As a health and fitness coach, I see this question all the time: Why is exercising so hard? And the answer is simple: because it is. I know that doesn’t seem much of an answer, but let’s be honest, sometimes it’s like that. With that said, I will do my best to try to give a better explanation. We live in a society that has made it as easy as possible to eat poorly. It's also given us every excuse under the sun to do so. We are surrounded by fast food restaurants, vending machines, and candy machines that provide unhealthy, yet easy and convenient options. There is also a fair amount of peer pressure involved when it comes to working out. When you’re struggling to get your own fitness on track, it can be tempting to give in and go hang out with friends at the bar instead.
When it comes to beginning a fitness routine, one of the most common questions I hear is “Why is it so hard to stick with a routine”? There are a lot of variables that play into this, and they are always in a constant state of change. One of the mistakes that people tend to make is trying to change all the ones they can identify at once. At the moment, this seems like a good idea, but after some time passes, its quickly realized that it was a bad idea.
So where does one start?
Start with Developing a Routine
As a coach, I encounter a lot of beginners that have been sedentary for a long time and aren’t sure where to start. The good news is, we can break this whole process down into smaller pieces. First off, you’ve got to build a routine around the fitness goal you are working toward. What do I mean by that? Simply put, you must develop organize your lifestyle around the outcome you want. An example of this would be someone looking to build strength. They would need to begin lifting weight or completing some kind of resistance training. Another would be someone looking to lose weight. They would need to begin evaluating the way they are eating to identify areas they need to change.
Everyone wants to be fit, but that final push to get started is what keeps many from achieving their goals. If you’re really serious about getting fit, you need to take a step back. Really think about what you need to do in order to achieve your goals. This means that you have to identify not just the reason why you want to be fit or the advantages of being fit. But also the things that are holding you back or what’s kept you from working towards that goal.
The path to success
Most people are able to agree that the path to success is paved with a commitment to a regular routine. It’s the kind of commitment that starts with a simple action, like waking up early and going for a run. You can’t just wake up and go for a run, however. There is a routine to follow. You have to wake up, get out of bed, then put your running clothes on, go for your run. When you get back take a shower, eat some breakfast, drink some water, then head out to work. The same goes for success in any field, not just fitness. So, you need to focus not only on the big goal or dream, but also on the routines that help to get you there.
This isn’t an easy process, but one I know anyone can work towards.
Ease into your new routine
If you can’t take it for granted that you’ll get up every morning or that you’ll have the energy to get through every day. Then you’re going to have to take action. The idea of a routine might seem a little tedious, but the truth is that it makes life a lot easier. Once you have your routine going, you’ll be able to work out when and how you want. This also means that you will be able to block out that time without having to make adjustments else where in your life.
While we might find it easier to set fitness goals when we start a new workout routine. The truth is that once we've created a habit, the hard part is over. Think about it. How easy is it to continue doing something you do every day? Probably easier than setting a new goal, right? So don't try to rush your fitness routine. It won't last. Instead, set a weekly goal to do an extra rep, or walk an extra half mile every day. It's a lot easier to do something you do every day, right? The best part is if you keep at it, you'll be amazed at how quickly your fitness routine will become a habit.
There is a learning curve
Learning a new skill is hard. If you’ve ever tried to learn a new language or a musical instrument, you know how frustrating it can be. Especially when you just don’t get it. Even something that seems simple, like riding a bike, can be hard to grasp at first. When it comes to exercise and weightlifting, the challenge can sometimes be even greater. This is usually to do to not knowing where to start or sometimes doing too much too quickly.
It’s important to remember, that every time you complete a workout, you learn a little more about how your body responds. You also learn, over time, how to incorporate this learned information about yourself into how you design your programs. This will eventually lead to you being able to identify what works for you and what doesn’t work for you.
If you’re anything like most people, then it’s likely that you’re not quite sure how to set or achieve fitness goals. That’s perfectly fine, because there are so many fitness goals you can set for your work-out efforts. But you need to know when to set them and how to achieve them. For example, are you trying to lose weight? Do you want to gain muscle? Maybe you just want to get stronger? It’s important to know exactly what your goals are before you begin your work-out. This again takes time to learn.
With any learning curve though it’s important that you stay focused on your goals. Whether you want to build strength, endurance, or muscle, having a clear and specific goal can not only help you succeed. It can also prevent you from giving up on your fitness dreams before you have a chance to achieve them. If you need help with this, drop a comment below.
Remember to Start Small
Getting in shape is often thought of as a big goal, one that involves a huge lifestyle change. This can be true, but it doesn’t have to be. Start small. Make small goals and slowly work on achieving them to get a sense of accomplishment, which will motivate you to achieve your bigger goals. For example, start your new exercise routine by setting a goal to walk 1 or 2 days a week. Then, work your way up from there.
It’s better to start small and work your way up then to aim for the stars and end up with nothing. This is not only frustrating, but may discourage you into believing that you have tried everything and nothing worked. It’s a strategy that applies to all facets of life, from business to relationships. If you let yourself be overwhelmed by how big of a task you have, you’re more likely to give up at the first sign of trouble. It’s better to take it step by step, accepting small failures and celebrating small successes along the way, and you’ll be more likely to achieve your end goal.
Listen to your body
“Listen to your body” is a phrase the fitness industry loves to use, but what does it really mean? Is it something we say to be nice to people when they ask how they look in a new outfit? Is it a reminder to be mindful of signs from our body and not ignore them? Or is it an invitation for us to turn off the TV and computer screen and pay attention to what our bodies are telling us?
Habits are hard to change, no one is challenging that. The beauty of exercise is you can change a program you’re following to fit what you need to accomplish your goal. For instance, if you aren’t recovering from your workouts or still feel sore days later, it’s likely you need to make a change to your program. Listen to your body, take notes and keep track of your workouts. You may also want to take note of your sleep as well. This may give you an indication of whether your workouts are too much for your body at that time.
Keep an open mind
A few years ago, popular self-help author Jonathan Fields published his book Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance. In his book, Fields outlines the importance of maintaining an open mind and embracing uncertainty. He argues that living in a state of uncertainty can be healthy, and may even be necessary for success in life. This may sound counter-intuitive–who wants to live their life in a state of uncertainty? But Fields’ ideas makes sense. To find success, you have to be willing to take risks, and taking risks often involves uncertainty. Maintaining an open mind is critical to success in all areas of life. It is particularly important if you want to be successful in your health and fitness goals.
In today's fitness industry, it's hard to know what to believe. There's so much conflicting information out there, and it's getting harder and harder to see the truth. You could waste weeks or months following the advice of one guru, only to find out that you've been had. Now stuck with a diet and exercise program that's not only ineffective, but could seriously damage your health. So I can see how keeping an open mind might seem like a poor decision. However, as I point out to clients, this just means that you have to be slightly skeptical while keeping an open mind. Ask a lot of questions, make sure that they are answered enough that you understand.
Remember, your goal is something that is important to you. This means that it’s going to take some effort on your part. Don’t rush, take your time and learn as you progress.
Generate your own motivation
They say motivation is the key to success, and when it comes to staying motivated, it is important to find the motivation that is right for you. The key is to understand the reasons why you want to stay fit (or get fit). There are many reasons why people want to be fit, and different reasons will motivate different people. For example, some people want to stay fit because it is a family tradition. Some people want to feel more powerful, and some people want to be strong for self-defense. Whatever the reason, make it personal because it has to be important to you.
We all need a little push to get going on our fitness goals from time to time. But what about when we get started? How can we stay motivated? Sure, there are plenty of ways to stay on track—from weight loss transformations to food tracking apps—but what about the emotional side? One of the hardest parts of getting fit is the emotional aspect of it. Setting goals, staying accountable, and dealing with the roller coaster of emotions during the progress are all incredibly important factors.
This is where people sometimes get hung up on wanting someone else to motivate them. The inherent flaw in this is people can only motivate someone for so long. Generally speaking, this external motivation also tends to be short-lived. Even internal motivation will not last forever. It’s one of many reasons why you hear people say things like “it’s a lifestyle change”. All this means is that at some point, the actions you take to reach your goal will need to develop into a habit.
Focus on the process rather than the outcome
Most people will be able to agree that the path to success is paved with a commitment to a regular process. It’s the kind of commitment that starts with a simple action, like waking up early and going for a run. You can’t just wake up and go for a run, however. There is a process to follow. The same goes for success in any field, not just fitness. So, you need to focus not only on the big goal, but also on the processes that will lead you to achieving that goal.
Focus on the process rather than the outcome. This is a popular piece of advice given to people who are goal oriented and trying to lose weight (or build muscle, or get fit, etc.). The idea is that if you focus on the process and do what it takes to reach your goal, you will get there. It's a good idea, but it's not without its problems. Remember that there is a lot that you are juggling here. You’re not a machine that is able to move from one task to another without reflection or emotion. This is why everything above was mentioned.
The Struggle is Real
We all face challenges in our daily lives. Sometimes it’s dealing with a lack of sleep (which can make you more prone to overeating) other times it might be the office candy dish. Staying fit is hard enough—why do you have to make it even harder for yourself? The truth is, you don’t. There are plenty of simple changes you can make to your routine to help you work around these potential obstacles. Here are just a few ideas to help you stay on track:
- Join a fitness group
- Hire a personal trainer/coach
- Download an exercise or food app
- Keep a journal
- Involve friends and family into your journey
The trouble with the fitness industry is that people get suckered into expensive classes and programs that aren’t effective. Mainly because the person giving them out promises that it will change their lives. While “fitness” is not one-size-fits-all, it is also not one-size-fits-none. The key to fitness is consistency. Just start somewhere and keep building upon it.
I really wish there was some secret to all of this, but unfortunately, there isn’t. At the end of the day, this is something that you are going to have to figure out. Whether you have someone help you or not is up to you, but action has to take place.
Why is exercising so hard?
If at this point you are still wondering why exercising is so hard, drop a comment below. Let's chat about it.
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