Are you bothered by what you’re seeing in the mirror, but are having trouble committing to a routine to get in shape?
Like the “Freshmen 15”, 2020 brought us the “COVID 19” – an extra 19 pounds that crept up on us! Once the reality hit that your body has changed, you told yourself that this year you’ll recreate yourself, shed the pounds, and sculpt your muscles. You may have built a home gym and were excited to start using it, even picked up a weight or did some cardio a few times. Yet life keeps getting in the way and the scale hasn’t moved despite your intentions for a healthier you. Does this sound familiar?
The “I’m gonna get fit” cycle typically looks like this:
- You decide it’s time to get the body you’ve always wanted and you dive in with excitement.
- Then an obstacle presents itself: work gets super busy; you get sick and can’t start your diet; a worldwide pandemic strikes and gyms close. Or, you just realize that your four-workouts-per-week goal is really tiring and hard to fit into your normal schedule.
- That ambitious goal now looks more like one workout per week and maybe a long walk during your lunch break.
- Several weeks later you haven’t lost a pound – maybe even gained some! You beat yourself up and feel like a failure.
- So, you gradually go back to old habits and in six months, or even next year, you’re back where you started and make the same resolution all over.
If this sounds oddly like you, don’t fret! MANY of my clients – and even myself at times – have also experienced this. You really want to get in shape and lose weight, but somehow your desire is overcome by life circumstances that kill your motivation. How do you get past this? Is there a way to stick to your plan to get healthy?
Yes! That’s why in this blog I will go through some of the possible reasons why you are excusing yourself from committing to your goals and provide you with some solutions to help you overcome the roadblocks. My hope is that these tips will help you get refocused and move forward in seeing actual results in your fitness and health!
How to Stop the Cycle & Stick to Your Workout Routine
Excuses. We all have them. Reasons we “can’t” something! In the case of trying to get fit, we either find reasons not to workout, or we legitimately have things pop-up that throw us off our good-intentioned plan. The first place to begin overcoming our hurdles is finding out what excuses are and how to prevent them from stopping us.
Let’s walk through some of the most common challenges and limitations we give ourselves and how we can overcome the excuses.
1. Challenge: “I Don’t Have Time”
You just can’t find time to workout, huh? I’ve felt it too. Your eight hours of sleep are important. There are too many errands to run. You work all day and come home to a busy household or chores needing to be done. You have a new baby. You’re too tired. If you don’t want fit in fitness because of these challenges, that’s fine to admit it to yourself. But if you really think you don’t have time because of them, you just need a shift in priorities and time management.
Solution: Schedule your Workouts
You CAN find time to workout. You probably just aren’t trying to or you’re not willing to make the sacrifice needed. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s true. Usually if I “don’t have time” it means I don’t want to make the extra effort or I have other things I’d rather do. I mean, do you really need to scroll Instagram for 20 minutes when you wake up, or watch TV for an hour before bed, or could you use that time to exercise?
You could get up 30-minutes earlier, you just don’t want to because sleep is important. You can exercise during your lunch break, except for the inconvenience of sweating or having to eat at your desk. You can move your body while your new baby takes a nap, but you’re too exhausted or have too much laundry to do. I should have worked out 3 hours ago, but I’m still sitting at my computer writing this blog! If we really want to renew our lives, we have to stop making the time excuse. It will just take some adjustments to our schedules and priorities.
Don’t treat workouts like an option, treat them like an appointment. This is a mental shift you have to make, and scheduling them helps.If late night family stuff keeps getting in the way, then don’t plan to workout at night! If a hectic work schedule keeps throwing you off, then workout as soon as you wake up before anything else can get in the way. Wake up earlier, workout on lunch, or exercise when your husband gets home and can watch the kids. Whatever the issue, put your workout on your calendar when you know you can do it, ask for the support you need to make it happen, and don’t let anything get in the way.
- “But I’m sooooo tired.” Then try going to bed earlier so you can wake up easier.
- “My husband needs to unwind after work.” Understandable. Then workout in the morning before her leaves, or earlier in the day when your kid is in school or napping, or before bed when he’s more available to watch the kids.
- “Work called me into a 2-hour unplanned meeting”. Then during your next break, walk up and down whatever flight of stairs is around or head outside for a walk. Heck, even go to the bathroom when it’s empty and do jumping jacks for two minutes if that’s all you can find time for.
The above are some real life problems and legitimate reasons that you might miss your workout at the planned time or why you’re having trouble finding a time. That’s why you need to also be realistic in your planning and scheduling, which leads us to my next point.
2. Challenge: Unrealistic Expectations
Your expectation may be to lose 20 pounds in three months. Great! With hard work and a strict diet that’s physically doable. That’s what every trainer and app will try to sell you on. But is it realistic with your lifestyle? For that kind of goal, working out five days per week may be necessary. The reality of life, however, is that if you’re not crazy committed to your goal no matter what, you might need to extend the deadline of your goal. If you’re brand new to working out, or just started a new 50-hour per week job or got cleared last week by your doctor to exercise post-partum, you may need to scale back on your goal and be more realistic.
Solution: Be Realistic and Start Small.
Five days a week at the gym may be completely unachievable, as much as you want to. And that’s okay. Scale back on your goal. Rather than try to lose 20 pounds in three months, focus on losing three pounds if your first month. If that goes well, then aim for six next month. Don’t plan to workout five days each week if you can’t actually make that happen. Instead, begin with two or three days per week. Start small so that you can achieve it without being overwhelmed. Weekdays turned out to be too full of obstacles for one of my clients, so she decided to workout Friday, Saturday and Sunday when her husband can watch her child on those days. It’s not an ideal schedule, but at least it’s something she can do! Think about what you CAN do, and start there. You can always add on more later.
The other issue is time. If you’re planning a one-hour workout, then yes, when things come up it may be near impossible to find a full 60 minutes. But don’t skip the whole thing! Start with 20-30 minute workouts. Set up a space where all the gear you need is right by each other so you’re not walking around looking for equipment, whether at home or at the gym. If your son just went down for his nap but you have laundry to do, then split your time. Start a load, then set a timer and give yourself 30-minutes to workout. When you’re done, switch loads and get to other chores. Or, if your child is of a certain age where they can somewhat entertain themselves, then have them play with some toys next to you while you workout, or even have them join you as you show them how to do a push-up, jumping jacks, or a downward facing dog.
If you keep skipping workouts and waiting for the perfect time and schedule, you may just get in that habit and never break it. You will have gained nothing. But if you at least do some basic 20 or 30-minute workouts, you’re still burning calories and making some kind of progress. And two days per week of working out is better than zero. Just do what you can, even if it means starting in small, bite-size chunks.
A note for perfectionists: don’t get defeated by imperfection. Don’t choose to never start just so you won’t fail at the perfect plan. Remind yourself that a few times of moving per week in any way is better than doing nothing. Re-train your thinking as to what a fitness plan should look like at the moment. You may want to work with a trainer to help you with this.
3. Challenge: Focusing Only on Exercise
Your plan to lose weight or tone your muscles involves working out for an hour 3-5 days per week. Fantastic! That may be ideal for you to reach your goal. But how quickly do you want to reach your goal? How hard do you want to push yourself? What happens if you can’t fit in even three days per week? Contrary to popular belief, exercise is not the only – or even the best – way to lose weight!
Solution: Focus on Good Nutrition
If you try to lose weight by working out alone, it will take much longer and may not even work at all. What you eat can account for up to 80% of your weight loss results and quality of overall health. So if the previous excuses like being short on time are an issue, don’t worry, you’re not doomed! Then turn the rest of your focus to your daily eating habits for faster transformation.
Instead of trying to exercise more, focus on your diet. For instance, if you burn 100 calories per day from exercise like walking, jumping jacks, lifting weights for 20 minutes, you’ll burn anywhere from 300-700 calories per week. But if you cut out 300 calories of junk from your diet (like a pastry or two sodas) daily, you’ll burn 2,100 in one week! Combine the two, and in two weeks you have the potential to lose about 1.5 pounds! It may sound slow in our instant gratification society, but if you stick with it, six months down the road you’ll have lost about 18 pounds. Plus, research shows that when weight loss is slower, you’re more likely to keep it off long-term.
Start writing down what you eat every day, or use an app like MyFitnessPal to track it. Even 4-5 days will give you a good glimpse at what your eating really looks like and helps you to be honest with yourself. Write it all down – that cracker from your kid’s plate, the taste of dinner as you’re making it, the extra dough you ate before baking the cookies, that piece of candy from the office jar. Include juice, wine, milk in your coffee, etc. It all counts. See any really high calorie or sugar-laden foods? Anything highly processed like potato chips or fried chicken? Any salad dressings that are 120 calories in one tablespoon (and let’s be honest, who really uses only one tablespoon of dressing?!)
Now, if you seem to be eating excess calories, look at what you can cut out. Start with the junk and processed sugar. Things like soda, candy, and high fat foods like cheese can be the easiest ways to reduce calories by a lot without going hungry.
What if you’re only eating about 1,300 calories per day? DON’T CUT CALORIES. You’re right, you’re already eating very little, how can you cut more? It’s not safe to eat so little, so you may actually need to “reverse diet” a bit – carefully adding in more calories over time. For help with this, contact me. But what you can also do is swap out foods. Again, take out high calorie, unhealthy foods and replace them with fruits and veggies. You can eat a ton of them, feel full, and consume very few calories. Plus, they’ll give you the nutrient you need to start to thrive and lose weight easier. Focus simply on replacing unhealthy foods with nutrient dense foods and don’t worry so much about calories.
Healthy foods will always help you lose weight and feel better, so add in as many good foods as you can and start cutting out the junk.
4. Challenge: “Something Came Up“
As previously discussed, sometimes things happen. We can’t control everything. Maybe you set your alarm to workout at 5:30am but your child woke up sick at 5am and needs your attention. If work asked you to stay late, you can’t just leave. You’ll just have to cancel, right?
Solution: Be Flexible and Adaptable
Don’t skip your workout or forget to move just because your normal workout got pummeled by other circumstances. Find an alternative by being adaptable. Here are some examples of what this might look like according to your workout plan:
- Running – If you had a 5-mile run planned and your time is cut short, then do 20 minutes of sprints or intervals today and do your long easy run another day.
- Weight Lifting – If you were mentally prepped for heavy squats at the gym but someone else is on the squat rack when you get there and you’re pressed for time, then do deadlifts or kettlebell squats instead.
- Morning workout – You woke up late? Then do as many burpees as you can in 10 minutes before you have to get in the shower. Even a long walk at lunch is better than nothing. Decline the lunch invite with co-workers so you can take a walk. You can always join them next time or invite them to come along with you.
- Lunchtime workout – Got stuck in a meeting and now only have 20 minutes? Don’t throw in the towel! Figure out what you can get done in 20 minutes, like simply completing half of your workout. Run up and down the stairs and do push-ups and the top and squats and the bottom with 30-second rests for 20 minutes; run around the neighborhood; or make today a chest and back day instead of a full upper body strength day.
I know, these aren’t ideal and may throw off your routine, but learn to adapt. Your body or strength won’t fall apart in one day and you can get back to your normal routine soon. Just do the best you can with what you have right now.
When you’re pressed for time, then opt for a more challenging, fast-paced workout to get the most from your time. I have used YouTube videos of tabata workouts many times over the years when I was in a hurry. Now that HIIT is super popular, you can find tons of options online. Some of these 15-20 minute workouts can be killer! They’re not an answer for every day because you need some solid strength training and moderate cardio as well, but they’re very helpful on the days requiring adaptability. (Note: If you’re not already well-conditioned and have spent time working on good form for exercises like squats, push-ups and lunges, then please don’t jump into HIIT workouts! They are unsafe for anyone who’s not already strong and acquainted with good form).
What about pain? What if your back hurts and you don’t want to do squats or deadlifts. I’ve had clients want to cancel for this all the time. Well, are your arms still working? Then go do some shoulder presses, bicep curls and tricep extensions while sitting down with back support. Of course, there are some injuries you really can’t mess with, so check with your trainer or physical therapist to be sure. But many times, slight pain is an excuse or a lack of understanding that there you have other options. If your knee hurts, don’t cancel your session, just train the other parts of your body that still feel fine.
These situations may not yield the quick results you’re hoping for, but getting in the habit of doing something is always better than the habit of doing nothing. Hopefully next week – or next month – will be better, but at least you’re still chipping away at better fitness by being adaptable and learning how to not make excuses.
5. Challenge: No Follow-Through
Your intentions may be great. Your workouts are on your calendar, you’ve told a trainer you plan to hire them, you went and bought more produce and organic meat…but then you just don’t finish what you started. Maybe you use some of the above excuses to miss workouts, or you still can’t stay away from the potato chips at home even though you bought veggies and hummus to eat instead. You really do want to improve your habits, but just can’t seem to stick to your great plans.
Solution: Get a Trainer and/or Nutritionist
Hiring a certified personal trainer and/or nutritionist can really help in these situations. Sometimes you just need some accountability and a little kick in the pants to get moving and create a better routine. Having someone to answer to can be a huge help. If you have paid someone and scheduled a time to meet with them, you are FAR less likely to skip it than if you go it alone. And that is totally fine to need help! Knowing your weaknesses will help you change your life far better than denying them. Many of my clients choose to work with me primarily because they know they need accountability, not because they have no idea what to do.
Get professional help from someone who can not only share wisdom and advice, but who can keep you accountable to your goals and following through. A regular meeting or phone call will help keep you in check when you want to dive into the ice cream tub or skip a gym session. You may even find that you don’t need the help long-term, but can see it as a short-term investment to replace bad habits, get in a routine, and then manage it on your own once you feel ready to make it happen on your own. You can even plan to meet with them once a month afterward, or even just a few times a year to check in and get their insight to continue progressing.
6. Challenge: You Don’t Actually Want to Change
It may be time to face reality. Is it possible that while you say you want to get fit, workout and eat healthy, you really don’t want to? I mean, of course the idea of losing that extra weight or having more energy or look different is appealing, but maybe you don’t actually want to put in the work. You could be afraid of change, afraid of failure, or afraid of success.
Lots of people say they are committed, but their cancellations and excuses tell me otherwise. I’ve worked with a variety of clients, and I can tell very quickly who means business and who is more talk than action.
Guess who not only sees better results, but actually seem to be a lot happier and confident?
Yep, those who are committed. So ask yourself, are you committed to your fitness and health, or are you only interested? Until you’re committed and ready for change, you’ll always let excuses get the best of you.
Solution: Get Real. Journal your Feelings. Face the Issue.
Are you committed? Or are you interested? Ken Blanchard says, “There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses; only results.”
You may be very interested in changing your health habits and reaching your goals, but when it becomes inconvenient you’ll stop. However, if you’re committed, you won’t let anything get in the way.
If you aren’t yet willing to do whatever it takes, thentake some time to think deeply and be honest with yourself. When an excuse pops up, grab a journal and ask yourself some questions and write your answers, such as: What stopped me from working out today? Why did I eat that junk food when I knew I shouldn’t? Did I really have to run that errand or could I have done it this weekend and worked out today instead? Why didn’t I go to the gym when I promised my friend I would? Why do I refuse to hire a trainer when I have the money and want to get in shape?
Don’t settle for surface answers, either. No one is looking at your journal, so dig for the deep truth and write it down. When you look for answers, look at your emotional reasons for letting an excuse win. For instance, “Why didn’t I workout” could have a simple surface answer like “I was really tired from my stressful day at work”. You can start there, but go deeper. Why did the stress and weariness stop you? If you were at a desk all day then your muscles aren’t tired, they can move. Your stress isn’t forcing you onto the couch or to eat that cookie. Try to figure out why you let your emotions stop you. Why is the ice cream more appealing than a workout? Is there any unhealthy relationship with food?
Once you can get that answer, you are truly stepping toward change success.
Here are some other possibilities to help you brainstorm your barriers:
- Fear that if you start you won’t finish or succeed, and you’re tired of failing.
- You were once in great shape as an athlete, and you know that starting again will reveal how out of shape you are and it will be both physically and emotionally painful to start over.
- You just want to be able to tell others that you workout and have a trainer for the sake of reputation, but really don’t want to put in any work.
- The couch and cookies provide an unhealthy sense of comfort when you don’t want to face your feelings.
- You’ve never built a strong work ethic and quit easily.
- The gym and weight intimidate you and you don’t want to look or feel silly – even at home.
- The girl/guy in the fitness videos you’re using seems so perfect that it makes you feel bad about yourself.
- You are only interested in working out to get that guy to notice you.
- You’re afraid of actually looking a certain way, or of the change that could come with a healthier body.
- The excuse of being in pain or too out of shape to do certain things allows you to get out of events or responsibilities.
- Your appearance is your mask and safeguard from being hurt again.
Some of these are minor issues, some are major. Some will require a therapist or counselor and prayer to get healed. Some will be as simple as journaling them out, being honest, and then deciding if and how you want to move forward to become the person you long to be. Once you’ve journaled them, then start writing down ideas on how you can deal with it. Or write out what comes to mind as you face the issue – old pain, fears, etc.
You Can Do This!
I understand that these are not all easy solutions to our problems and excuses that pop up when trying to get more fit and healthy. But isn’t that THE problem? This stuff can be hard! That’s why we avoid it. I know this isn’t all easy, simple stuff it implement, but that’s why I’m here. I love coaching people through these issues and why typically fitness and nutrition coaching is a fairly long-term process. Additionally, for some of these issues, I also know counselors who can help. I know sometimes I need someone to come alongside me to help me brainstorm, keep me accountable, help me with a new perspective, create a plan, or let me talk.
So I hope this article help you to make some positive and long-lasting change, but additionally know that I am here to help! And where I may not be able to help, I can refer to other professionals. As Eccelsiates 4:9-10 says, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.” If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”
You’re not alone, and you can do this!