The vast majority of people have a difficult time creating healthy habits and consistency around exercise. In fact, according to the CDC, nearly 80% of adults in the US don’t get the recommended amounts of exercise each week (1). That means most people are in the same boat, struggling to maintain a healthy rhythm of exercise, or even avoiding it all together. This universal struggle begs the question…
Why is it so challenging to start and continue exercising?
Exercise anxiety: we’ve all been there
Let’s face it, you’re aware exercise can make you healthier, and you know you should do it, but you just don’t want to. Something is holding you back. For many, deep feelings of negativity can easily take over, squashing your motivation, and sending you running away to hide. There are countless barriers to face in taking care of ourselves, even when we know what’s good for us. Some barriers are physical, some are emotional, but all take focus, strategy, and strong support to overcome. One significant barrier experienced by many is anxiety surrounding exercising, gyms, and fitness goals. Maybe you know the feeling all too well:
Will people judge me? Will I fail? How will I know what to do when I get to the gym? Will I be criticized for my form, my clothing, my size? Shouldn’t I be fitter before I hire a trainer so I don’t totally embarrass myself?
We’ve all been there. So, how can we overcome this common barrier keeping us from the health we need and deserve? Read on to explore a few simple strategies to help you get started in overcoming anxiety and moving forward in your health journey.
Feeling unprepared or uncertain about how to exercise is a common source of anxiety. Walking into the gym without a workout roadmap is a surefire way to have a negative experience. Plan ahead: research and write down your workout before you arrive so you can finish what you start without the anxiety of making it up as you go. Consider hiring a personal trainer to offer individualized, expert programming and advice. Having someone else program your workouts means you have one less thing to think about, which can be a powerful anxiety-reliever. There’s a lot to know about exercise, but many amazing resources exist. Surround yourself with those from whom you can learn without feeling judgment.
2. Focus on routine, not results
Starting a new fitness routine can be a big life change, and it’s often motivated by wanting to see results. When results aren’t seen quickly, people feel discouraged, which leads to throwing in the towel. Realize that results will come, but they take time and consistent effort. Instead of focusing on results, focus on building consistency through setting small, achievable goals, like working out at the same time every week. Identify the people or structure that holds you accountable, like a workout buddy, a set exercise schedule, or a trainer. Make these things a habit and praise yourself for showing up, not for your performance or results (2).
3. Get in a good headspace
A significant part of creating new habits begins in our minds. Support yourself with encouraging words, focus on your strengths and abilities, and be kind to yourself. Use daily affirmations or meditations to feel centered, confident, and empowered to try something new. Understand the journey will have ups and downs, so extending grace to yourself will be crucial, as will be accepting wherever it is you’re starting from without judgment. If your mind is healthy and you believe in yourself, you’re much more likely to stay the course.
4. Adjust your expectations
Hand-in-hand with getting in a good headspace, is adjusting your expectations. Exercise anxiety is an emotional barrier, which can often trigger insecurity. Having realistic expectations from the get-go allows you to feel successful each small step of the way, quelling the insecurities we all experience. Knowing that you’ll likely feel a little uncomfortable at first is a healthy expectation. Assuming you can do a high intensity workout for 60-minutes after never exercising, is an unhealthy expectation. Embrace where you’re starting from. You don’t have to—and shouldn’t—wait until you’re further along in your process to seek support and resources, like hiring a trainer or getting a gym membership.
On the subject of expectations, it’s common that unrealistic ones arise from comparison. We notice the person next to us is out-performing, out-lifting, out-exercising us and we immediately feel like we’re failing. It’s easy to compare yourself to others and feel discouraged, but there will always be someone further along in the process than you, so don’t let that negatively influence your success. This is an area where a trainer can add a lot of value: through offering encouragement, helping you understand your process is completely normal, and celebrating your successes—no matter how small.
5. Start small
After adjusting expectations, confidence will be built by experiencing success early on in your process. Give yourself the chance to feel successful by starting at the appropriate level. If you can only walk for 10 minutes, start there and increase your efforts slowly and steadily. Be confident that your fitness level will increase with time, but only if you stay consistent, avoid burnout, and feel encouraged along the way. If your goals are clear and achievable, you can focus on reaching one small success at a time, keeping you moving in the right direction.
Don’t know where to start? The expert trainers at Hyatt Training offer individualized fitness plans no matter what level you’re starting from. You don’t have to wait to “be fitter” to hire a trainer. Training intentionally and at an appropriate pace is so much easier with the right guidance, and leads to a much higher rate of long-term success. If you’re ready to embark on a new chapter of your fitness journey, we’re here to help!
Author Elana Witt is a personal trainer at Hyatt Training. She believes all people possess the ability to get stronger and feel better, no matter where they’re starting from. Through learning correct, functional movements, she wants each of her clients to better understand their body and their capabilities while feeling empowered to achieve their goals. Elana is a NASM certified personal trainer. Learn more about Elana, or get in touch with her by emailing us at Go@HyattTraining.com.
Hyatt Training is a collective of certified, enthusiastic and innovative personal trainers in Portland, Oregon. To read more holistic health related posts like this one, follow this link.