“I hate exercise!”
I can’t tell you how many times people have shared with me their distain for exercise. “It’s hard, and I sweat, and I don’t know what I’m doing.” It’s fair to say that many of us have had tragic relations with high-school gym class, feeling embarrassed because we couldn’t keep up, or getting hurt and vowing never to do that again.
It’s also worth noting that the fitness industry doesn’t do a great job of making people feel welcome. When so many gyms are still perpetuating the “no excuses” mentality and using shame-based motivators it can make some people feel alienated and unwelcome, reinforcing the belief that exercise is a rare form of punishment.
I don't know about you, but I don’t respond well to people to people looking down their nose at me or making me feel that the way I move my body is wrong. Provided that I’m having fun and not injuring myself, what business is it of yours how I workout? I digress…here’s the point. It’s NORMAL to have a wonky relationship with exercise, and "fitness" in general, especially if we’ve never experienced any real enjoyment from doing it.
That said, neglecting movement and exercise all together is potentially harmful to our health. Sedentary living is knowing at the “sitting disease.” A lack of physical activity is correlated with preventable health problems such as heart disease and certain cancers. Doing too much can also be problematic when it leads to overtraining, chronic stress, and burnout.
Never fear, there is a middle ground.
In this article I’ll take you through three reasons to make friends with fitness, show you how to get motivated, and help you set some reasonable, balanced fitness goals.
You CAN take advantage of this powerful lifestyle habit, and not hate it.
REASON 1: IT’S NOT ABOUT “LOOKING FIT”
Most people think of movement and exercise only in terms of weight loss or “looking” fit. But movement isn’t limited to something we do for the sole purpose of losing weight, building lean muscle, or “looking fit.” Movement and exercise are things we do to be fit. Fit for life, to be there for our kids, maintain our independence, care for others, and be able to handle what life throws at us.
The same way we need fresh air, quality nutrition, and sleep, the human body needs to move. When we expose ourselves to regular, enjoyable movement and challenging physical activity, aspects of our physical, mental, and emotional well-being are positively affected.
These benefits of movement and exercise cannot be accomplished through any other means.
Slows age related decline
Maintains muscular strength and flexible joints
Reduces risk of injury
Builds mental resilience and grit
To protect our measure of health, strength, and vitality, we must move regularly.
REASON 2: BETTER MOOD, SMARTER BRAIN
You already know that exercise has physical benefits like getting stronger, feeling good in your clothes, and losing weight. But did you know that movement and exercise have a powerful effect on your mood and your brain?
If you’ve ever gone for a walk and noticed that you felt more relaxed, creative, or clear headed you’ve experienced some of these benefits firsthand.
As you heart starts pumping, blood flow and oxygen levels increase in the brain. Helpful neurotransmitters and endorphins are produced, and we feel more energized. The pre-fontal cortex is activated making us more alert and focused.
Positive structural changes within the brain itself also occur. These changes lead to:
Improved cognition, memory, and mental focus.
Fewer symptoms of brain fog.
Improved mental clarity, attention, and focus.
If keeping your mental skills sharp and combatting age related decline are important to you, know that movement and exercise are powerful tools you can use to maintain mental prowess.
Don’t miss out, get moving!
REASON 3: A FIT BODY IS A CALM BODY
Chronic, low-level stress drains the body, leaving us susceptible to declining health. Without boring you too much, here’s a little science that might intrigue you.
The body’s central stress response system, the HPA-axis (hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis) governs our hormonal responses to stress. When that system is perpetually activated through chronic life stress it’s like a car that is idling too high. Over time, the engine breaks down. The same is true with our body.
Chronic, low-level stress can dysregulate the HPA-axis, contributing to:
High blood pressure
Anxiety, Chest pain
Digestive and sleep problems
More mental and emotional distress resulting from further decline in health.
The result is feeling wired, tired, restless, and unable to relax. We feel totally exhausted, burned out, and unable to carry on.
The irony is we can combat this through movement and exercise!
PHYSICAL ACTIVITY IS LIKE A “TUNE-UP”
I know, I know...I can hear you now, “How am I supposed to exercise when I feel like crap?”
I get it.
But consider why it’s worth it to make some adjustments to your schedule and see if you can’t rearrange things to make room for enjoyable physically activity, at least a couple of times each week.
Exercise helps the HPA-axis to function better.
Especially when we systematically take the body through phases of exercise and cool-down that return us to an optimal, calm state of being, adding in exercise does help to reduce symptoms of chronic stress. As your fitness improves, the benefits will compound.
Physically trained individuals show lower physiological and psychological responses to stress in general due to the positive effects of exercise on the HPA-Axis.
When your stress response system is functioning well, your body will able to recover from stress more efficiently.
So, while it seems counterintuitive to add stress from exercise on an already stressed body, it does in fact mitigate symptoms of stress. Each session of exercise is like give yourself a “tune-up,” helping your body to run better on a day-to-day basis.
With regular physical activity you’ll feel calmer and more centered, sleep better, and feel less stressed overall.
GET MOTIVATED, EVEN WHEN YOU'RE NOT
Waiting to feel motivated is a bit like waiting on a bus with a flat tire.
It’s gonna be a while before you go anywhere.
That said, there are things we can do to improve our internal drive to get started with movement and be more physically active each day.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO FEEL MOTIVATED TO ACT
First, realize that motivation in a thought that comes and goes, just like any other thought or feeling. You don’t have to wait for unmotivating thoughts to go away or wait for motivating thoughts to arrive. You can take action toward you goals even if you simultaneously want to, and don’t want to, do the thing.
REMEMBER THIS PHRASE: “ACTION IS THE ANTIDOTE”
As soon as you take that first step toward your goal you prove to yourself that you can do it, even though it’s hard. The instant gratification and sense of pride, like, “Hey, look at me! I’m DOING it!” provides positive reinforcement that builds momentum. With this you’ll we feel impelled to act again, and again, and again, eventually shaping new habit.
Taking action in the face of distress, uncertainty, or fear will strengthen your resilience and ability to act WITHOUT needed to feel motivated. The self-perpetuating cycle is where lasting lifestyle change emerges. With time and consistency, you’ll experience other results like weight loss, clothes fitting better, and changes to the shape of your body.
GRAB A NOTEBOOK AND WRITE THIS NEXT PART DOWN:
To take it one step further, consider these questions to help you uncover your personal desire, ability, reasons, and needs to get started with movement:
When it comes to movement and exercise, what am currently doing? What do I want to do differently?
What COULD I do? Brainstorm ideas, don’t get stuck in “SHOULD,” think “COULD.”
What reasons do I have for doing this? What would be the benefits of making a change to my movement habits?
Why do I need to this? What will be the outcome in a week, a month, a year, 5 years, if I make no changes to my movement and exercise habits?
What am I ready to do first? Be specific. Think, What? When? Where?
The answers to these questions will give you powerful reasons to jumpstart to your movement habits and keep them going long term. When you face self-sabotaging thoughts of “I just can’t!” reflect on your responses and remind yourself of your deeper reasons for honoring your commitment to yourself.
Give yourself permission to start slow. Everything adds up.
Prioritize doing movement that you enjoy. It's not necessary to overtrain.
Be reasonable when it comes to your time, abilities, and circumstances.
This is YOUR journey. Make it count.
Thanks for reading. I hope this article has helped you consider some ways to make friends with fitness and get started on your journey.
While you're here, be sure to grab a copy of the free mini guide below.
Begin Your Fitness Journey from the Comfort of Home
Regardless of what a person looks like on the outside, everyone benefits from enjoyable physical activity. When we feel safe, capable, and strong in our bodies we experience greater self-confidence, improved health, and more stamina to fully participate in our lives.
Don't let fear, intimidation, or uncertainty stop you from getting started.
Step-by-step process to claim your time, space, and equipment.
Sample workouts so you’ll know exactly where to begin.
The Get Fit, for Life! Values-Led paradigm which strives to balance your training activity with your other life priorities.
Hillari Herrador is an NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach specializing in women’s health and fitness and weight loss through positive behavior change. She has developed a systematic approach to weight loss using proven behavior change methods that result in less reliance on dieting and emotional eating, and more enjoyment of food and fitness. Her goal as a coach is to guide you through the process of transforming your lifestyle so that you can feel strong, healthy, and fit, for life. Coaching services include private, one-to-one phone coaching and private personal training in the local Puyallup, WA area.