We’ve all been there. Despite having every intention of going to the gym in the morning, we somehow never followed through on this virtuous goal. We woke up to the tyranny of our alarm before the sun had even risen and thought to ourselves, “Do I really need to go to the gym today?” As if the answer were ever really in doubt. Decision made, we turned off the alarm, rolled over, and snuggled deeply under the covers.
Or maybe it was after work. All we want is to go home, put on some sweats, and veg out with Netflix. Going to the gym when we’re hungry, tired, and utterly depleted from a long day at the office requires real dedication, and sometimes the vague promise of improved health just isn’t enough to motivate us.
I get it.
But the fact of the matter is, we make time for the things we really want to do. I’ve never heard someone make an excuse for why they can’t play their favourite video game or catch up on the latest episode of Game of Thrones. While there are times when we are legitimately busy or truly do need (and deserve) to give ourselves a rest, for the most part, we make excuses to convince ourselves not to do something we already didn’t want to do.
Fitness can come in all shapes and forms, and I’m not saying that going to the gym is the only way to be active, or that being fit should be your only goal in life. But I think we can all agree that movement, of any kind, is essential to our health, and we often find ways to avoid engaging in it. So your ‘gym’ might be hiking, or playing a sport, or even just strolling around the neighbourhood — any and all of these things are going to benefit your physical and mental well-being.
It’s time we stop procrastinating and start responsibility for our health. Here are some of the most common excuses for skipping a workout, and why they don’t hold up:
1. “I don’t have time today.”
We always have time for the things we value. If you think you don’t have time to exercise, chances are it simply isn’t high enough on your priority list. If that’s the case, you need to stop lying to yourself and admit that exercising isn’t all that important to you. And that’s okay. Once you’ve finished isolating the problem, you can work to fix it. You can begin to determine how to make movement valuable.
Maybe you’ve picked the wrong type of exercise — no amount of motivation in the world, particularly motivation driven by self-hatred, is going to get you to consistently show up to something you don’t enjoy. Exercise is not a punishment for eating things you like or for not having thin enough limbs. Exercise is a way to respect your body, to be healthy and vibrant and happy. It is self love, but only if you want to be doing it.
So, figure out what exercise you like. Maybe the gym thing isn’t for you. So what? Take up a sport, try yoga, drop in on a fitness class — there is going to be something that gets you excited. For many people, the social aspect of fitness is what keeps them coming back, and what drives them to work harder. We all feel more motivated when there are other people around, so why not take advantage of that?
For me it was rock climbing.
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I’ve been a dedicated gym goer for many years, and I still consider weight training an essential part of my fitness regime, but I began rock climbing two years ago and still can’t believe how different it feels. At the gym I clock in and I clock out, but hours, even days, of climbing can pass by without my noticing. Surrounded by friends and challenging my brain and body in new ways, I get to watch myself improve with every climb, consistently beating my own personal bests while moving in a completely functional and natural way. Quite honestly, it’s my happy place, and I wish for everyone to find theirs, because when you do find your thing, you’ll know it. And it will change your life.
There are also shortcuts you can take and ways to plan ahead so that even the most time-starved can still fit in some exercise. Pack your gym bag the night before, plan your workout before you go, bring a snack so your energy doesn’t flag, and have food prepped at home so you don’t have to choose between eating now and eating well. And when you’re at the gym, throw in some Tabata to cut down your cardio session and do a circuit workout or a HIIT routine to maximize your training — this is my current favourite for a rushed morning. These types of workouts force you to work harder, not longer, allowing you to make the most of your limited time. Even 20 minutes a day, if it’s a quality 20 minutes, is going to do you a world of good.
2. “I don’t have a break from the kids.”
Last I heard, children have a lot of energy. Why not include them? Find a fun workout DVD and exercise with them at home, go outside and play some games, or take them on a hike. If you have an infant, try learning how to strollercize. Your baby needs time outdoors, too, so do yourselves both a favour and get outside!
3. “I’m so sore from yesterday.”
This is the one I struggle with the most, and sometimes we really do need to give our muscles a break. But most of the time what we need is to adjust our plan. If your legs are sore one day, work your upper body. Upper body sore? Do legs! If you’ve overworked both areas, that still leaves your core. Our core muscles repair far more quickly than those in our arms or legs, so unless you really went to town the day before, your abs are probably going to be fine the next day. The exception to this is if you’re just starting out, in which case you may need more time between your workouts to repair your new and lovely muscles.
The other option is to do a low impact workout like yoga, or even Pilates — although I can say from experience that an intense leg day followed by Pilates is still exhausting!
4. “I had a bit too much fun yesterday…”
Believe it or not, exercise is the best way to alleviate a hangover — not greasy food and yet more alcohol. Get yourself moving, sweat out some of those toxins, and I guarantee you’ll feel better. Depending on just how bad a state you’re in, you may want to skip some of the more intense workouts, like a HIIT routine, and you’ll need to drink plenty of water, but otherwise you should go for it. You’ll thank yourself after, I promise.
5. “I’m too embarrassed to work out in front of other people.”
The first solution to this problem is to work out at home until you feel more comfortable. You can even hire a personal trainer for a couple of sessions to show you the basics so you feel like you know your way around a gym, and most gyms offer free orientations.
The second is to wear looser clothing if you’re feeling self conscious about your body. If I’m having a “tummy day” — maybe my period is on its way or maybe I just ate too much (because I’m human) — I wear a looser shirt so I can just focus on my workout without worrying about my perceived flaws. It’s a simple solution to a temporary problem. If all it takes is a different shirt or pair of pants to make you feel comfortable and confident, wear the shirt and don’t berate yourself for needing that security blanket from time to time. Doing that inner work is important — getting to a place where you feel comfortable in your skin no matter what — but you shouldn’t also doubly punish yourself by avoiding exercise until you get there.
In general, however, I encourage you to push outside your comfort zone and trust in two truths about your fellow man. The first: Everyone is just as preoccupied with themselves as you are. In other words, nobody is paying attention to you. And the second: Complete strangers are not standing around hoping you’ll fail. And if they are? They aren’t very nice people, and you shouldn’t care what they think. Why wouldn’t you want people to succeed? If someone is laughing at you for not knowing how to do something, or for the shape of your body, they have obviously not addressed their own insecurities, and this failure is manifesting as bullying. If you should feel anything about this behaviour, it should be pity, for that person has not reached a level of self awareness where they can see how their insecurities are playing out.
6. “I don’t have a gym membership and the weather is terrible today!”
Between Instagram and YouTube alone, you have access to thousands of at-home and no-equipment workout videos. You’re not the only person trying to stay afloat in a busy, hectic world, and fortunately for us, other people have taken the time to share how they manage to stay healthy even on a tight budget and with small children around. All it takes is a little improvisation – use a chair instead of a bench, a pair of rolled up towels in place of gliding plates, and your own body weight as dumbbells. The options are endless, and there are videos to suit any budget and time constraints.
You can also pick up a TRX (or the knockoff version I own, which works almost as well) and turn every space you enter into your own personal gym — including the outdoors (when it’s not raining). At home all you need is a door to anchor it in place, while outside, a sturdy tree branch will do the job. You can work out every single muscle of your body with a TRX, and work it hard. And many people find it more enjoyable than traditional weight training because each exercise requires you to engage your whole body.
7. “I have so much work I should be doing.”
You sound pretty stressed out. You know what would make you feel better? A workout! Exercise releases endorphins, making us feel happy and energized. Movement enhances focus, boosts creativity, and improves mood. The best way to pull yourself out of a funk or even cure your writer’s block is to move your body. The science on this is firm and abundant, so I won’t bore you listing studies you can find on your own with minimal effort.
Taking precious minutes away from work to go exercise might seem counterintuitive — you are, after all, spending less time on whatever has you stressed out — and even selfish, but you will return with better ideas and an easier time concentrating, which means you’ll ultimately end up requiring less time to finish your task. Or you can schedule your workout for first thing in the morning (a habit I’ll promote to anyone who will listen, to the day I die); you’ll be amazed at how invigorated and even empowered you’ll feel for the rest of the day.
How do you motivate yourself to keep up with your fitness goals? And what setbacks have you faced? Share in the comments section below!
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