Overcome Five Internally Generated Obstacles to Exercise

For as many people that exercise there are excuses not to continue to exercise. Some of these excuses are relatively legitimate. There are times in our lives that exercise just does fit, that it would cause too much stress to take the time to exercise or it would increase the risk of physical injury. However, these “legitimate excuses” are rare and in most cases people can modify their busy life and work schedule or the intensity of their exercise to make it work.

Excuses not to exercise can be classified as being externally or internally founded. Externally, excuses range from the gym is too far away, it is too hot/cold/wet, I have no one to work out with, my favourite instructor/personal trainer is away, work is too busy, my gym clothes are dirty etc., etc. 99.9% of these external excuses are easily managed with a little planning to your schedule and motivation to really want to exercise. Exercise is fun and most people agree that once they begin an exercise session they enjoy it and are glad they have made the effort to do it even if it meant changing or reprioritizing their schedule.

Internally generated excuses are not so easily identified and often a little harder to manage because of this fact. They are generated mentally and are often a reflection of our personality type. To overcome them requires a change in one’s thought process and often people are not willing to make the effort to do so. As a consequence, over time, people succumb to them and stop exercising. To complicate the matter further, these internal mental excuses to exercise often create a much larger obstacle to reengagement into an exercise routine than external excuses do.

The following are five common internally generated excuses that you should be aware of and strategies to help you overcome them so you will continue to enjoy all the benefits that regular exercise can give to you.

1.       Seeking Perfection

This is typical of the Type A personality. It is unreasonable to expect every workout to be perfect, that you will be able to give it your best effort every time. Life just gets in the way. Work, family, hormones, nutrition, stress, lack of sleep are just some of the things that can and do affect your ability to perform maximally every time. When a work out is not going as well as you had hoped, don’t sweat it. Accept it for what it is, an opportunity to improve your health, both physically and mentally. A poor work out is better than no workout and usually what you perceived as a poor is not all that bad. Your expectations are just too high. If you have an off day in your training, learn to accept it as a learning process. Try to identify what may have been the cause of the off day. Sometimes there are no obvious reasons. Accept that too if it occurs. Remember, we all have our off days.

2.       Don’t take it too serious

You are not a professional athlete so why approach your exercise session as if you were. Exercising is fun so allow it to be fun. Enjoy the time you have to exercise rather than being at the office or cutting the grass. The time you have to exercise is special, so treat it that way and don’t get hung up on it being more than it is, an opportunity take care of your heath. Whether you win or lose a tennis match or a hockey game or play well or don’t play as well as expected in golf doesn’t really matter in the scope of things. What is important is that you made the time to participate, and that you enjoyed doing it and you’re healthier, for doing so. Remember, that exercise is something that you do and not who you are. Identify yourself as a recreational exerciser and not to the results that occur from the exercise.

3.       Don’t Stress the Small Stuff

Don’t stress over the small stuff and the stuff you can’t control. Don’t worry about the weather, you can’t control it. If it is going to rain or be very hot and humid, dress and hydrate accordingly. If you can’t find your favourite hockey stick, tennis or squash racket, running/walking shorts or shoes, use or wear your second favourite. A good rule of thumb is to be physically and mentally prepared for the unexpected. Layout or pack your sporting equipment and clothes the night before, watch the weather channel so a warm day does not sneak up on you. If you mentally prepare and understand that the unexpected does and will occur from time to time then when it does happen you will be better prepared to deal with the situation. Remember, your performance is based on your training and effort and not on external things that you can’t control. The 2012 Boston marathon was held under very hot and adverse conditions. The experienced runners understood that they could not control the temperature, accepted that it was going to be an extremely hot and uncomfortable race and adjusted their performance expectations accordingly. Don’t let the small stuff ruin your exercise experience.


4.       Don’t Underestimate what your Goals should Be

One of the great things about exercise and training is that the body responds favourably to the appropriate level of overload so that you become strong, faster, and more skilled. So when you set goals, be realistic but don’t underestimate yourself and set them too low. Setting goals can be very motivating but just like setting too high of expectations on yourself can be demoralizing so can setting goals that don’t push you, that are not challenging enough. Set your long term goals, for example 6 months to a year out but also set short term goals of three months, one month, one week, even one day or a single exercise session. The great thing about short term goals is that they can be easily modified if you find that they were too easy or too hard to attain. Always be willing to change your exercise routine so that you can achieve your short term goals and this will help assure that you will meet your long term goals. Don’t be afraid to “push” yourself. Over time and with experience you will learn how hard or how high you can set your expectations and goals. Don’t go crazy, but push yourself so it is motivating and, I assure you when you do attain your goal you will feel a strong sense of accomplishment and a natural high as a result.

5.       Be Mentally Engaged when you Exercise

To get the full benefit from your exercise session be mentally engaged in what you are doing. That does not mean that you should feel mentally exhausted at the end of your exercise session but you should not exercise with a laissez-faire attitude either. You will need to focus on the activity that you are doing to perform well and get the most out of what you are doing. You cannot golf or play tennis well if you are not concentrating on your technique and strategy. If you are in an aerobic or yoga class you will not achieve the full benefits from the class if you are not focusing on what the instructor is saying and doing. Even when you are out for run or a walk, focus on your gait and breathing to make sure you are not going to hurt yourself or exercise too hard. You will appreciate the extra effort you make in staying engaged in the activity you are doing. It is safer, you are more likely to achieve your goals and that will make it more satisfying and enjoyable.

Internal obstacles can be deceiving. Often times you are unaware of them and how significantly they are compromising your willingness to participate in a sport and exercise. Be aware of these obstacles and if they prop up, develop strategies that you can use to combat their negative effects and make them into positives. Exercise is fun and the natural high you get from exercising and achieving your sporting goals is unparalleled so find ways to make it as easy as possible to achieve it.

If you’d like more info please contact Mike.

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