looks suspiciously like an old boat they dragged out of a nearby lake – but as long as the equipment is safe does it really matter? Try to think of it as a retro-gym, getting back to the 1950’s.

If your workplace doesn’t have a workout spot, see if any local gyms offer discounts to employees of your company. If they don’t, then ask for one. The worst they can say is no. Find out when they offer special enrollments deals and sign up then. Ask them to wave initiation fees. If they won’t, then find a gym that will. Find other people who want to join a gym and then go as a group and try to negotiate a reduced rate for all of you. Many gyms are eager to get new customers in the door, and will be willing to make a deal with you.

And one last thing to consider, joining a gym is probably a lot cheaper than paying for medications to treat the high blood pressure you developed because you didn’t work out.

7) I’ve tried it before and never stuck with it: So? Try it again. It takes cigarette smokers an average of six tries to quit the habit. Sometimes starting a healthy habit is as tough if not tougher than breaking an unhealthy one, so keep trying.

The first thing you should do is remind yourself that it’s not easy, that way you will be prepared for the days when you really don’t feel like going for a run or a walk or to the gym. And if you do give in one day and don’t workout, then jump right back in the next day or as soon as you are able.

Remind yourself of the benefits of exercise, of how good you feel afterwards, of how good it is for you. It’s not easy. It can take up to 30 days to make fitness a habit. That means regular runs or walks, regular visits to the gym for 30 days (not continuously, but not spread out over 2 years either) until you are doing it automatically.

Once you have achieved that, you are well on your way to making it a regular part of your lifestyle, and it’s a lifestyle that will add years and quality to your life.

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