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It’s likely that you’ve encountered some obstacles to creating your lasting fitness habit. That’s normal! In fact, I’ve never seen anyone create such a habit without facing and overcoming obstacles.

So the key is to stick with it and figure out how to overcome the obstacles. Don’t quit just because things get tough or you miss a few days!

In this lesson, I’ll talk over some of the more common obstacles and how I recommend overcoming them. But just be aware that it’s a very individual thing — you need to figure out what works for you.

  1. Not enough time. Start with just a couple minutes of movement — if you can’t find 2-5 minutes, you need to loosen up your schedule! Cut out less important things like Facebook, news, TV, videos, games, etc. Block off a little chunk of each day, and hold that appointment with yourself as more sacred than any appointment with a doctor or dentist or anyone else. If you start small, you can fit it in. I prefer the morning, because after things get busy, exercise gets pushed back and then you’re just procrastinating. Instead, find a 5-minute slot in the morning as you’re getting ready, before you shower, and just do it like you’re brushing your teeth (but make it more fun).
  2. Tired. This is a real obstacle, because we tend to have less discipline when we’re tired. So the best long-term solution to this obstacle is to get more rest, and make sure you’re addressing your sleep issues. However, the honest truth is that most people have too little sleep and are tired a lot of the time … so does that mean we should just give up on exercise? No! In fact, exercising will help with sleep problems, because I’ve found that you sleep better when you’re exercising regularly. So what do we do if we’re tired and don’t feel like exercising? First, pause and face the resistance we’re feeling. See the belief that we have, which is something like, “I’m tired so I shouldn’t exercise.” Try a different belief instead: “I’m going to exercise no matter what, it’s not a decision I’m going to base on my tiredness or comfort level.” And then just get started.
  3. Not motivated, it’s not fun, it’s a chore. The best way to make exercise fun and motivating is to play and make it social. Find a workout partner or group. Sign up for a class or coach. Do a challenge with friends & family or co-workers — you can do it individually but report to each other daily. Or do it online, on our forum or another, or on a social network of your choice. Do it with your partner or kids. Also, get moving and just play! If you’re going to do it alone, make up games or challenges for yourself. Or see it as a way to take care of yourself (a compassion practice) or to practice mindfulness, if you enjoy those things.
  4. Missed a few days and lost motivation. This is one of the biggest obstacles for most people — you miss a day for various reasons (travel, tiredness, illness, visitors, etc.), and then you feel much less motivated to get going again. You’re discouraged, you don’t want to even face the guilt. This is the key — if you’re going to learn to create lasting habits, you must learn to face this feeling. Learn to look it in the face, and see it for the pain that it is. Give yourself compassion. But instead of letting it ruin your new habit, move on. Tell yourself it’s No Big Deal. Shake it off, and get started again, as small as you can. Shrink your habit down to its minimum, so that it’s easier to get started again. Ask someone for help if you need it — get a partner or some kind of accountability. It is essential that you learn this skill, otherwise you will constantly fail. I can’t stress it enough! Practice, practice, and get started again without dwelling on your failures.
  5. Intimidated going to the gym. You don’t have to go to the gym — go outside and walk, run, bike or do yoga. Do a bodyweight exercise challenge at home. If you like, invest in a kettlebell or dumbbells to do strength training at home. If you want to go to the gym, sign up for a trainer who will walk you through the machines and weight sets, or go with a friend who knows his/her way around and will make it a more comfortable experience. Everyone is intimidated at first, but it gets more comfortable after awhile.
  6. Don’t have anyone to work out with. Try and find a friend, family member or co-worker to join you in a challenge. Or join a running club or similar organization where people are running/working out together. Sign up for a class or bootcamp. Or find a workout partner online.
  7. Hate exercise. Find something a bit more fun than what you normally think of as exercise. Play a sport. Play a game outdoors with your kids or friends. Go for a walk with a friend/spouse and have a good conversation. Do a pushup challenge with a co-worker. Do yoga and view it as a meditation session. Make a game and give yourself points for doing some kind of fun activity.
  8. Hitting the snooze alarm because I feel I deserve a rest. This is a rationalization process that the brain is very good at. So you’re already doing the first step, which is to be aware of it and to listen to it so you know what’s going on (many people aren’t aware). The next step is to come up with an argument that beats it, and be ready with that argument … something like, “you just have to start, how easy is that, and think about how good you’ll feel afterward, and think about how exercise is taking care of yourself and being compassionate with yourself.” Or schedule a workout with a friend and then the thinking process is, “Boy, I better get up right now or my friend will be waiting for me and I’d hate to disappoint him.”
  9. Parents with small children. Take turns with your partner if you have one, let him watch the kids while you exercise, then switch. Or wake up before they get up and exercise in the quiet of the morning. Go to sleep earlier (shut off devices) so you’re nice and rested, and get up 10-15 minutes earlier to do a little exercise. Another idea is to work out with the kids … push the youngest in a stroller while the other(s) run/walk with you, or use them as weights, or play a sport with them and run around. I do this kind of thing a lot with my kids.
  10. Procrastination. My favorite is around the idea of just getting started … I’ll tell myself to “just lace up your shoes and get out the door”. That’s so easy I can’t say no. I’ll also unplug my router and give the cord to my wife and not let her give it back until I do the exercise. Having a friend waiting for me (set a date with them) is another good motivator. Wanting to go on the ru\n to do some brainstorming around a project or problem is also a good motivator for me. Thinking of exercise like brushing your teeth (taking care of yourself) or self-compassion is another for me. If I want to learn a language, I’ll also put some Pimsleur lessons on an iPod and run while listening to the lessons, so that can be a good motivator too.

Exercise for Today

Review what obstacles you’ve faced … any of the above? How can you overcome them using these ideas, or others you might have tried in the past?

Share what has worked for you, or what obstacles you need help with, in Slack.