13 Excuses Super-Fit Chicks Never Make
Hate to exercise? These expert tips will motivate you to reach for your running shoes
By Sarah Carrillo
You know her. That annoying friend or co-worker with boundless energy, who's got three kids and a demanding job and still has time for early morning yoga classes and evening runs (and of course she's got the body to show for it, too). What's her workout secret?
It's actually not that complicated. She just knows how to motivate herself to exercise -- and uses a few of these expert tips to make working out less of a chore and more of an activity to actually look forward to.
If the idea of "looking forward to exercise" sounds alien to you, check out what our expert personal trainers and sports psychologists share here. Getting in shape doesn't have to be boring, a time suck, or even painful -- it's all a matter of being in the right frame of mind and keeping yourself motivated.
To help you get off the couch and onto the treadmill, here are 13 excuses that just aren't going to fly anymore. We'll tell you how the super-fit overcome these obstacles, and how you can too. With the right motivation, exercise really can be -- wait for it -- fun. Don't believe us? Read on. We guarantee you'll be packing your gym bag before you know it.
The Excuse: "I just don't want to work out"
If your basic problem is that you just don't want to/don't see the need to exercise, you need a major wakeup call. We all need to work out regularly if we want to live longer, better-quality lives, says LA Fitness Trainer Danielle Spangler. She says she has friends and clients who just refuse to exercise, and so she has to give them a little tough love. "As a last resort I'll tell people about the health risks [of not exercising] and ask them whether they want to be independent, or dependent on others when they're older. It's an eye opener."
While this may sound harsh, Dr. Michael Gervais, Ph.D, a sports psychologist who works with US Olympians, says a shock to your system can be just what you need to get motivated. "The only reason people change is because they've touched pain," he says. This pain can be anything from seeing an older family member struggle with his health, to getting fed up with being out of breath after a flight of stairs. "Embrace that, remember it, and figure out what you want to do differently."
If you haven't had your "moment of pain" yet, here are a few stats from the Get America Fit Foundation and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that may serve as your wakeup call:
• Obesity is the No. 2 cause of preventable death in the United States.
• Being overweight or obese increases your risk for breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, colon cancer, hypertension, and strokes.
• People who are severely obese (with a Body Mass Index of 45 or more) live about 20 years less than people who are not overweight.
The Excuse: "I'm already skinny, what's the point?"
Getting thin isn't the only (or even the best) reason to exercise. Whether you need to lose weight or not, our experts say you should approach your workout with a clear goal in mind. This could be anything from looking better in your skinny jeans to finishing a 5K.
Gervais says before you even start a workout program, you need to ask yourself a few questions: 1. What is my goal? 2. What do I need to do to get there? 3. How do I want to experience this journey? And of course, there are a few things to keep in mind with each of these questions:
For the first one, Gervais says your goal should be about approaching success instead of avoiding failure. It's really all in how you phrase it. So instead of making your goal "I don't want to be the fatty in Pilates class anymore," a better goal would be "I want to be able to make it through a Pilates class and still have energy for a quick run after." A positive goal gives your mind a clearer path to follow and gives you a higher likelihood of success.
When it comes to the "hows" of achieving your goal, celebrity trainer Aaron Williamson says there are plenty of resources available to help you map out a journey. "You can always go to a website to get a program customized for you," he says. "There are tracking mechanisms built in … each day you'll be able to see your overall performance and it will let you know if you're staying on track or not."
And as for how you'll experience your workout journey, Gervais says it's important to realize that it won't be all sunshine and rainbows. "Change is met with resistance internally," he says, so you need to be honest and allow yourself to experience some frustration and anger.
The Excuse: "Exercise is boring"
Yes, mindlessly running on a treadmill while watching the news on your gym's TV can be a total snooze fest. But dancing in a Zumba class, rock climbing, and paddle boarding are the exact opposite of dull -- and they still count as exercise.
The trick is to continually search for workouts that are fun so you actually enjoy exercising. Aside from trying new classes at the gym, Williamson says, "I browse YouTube a lot to see what new stuff folks are trying out; it's interesting to see what some people do with little to no equipment."
But even if you do stick with your regular routine, Barry Jay, co-founder of Barry's Bootcamp, says you can create a fun environment to motivate yourself to get through even the most mundane routine. "Lighting, amazing music of all genres, and humor can help you push through a workout," he says.
Another way to keep exercise from getting old is to add in the element of competition, says Dr. Amir Vokshoor, MD, a neurosurgeon who studies the brain in relation to athletes at the DISC Sports and Spine Center in Marina del Rey, Calif. He explains that after awhile, anything we do repeatedly (like lifting weights or 30 minutes on the elliptical) becomes easier, and that's when our brain starts to resent the exercise. "When an exercise isn't fun anymore, the brain needs surprises, risk, and danger," says Vokshoor. "Competitive sports can give you that risk and danger."
The Excuse: "I suck at sports"
If the thought of joining your company's softball team sounds like less fun than an all-day root canal, that's OK. Marie-Josee Shaar, a personal trainer and author of "Smarts and Stamina," says your workout should play to your strengths.
"Research shows that we are much more motivated, resourceful, and resilient in an area of strength than in an area of weakness," Shaar says. Like taking charge? Lead a morning group run in your neighborhood. Does kindness drive you? Train for a cause, or buddy up with someone else who also needs motivation, Shaar says.
How do you know when you've found the right workout? "The right exercise should be relaxing, get you in a hyper-aware state from endorphins, get your mind wandering, make you feel good, vital, and youthful, and leave you sore, but a good sore," says Vokshoor.
The Excuse: "I never see results from exercise"
Personal trainer Steve Cabral says the best way to combat this frustrating feeling is to set yourself up for a "quick win." By starting off strong -- with a super-healthy diet and perhaps some boot camp-like fitness classes -- you could lose three to five pounds in your first week, which should certainly get you excited to continue.
And when you hit those inevitable plateaus, there are a few ways to keep yourself going. Suzie Cooney, CPT, a certified personal trainer and owner of Suzie Trains Maui, says to try visualization while you're working out. "I want [my clients] to 'see' a healthy and strong body," she says. "I want them to 'see' themselves crossing the finish line as we're spinning on the bike. Visualization training is incredibly helpful." Focusing on your goal is a much better way to push yourself during a workout than focusing on how fatigued you feel or the fact that the scale hasn't moved in a week.
The Excuse: "I want to have fun -- not be a super health-nut freak"
Get excited, because it turns out cheating on your diet can actually help your workout. Cabral says he recommends his clients have a weekly cheat meal (where you can eat whatever you want). Not only does this give you something to look forward to each week, but he says a cheat meal releases the hormone leptin, which tells the body you're not starving. The result? It can actually boost your metabolism and make you lose more weight over the next week. Just don't hop on the scale after that pizza: "You may initially go up in pounds from water weight and salt retention, but by the end of the week you'll be lower," says Cabral.
The Excuse: "I'm too sore"
If you're feeling too sore to move the day after a workout and can't even begin to attempt another minute of exercise, it's time to rethink your strategy. Shaar says sometimes it's beneficial to end a workout a little prematurely. "It enables me to end on a high note while I still feel very energetic, it enhances my post-workout glow, and it truly makes me look forward to my next session," she says.
Spangler says this method is an especially great idea when you're just starting out. "People start giving 100 percent and then they burn out quickly," Spangler says. "You're better off starting slowly with something like strength training or a yoga class [if you're not used to exercising]. Then build up your stamina and try more challenging workouts."
The Excuse: "I have an old back/foot/leg injury that I don't want to aggravate"
While this excuse will get you out of some workouts, our experts say there are plenty of exercise methods that can actually help heal old injuries and ease body pain, which in turn can motivate you to work out even more.
If you have back, hip, or leg pain, Pilates can help strengthen your core and improve your range of motion, says Michael Leonardi, administrator at the Neurac Institute for Physical Therapy. "If you fix little nagging injuries, you can get better workouts and enhance your performance," he says.
Cabral recommends starting with stretching, interval training, and resistance training if you're overweight. Extra weight can often mess up your alignment and cause injuries if you start running or doing hard-core aerobics.
The Excuse: "I'm so frustrated with my progress"
Frustration is totally normal when you're working toward a fitness goal. The key, however, is to understand how to work through it. First, Gervais says we need to realize that frustration is a secondary emotion; it's actually a reaction to hurt or fear. So ask yourself what you're afraid of, he says. "You may be fearful of some outcome, like 'All the work I'm doing is not going to pay off' or 'I'm not going to get where I want to be,'" says Gervais. When you know what's really bothering you, you can address that and make adjustments in your fitness plan to work through it.
Gervais also points out that frustration isn't actually bad. "Frustration is where growth takes place," he says. "Most people are trying on a regular basis to be comfortable, but that's not where true learning and growth happens. When you're frustrated, know that you're on the edge of the comfort/uncomfortable zone."
When you do get in that zone, Vokshoor says it's a good idea to stop, take a deep breath, and have a conversation with yourself. Remember that you're doing something great for you. Carrie Cheadle, MA, a sport and exercise mental skills coach, says it's also helpful to visualize yourself feeling strong and excited and motivated -- even when you're actually feeling the exact opposite. "Just by doing this you are planting those seeds in your brain and making it more likely that you will [continue]," she says.
The Excuse: "Exercise is overrated"
C'mon, you know this isn't true. But you may feel like it is if you don't really understand what you're doing. "I teach clients why they're doing the exercises, why they need to eat a certain way, so they understand what they're doing," says Cabral. "When you don't know why you're doing something, you'll fall off the wagon at the first sign of a set back."
To help you understand why the heck you're doing all those lunges, ask your trainer (if you have one) what the benefits of each exercise are. Or if you're going at it alone, check out fitness websites and magazines for more information on the benefits of exercise, both in terms of overall health and weight loss. It's a lot easier to trade an Oreo for a run if you fully understand what each does for your body.
The Excuse: "I'm too tired/hungry to work out"
This one has some genuine validity. After all, "your brain cannot be starving and have an effective workout," says Vokshoor. He adds that "state of mind dictates everything about physical performance." That's why proper nutrition and getting enough sleep is so important. Vokshoor says to think of your brain as having a gas tank; just like your car, it can't run on empty.
So yes, sometimes you may have to skip a workout so you can catch a few extra z's or whip up a healthy meal. But don't use lack of sleep as a consistent excuse. Instead, make it a priority to get a full night's rest so you can perform at your best. And in a circle of life kind of way, keep in mind that exercising during the day can actually help you sleep at night. So even if you don't feel like jogging 10 miles, do a small amount of exercise, get a better night's sleep, and be ready to tackle more tomorrow.
The Excuse: "My life's depressing/stressful enough, I'm not adding exercise to it"
If you're dealing with a job you hate, a stressful home life, or any major (or even minor) life crises, exercising is probably the last thing you want to do. But really, it should be the first. Exercise boosts endorphins and allows you to handle stress better (both by releasing stress during the actual workout and building up your stamina to deal with life in general). If you can't get out of your slump, here are two tactics to try:
First, re-work your thought process. Instead of saying, "I must work out," say, "I choose to work out." Vokshoor says "choose" statements are healthier for your brain, and those "must" statements keep you from reaching a workout-induced euphoria.
Next, practice gratitude. In a study where one group was told to keep track of things they were grateful for and another group was told to keep track of their hassles, the gratitude group was found to exercise about 90 minutes more per week than the hassle group. It makes sense when you think about it: Mulling over the raise you didn't get or how far away the gym is isn't exactly going to motivate you to get up off the couch.
The Excuse: "I'm too busy with my kids"
Kids can certainly be exhausting, but there are ways to use them to your workout advantage. Spangler says she reminds her mom clients of a few things: 1. Regular exercise can boost your immune system, which is helpful when you're surrounded by germy kids. 2. Parents can set a great example for their kids by living an active life (most overweight and obese children have parents in the same situation). 3. You can exercise with your kids, which helps keep them active, keeps you in shape, and is a fantastic bonding experience.
So instead of plopping the kids in front of a DVD while you run on the treadmill (or, OK, take a nap), put your iPod on and have a living room dance party or head outside and play. Vokshoor says just seeing nature can be an easy motivator to get moving, and doing activities that made you happy as a kid can help too.
About the author
discmdgroup DISC Sports and Spine Center (DISC) is one of America’s foremost providers of minimally invasive spine procedures and advanced arthroscopic techniques. Our individually picked, highly specialized physicians apply both established and innovative solutions to diagnose, treat, and rehabilitate their patients in a one-stop, multi-disciplinary setting. With a wide range of specialists under one roof, the result is an unmatched continuity of care with more efficiency, less stress for the patient, and a zero MRSA infection rate. Read more articles by discmdgroup.