When most people tackle the habit of getting active, they get faced with some common obstacles and questions.
Don’t let that stand in your way … there are answers to just about every question/obstacle, otherwise people like me (six kids, lots of work to do, lots of distractions) would never make a habit of getting active.
You just need the willingness to find the answer, or keep trying until you do.
In this Frequently Asked Questions post, I’ll share some of my answers to common questions … but know that your individual answer might be different, and you’ll need to experiment a little to find the right solution for you.
Q: I don’t have enough time.
A: 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.
Q: I don’t find exercise fun … it’s a chore. I’m not motivated.
A: 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.
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.
Q: I’m intimidated going to the gym.
A: 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.
Q: I don’t have anyone to work out with.
A: 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.
Q: I hate exercise.
A: 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.
Q: I have no time for exercise classes.
A: First, I believe if something is really important, we can make time. But if not, you have other priorities that are higher right now, and that’s fine. Still, you can carve out a little time to do some bodyweight exercises for now, just to get the ball rolling, and when you later can make the time for a class, if that’s the kind of exercise you like to do, you can transition to that.
Q: At the alarm sounding my mental dialogue goes something like this: “man you work hard, you have a lot of stresses in your life, your body needs the rest…just feel yourself…you are almost asleep right now… c’mon, take care of yourself… rest.” Then I hit the snooze button …
A: 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.”
Q: Suggestions for parents with small children? I currently exercise in the morning if I get up in time to make the swap with my husband. I hate exercising at night. If I oversleep (past 5 a.m.) it’s pretty much impossible to find another time.
A: Yes, exercising before they wake up is key if you don’t have another time … so if you have to wake by 5 a.m., you need to engineer an environment that will allow you to wake up on time … having a workout partner who is waiting for you is an example, or having your husband push you out of bed is another, or setting 10 really loud alarms all over the house (which might wake the kids if you don’t get up after the 1st alarm) is another, and so on. 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.
Q: Suggestions for some exercises that have some impact in by body and my mind and that I could do in about 15-20 minutes in the morning?
A: Bodyweight squats, lunges, pushups, pullups, planks, and yoga poses are good places to start.
Q: Good reasons to exercise?
A: There are many: you are taking care of your body (as opposed to letting it degrade and get sick) which is compassionate for yourself, you feel better and find better focus at work, it relieves stress, it’s a great healthy way to socialize, you get good ideas when you exercise, and you feel better about your body over the long term. Plus it can be fun.
Q: Easy way to measure progress, to keep going?
A: I prefer to focus less on the progress and measurements, and more on the actual movement. In this way, it becomes like meditation — you’re doing it to be present with the activity, not to get further along toward a goal. So a run becomes fun and beautiful in and of itself, rather than just a step towards running a half marathon or getting faster at a 5K. Because what happens if your progress stalls? Then you feel horrible, even though you’re still doing the exercise, which is amazing.
Q: How do you ‘fall in love’ with exercising. I exercise because I know it’s healthy/good for me (yada yada) but I wouldn’t say I enjoy it.
A: This is answered in a few of the other answers above — making it social and doing it with a friend or your spouse, or with your kids, or a group, is a great way to make it fun. Playing a sport that you find fun is another way. Making a game out of it is also fun. Once you make it fun, it’s just a matter of doing it on a regular basis so that you overcome the problem of it feeling hard/painful. After awhile, it becomes one of the better parts of your day. In the beginning, though, focus on finding ways to make it fun.
Q: Advice for fitting it in (morning, evening?). I currently exercise a good bit and want to add more, but don’t know where to find the time or how to make it a priority that I stick with.
A: If you start small, with 2-5 minutes of exercise, it’s easy to 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).
Q: Simple prompts — tips to work around procrastination?
A: 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 run 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.
Q: Some real concrete tips, ideas, direction on how accountability team members can help one another would be beneficial.
A: Basically, you just need to make an agreement to report back to each other. For example, let’s say I want to exercise every day for 2-5 minutes … I tell this to my group (other people will announce their personal targets as well), then report back each day on whether I hit the target or not. I can also set a penalty if I don’t do every day of the week (I’ll have to sing loudly in the park, or say something silly on Twitter, donate to a cause I hate, etc.) … or a reward if I do each day (dinner at my favorite restaurant, etc.). You can also do a challenge or competition within the group if that’s fun for everyone.