California Professional Women’s Association, July, 2006

Posted by on Jul 1, 2006 in Reviews

July 2006 Volume 1, Issue 3

Copyright 2006 California Professional Women’s Association, Inc.

Breakthrough Your Exercise Barriers

By Tami Anastasia

Have you ever started an exercise program determined to stick with it, but within a few days, weeks, or months your motivation has fizzled? If so, you’re not alone. Exercise has become a source of great frustration for many people. The number one reason people give for not exercising is lack of time. Lack of time is a valid reason not to exercise when you consider how we’ve been conditioned to fit exercise into our lives.

We’ve been told over and over again we have to exercise a certain way, for a certain period of time in order for it to be effective. So what happens? We force ourselves to meet the cultural standards and we exercise in ways that aren’t enjoyable and/or in ways that exceed our limitations. In other words, we end up pushing ourselves harder, faster, and longer than is comfortable and it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain that regimen. No wonder time becomes an issue. Finding time to exercise isn’t a problem when we let go of trying to conform to cultural standards that exceed our individual needs and limitations. We’ve been conditioned to think exercise has to be harder than is necessary to improve our health. Studies show that we don’t have to exercise an hour everyday, sweating our buns off, working out within our target heart rate in order to improve our health. As a result of trying to live up to cultural standards we’ve developed what I call six exercise roadblocks. These are the psychological barriers that interfere with your motivation to exercise. You think of these roadblocks as excuses but excuses are symptoms of the problem – not the root of the problem. The root of the problem stems from the following six roadblocks.

Exercise Roadblocks

1. All – or – Nothing Thinking – you think in terms of absolutes – either or, always or never, black or white. There is no middle ground.

2. Unrealistic Expectations – you expect significant and immediate results, you push yourself beyond your limitations.

3. Shoulding On Yourself – you constantly tell yourself how you “should” exercise. You discount or minimize what you can do if it’s less than what you think it “should” be.

4. Labeling – you’re critical and judgmental of yourself – you put yourself down.

5. Perfectionism – you think there is a perfect (best way to) exercise that produces perfect results. You put pressure on yourself to follow a particular exercise program exactly the way it specifies.

6. Comparing Yourself To Others – you compare yourself to others as a way of determining how well you’re doing.

The first step to overcoming these roadblocks is to replace the erroneous belief of “no pain, no gain.” Contrary to popular belief, there is no gain when we’re in pain. Pain is our body’s way of telling us something is wrong. The “no pain, no gain” philosophy sets us up to push ourselves beyond our limitations and we mentally and physically burn out. Hence, the motivation to exercise goes away. The purpose of exercise is to feel good. Exercise is supposed to be fun and enjoyable. Instead of “going for the burn” and thinking exercise has to be hard work apply the SMART principle – a common sense approach to exercise. Give yourself permission to exercise in ways that meet your personal needs. For example, exercise for a shorter period of time, go at a comfortable pace that feels good, and choose activities you enjoy. When exercise is less physically or mentally demanding you will be more motivated to do it. Be SMART and exercise will become an enjoyable and consistent lifestyle habit.

SMART Principle

Specific – be specific about what you want to change or improve. Make a list of the physical, mental, and emotional changes you would like to improve. Examples: go upstairs without getting out of breath, get up and down off the floor, sleep better, reduce medication, be more productive, have better concentration. Measurable – change has to be measurable. You need to make a conscious effort to see how exercise is paying off in your life. To see the immediate benefits of exercise write down how you feel after you exercise. Positive reinforcement goes a long way. Examples: lift grocery bags without your back hurting, have more energy to play with your kids, sleep less, and go out after work during the week.

Activity – choose activities you enjoy. The more you enjoy what you’re doing the more you’re going to look forward to doing it. All forms of physical movement count. Don’t get stuck in thinking some exercises are better than others. Write down a list of activities you enjoy and don’t think in terms of calories burned, weight loss, or heart rate.

Examples: dancing in the living room, swimming, stretching, biking outdoors, gardening, walking the dog.

Realistic goals – modify your goals until you can reach them for 4 weeks in a row. This often means doing less than what you think you “should” do. If you can’t meet your goals 4 weeks in a row you are biting off more than you can chew and you need to lower them. For example, if you set a goal of exercising 3 days a week for 20 minutes and you don’t meet that goal for 4 weeks in a row you need to lower the goal so you can achieve it on a weekly basis. Once you achieve your goal successfully for 4 weeks in a row you can increase the time or add another day or continue with 2 days a week for 10 minutes. This will establish consistency.

Time – you want to establish periods of time (10 minutes before you take a shower, 20 minutes during your lunch break, 30 minutes on the weekend) that are convenient and work within your schedule and responsibilities. Repeat the motto “a little exercise is better than nothing.” On a weekly basis look at your calendar and schedule appointments with yourself just as you would schedule any other appointments.