The Top 7 Excuses Used to Avoid Exercise and How You Can Overcome Them
Excuse #1: My schedule is too busy; I don’t have time.
Of all the self-care habits, we often meet exercise with negativity and dread.
Before you roll your eyes in agreement, let’s reframe exercise for a moment.
Imagine a school P.E (physical exercise) lesson where kids are in a lineup to be selected for the sports team. There is always one child left to be picked and does the walk of shame to the team.
The captain is concerned about how this player will affect the overall team performance, so his strategy is to keep this kid on the bench as a reserve with no genuine intention of letting her/him play.
I imagine exercise being that kid.
Likewise, you know you should include an exercise practice in your self-care routine, but you’re worried it will interfere with your already massive workload. You may have bought the running/yoga/fill in the blank kit and downloaded the apps, but you’re still on the bench.
Truthfully, you have zero intention to start, but it makes you feel good that you have the gear ready to go just in case you get a burst of inspiration.
It’s time to give exercise its chance on the field.
Exercise is an investment in yourself; it reaps the rewards way beyond the physical and health benefits. Traits like confidence, resilience, self-trust and self-respect emerge and filter through all areas of your life.
Although you know this logically, your mind is an expert at designing excuses to put it off one more day.
As a transformational coach and trainer, I have heard every excuse. Here are the most common excuses for avoiding exercise and how you can move past them:
Excuse #1: My schedule is too busy; I don’t have time.
Your belief is you need to spend at least an hour engaged in the activity to reap any proper rewards.
It’s time to reframe your story — even fifteen minutes per day can create results you wouldn’t imagine.
Consistency is the bridge between taking action and feeling like you do not have enough time.
Fifteen minutes is small enough not to interfere with your day but significant enough to produce results if done reliably.
The best news is that you don’t even need to do the entire fifteen minutes in one go. How about dividing this down into five-minute chunks throughout the day?
Professor BJ Fogg, the author of Tiny Habits, said he couldn’t get into a regular exercise routine because of his teaching commitments at Stanford University. His solution was every time he needed to take a pee, he would do five push-ups in the bathroom. By the end of the day, he had made significant progress.
How can you break down your exercise habit into its simplest form? Why not do one yoga pose or go for a walk around the garden between meetings?
People often ask me how long they should be exercising. My answer is that ten minutes of action is better than twenty-five minutes of thinking about taking action.
The point is, you have time; you need to get creative about making it a part of your day instead of interference.
Excuse #2: I don’t feel like it right now.
The biggest misconception to starting an exercise session is that you need to “be in the mood” to begin.
Feelings are not fact. It’s what you do that counts.
People relinquish on their personal goals because they are waiting for this magic burst of energy and inspiration to appear. The only time you will feel like doing the activity in question — guess what — is when you are doing it.
Runners don’t get runners block — they get up and go for a run.
When I have to do my cardio workout, it’s me, my garden and a skipping rope, and I can tell you I never feel like it.
What I’ve learned is that my feelings about it are irrelevant. I have created a starting ritual; I use music as my trigger to get me going.
What can you use as your trigger?
Pair the workout with something you enjoy, like listening to an audiobook, masterclass, or podcast? It gives you the double benefit of training and getting in some personal development time.
A more constructive way to focus on your feelings is how you will feel after the activity. Let the feelings of pride, relief, and delight be your muse to steamroll your mind’s excuses and take that first step.
Excuse #3: The snooze button won…again.
Every time you hit the snooze button, you break a promise to yourself. The domino effect that has on your self-esteem and self-trust is more devastating than you realize.
You may have already purchased equipment, signed up with a trainer, or joined a walking group which is a brilliant start, but the way to make exercise a regular habit is to solidify your decision every day. It must be a daily commitment because the decision you made two weeks ago has already fluttered away.
So, what can you do to solidify the decision?
Decide the night before what time you are waking up, what the activity is, and commit to showing up to yourself by not defaulting to the dreaded snooze button.
When you have already decided, it shuts down the sabotaging conversation that goes on in your mind when your alarm goes off and wants to convince you it’s early, cold, and you deserve to lie in.
Decide in advance because those ten minutes of extra sleep will always feel more tempting than your workout.
You can also charge your phone on the opposite side of the room or have a reward of your favorite coffee waiting in the kitchen if you need something else to give you that extra push.
Excuse #4: I’m such a lazy person.
Milestones often drive motivation to start an exercise program such as a wedding or a school reunion. But the problem is that you are working towards one outcome, and once the big day comes and goes, so does your habit.
You figure, “Well, I’ve done it so I can go back to normal; I’ve earned it”.
You were attached to the outcome. The way out of this physical goal mindset is to transition to an identity-based goal. The action needs to be part of who you are and in alignment with your highest values.
Do you value more energy for your family, health, longevity, or the ability to perform at your highest level? When you shift to identity-based goals, your choices are about aligning actions to your values.
Every time you do the action — go for a walk, get onto the yoga mat, opt for the grilled option — you are creating evidence for yourself that you have internalized the habit as part of your new identity.
Your story has changed, and the way you show up to yourself has changed as well.
Excuse #5: I planned on doing it this week, but it didn’t happen.
My mantra is, “If it gets scheduled, it gets done”.
You can’t wake up and then figure out when you will fit in the walk, yoga class, or fill in the blank. You need to treat it like a meeting and allocate a designated time and place for it in your calendar.
Honor this slot with the same importance you would any other meeting. Protect this time like a warrior; it must become a non-negotiable.
It will always feel like there is something more important, but your lack of action is not a discipline issue, but that you put other people’s needs ahead of your own.
Having an unconditional commitment to your highest values will drive you to keep the appointment with yourself and take action — even if it is fifteen minutes.
Clarity is key
Apart from when you will take action, also clarify the duration and precisely what you will do in the exercise session.
I have a structured program I review the day before so I can start my session immediately. With a simple plan, you override the thought of going down the Google rabbit hole of ‘researching’ programs instead of simply doing the work.
I lay out my clothes the night before and prepare my pre-workout shake not to spend any unnecessary energy on decision-making. It is one smooth military operation.
Remove all decision-making so you can keep your precious energy for the workout.
Excuse #6: I did it for two weeks, and it isn’t working.
With your health goals, there are no hacks, quick fixes, or instant diets. It is creating micro wins over time consistently that produces results.
If you want to train for a marathon, one session of a 20-minute brisk walk is a micro win. Do this three times per week for a few months, and you are on your way.
However, there is a barrier to creating micro wins with exercise.
We are a culture of instant gratification junkies, and everything we want is a click away.
You want to instantly download your new body without going through any discomfort and effort.
This matters because when you begin your exercise practice, there is an initial gap between doing the work and seeing tangible results. Often, it can take four to six weeks before you see a real physical difference. In this initial period, you need to persevere despite not seeing an improvement. I call it trusting the process.
You need to turn down the volume of the negative self-talk of the inner critic who plays the game of comparing your current reality against the ‘should be’ version of reality.
It goes like this: “You should be further by now; you should see a difference”,… and it wreaks havoc on your confidence.
Trust in creating your daily micro win, and eventually, you will see the benefits — your body getting stronger, your energy levels increasing, and a boost in your confidence.
Instant gratification is the enemy of progress. There is no quick way through, only one micro win at a time.
Manage the periphery activities
What can you do to support your fitness goal apart from exercise?
If you do an excellent 60-minute walk and then spend the rest of the day eating junk food and living on caffeine and energy drinks, you will not see the return for your efforts. The periphery activities that happen the other 23 hours enable you to convert the effort from your exercise.
The point is, one good hour doesn’t excuse bad choices throughout the day that are not in alignment with your overall goal.
It’s not only about nutrition and movement but consider sleep. If you are burning the candle for work and waking up early to fit it all in, you will never have the energy to make progress on your health goals.
It doesn’t matter how many motivational videos you watch or how many cups of coffee you consume; your energy tank will be empty if it’s not already in reserve.
Consider the periphery activities throughout the day and start making better choices to support your overall efforts.
Start with one minor change, such as replacing cool drinks with herbal tea or water. Build up your micro wins in several areas of your life, and your self-trust and self-esteem will be boosted along with it.
Excuse #7 — I’ve tried it, and it isn’t for me.
Choose something you want to do, not what you think you should be doing.
I had a client who was forcing herself through a high impact cardio class because a friend recommended it. After the second week of convincing me why she doesn’t have time for it, I asked her if she enjoys the classes.
She said truthfully; she hates them. All she wants to do is take her dog for a walk on her own and listen to a good audiobook.
When I explained this was an option, there was great relief and surprise. It never occurred to my client that exercise could be enjoyable and not a punishment.
Please don’t do something because a friend recommended it or because they have seen significant results. Ask yourself these questions:
· Do you prefer working out solo or being part of a group?
· Do you enjoy being outdoors or indoors?
· How much time are you willing to commit to?
· What do you enjoy doing?
For example, if group accountability drives you, then find something that will tick those boxes and design a routine that fits into your world.
Covid has taught us all the value of our health. It is something we don’t appreciate until we compromise it.
Don’t wait for external events to get your attention, to take your self-care seriously.
Start with something, anything and make it as small as possible to achieve your micro win.
Each micro win not only gets results but also teaches you something far more critical: to trust yourself.
Action is evidence that you can change your old ways and accomplish your goals.
Be honest about your excuses and if they are truly serving you. I can tell you this:
· You have time
· You don’t need to feel like it
· You can master the snooze button
· You are not lazy
· It can happen when you decide to make it happen
· Trust the process; it works
· Choose to be the architect of your world, not the victim.
Here’s to taking ownership of your health.
I’ve created an ultimate guide to Show Up To Yourself: In Life & Business to help you build new habits, manage your inner critic and truly own your days.