Overcoming the barriers to exercise
If there were only more time in the day you’d workout, right? If only you weren’t so tired after work you’d exercise, right? If you had more time and less exercise barriers, you’d be running marathons, right? Wrong. When it comes to getting in shape and staying healthy, there are many reasons someone could conjure in order to skip workouts and avoid exercise, but every single one is internal. Every single one is mental.
Time constraints – mental.
Boredom – mental.
Self-consciousness – mental.
Financial reasons – mental.
Injuries – MENTAL!
Get the picture yet? It may come off as a bit callous right now, but stick with me for a minute while I break down each of these common exercise barriers, explain why the problem is an intrinsically internal struggle as opposed to external, and by the end of this article you’ll be armed with some mental tools to overcome your own brain.
How the Human Psyche Creates Exercise Barriers
In hunter-gatherer times it would seem logical that the biggest and strongest man would be a superior survivor to the overweight lethargic man, so biologically speaking the human mind should be wired to persuade us to exercise, right? Wrong.
The human body is designed to store as much energy as possible. Going back to those hunter-gatherer days, there were no exercise barriers. Life was a workout just to survive, the body never knew when its next meal was coming. Its main goal – store energy and effectively save it whenever possible.
As exercise deals with many brain chemicals that tie into body image and self-esteem, the human psyche also creates complicated ways of rewarding you for your laziness (aka your energy saving).
But seeing as most people do not live a hunter-gatherer lifestyle like that of our ancient ancestors, there is really no excuse to acquiesce to the workout barriers and excuses we make for ourselves.
Exercise Barriers De-Bunked
A person’s personal fitness story is unique. We all have our own set of motivations, injuries, time constraints and financial situations that act as workout barriers (sometimes for the better and sometimes the worst).
Time is relative, and we as humans portion it and manage it in accordance with our priorities. If you don’t have time to exercise, then fitness and health are not a priority to you. If health and fitness are important to you, you can find at least 10-20 minutes a day to do something physical. Listen to the news in the morning while you workout instead of sitting and reading the paper. If you get to work 5 minutes early take the stairs instead of the elevator. Get out of the office and walk on your lunch break instead of going through the drive through somewhere. Instead of retreating to different parts of the house when you get home from work, get outdoors with the family for half an hour. The moral of the story, if you can’t find basic, small sets of time during the day to get in some type of exercise, odds are you’re not making fitness a priority. Don’t overcomplicate it.
If the exercise you’re doing is getting boring, then it’s time to change up your workout. As explained earlier, the body and mind try to save energy and will ultimately burn less fat if you consistently do the exact same thing. The whole idea of fitness is to be engaging, different, and fun. Boredom and laziness as fitness barriers is a classic sign that the workout routine is lacking creativity, inspiration, and that the ultimate goal – weight loss, athletic performance, health, etc. – probably isn’t aggressive enough. Reevaluate what you actually want from a workout routine, pick a new goal and go for it.
Self-consciousness / Embarrassment
One of the biggest workout barriers that can hit any person, of any fitness level, is self-esteem. Sometimes it comes down to body image, knowledge of the fitness space or routines, but ultimately it shouldn’t be an exercise barrier simply because fitness builds friendships. Creating a sense of community, making friends through exercise or building a supportive community (in family, neighbors or otherwise), will prevent yourself from a self-imposed isolation that keeps you on the couch. They’ll get to know you, understand your issues and what your workout barriers are. And these friends will also hold you accountable. They’ll be your accountabil-a-buddies.
Bottom line is if you can’t afford it, don’t do it. But if this the biggest of the fitness barriers holding you back, then you are overcomplicating the situation. Ultimately, all that’s needed to get a good workout is a pair of shorts. If you have 5 square feet of space indoors, there are enough core and strength workouts to be done with body weight or plyometric moves. No gear, no membership, no expensive equipment required. Go to a park and jog. Go hiking. Add in some creativity. Climb a tree. Have fun. It all comes down to working with what you have instead of focusing on what you don’t have.
When one part of your body doesn’t work it’s natural to think that the rest needs to avoid strain as well. Injuries are a huge exercise barrier for even professional athletes, but what many people don’t confront is the fact that your body heals faster when blood flow and fitness levels are maintained. In many cases certain exercises can help recover injuries faster to regain strength, mobility, and flexibility, and bring you back faster. If you throw your back out, learn some core stabilizing exercises to relax your muscles and strengthen them at the same time. If an ankle gets rolled or sprained, keep pressure off it and use water or light resistance to bring back flexibility. Etc., etc., etc.
What this entire article boils down to is the simple idea of getting out of your own way. Most exercises barriers and workout barriers really aren’t roadblocks at all. Sometimes all our exercise needs is a new approach, a new perspective or some accountabil-a-buddies. The simplest way to get around fitness barriers is constantly and relentlessly keeping your mind on the goal, your eye on the prize. If you truly care about why you are exercising (health, family, lifestyle), then the passion will allow you to see way around perceived limitations.
“When the why is strong enough the how will reveal itself.” – Jon Berghoff