Exercise: How do I get out of my own goddamn way?

Posted by
By: pagedooley – CC BY 2.0
By: pagedooleyCC BY 2.0

Exercise has always been extremely challenging for me. I’ve never been able to find that place of determination inside of me that is required to build up any sort of routine. Most exercise is not enjoyable because I’m so out of shape, but I know that would change with time. There is an energetic flame (deep) inside of me that wants to grow, but I just CAN’T.

I’ve tried (what feels like) everything, I’m at a complete loss, and I’m looking for some advice from others who have been in a similar boat and found their way in.

I’m not going to list my 1,000 excuses/barriers because you can fill in the gaps. What have you done to get yourself over the hump, get motivated to exercise, and create a sustainable practice? -PaintingMkay

My “get the hell off my ass and workout” hacks are these…

  1. The spendy version: Hire a trainer. If I’m actually spending cash on the cause, I WILL be motivated to get my money’s worth.
  2. The free version: Set up work out dates with friends. For a while, I had a standing date to go on hikes with my best friend. Soon, I was finding that once a week wasn’t enough for me, and I started going on more hikes just by myself.
  3. The extreme version: Get a dog. When I realized that I wasn’t EVER getting out of the house because I was working from home, I adopted a dog, thereby forcing me to get out and go on walks at least twice a day!

What are the ways you motivate yourself to get out of your own goddamn way and get to exercising?

Comments on Exercise: How do I get out of my own goddamn way?

  1. To be honest, I got back into working out after my mom died last year. My doctors had always told me that I should exercise for my depression and anxiety, and after she died after a year of terrible cancer treatments, I was finally willing to try anything to get the depression under control. I chose a beautiful path by the ocean and I look at it as a mental health treatment more than a physical thing, and now that I’ve been doing it for over a year, I’m really happy with my progress, and that alone is motivating now. Maybe it would help others to focus on the mental health benefits. That was the only way I could really get into it, and I continue to focus on the beauty I get to witness on an everyday basis in the world around me.

    • This is huge. I know I feel better when I’m more active, so this was a good reminder that it’s not just the physical benefits that are worth the effort.

      • I’ve found that regular exercise helps with my anxiety and depression, too. Plus I sleep SO much better if I do even 15 minutes of cardio. I think the body and mind are more connected than we realize!

  2. for me it meant..just keep going. i tried every class availiable where i was, resulting in terrifying yoga classes, a lovely stint with a morning exercise class where everybody else was 30 years older than me (and waaay more fit) and a heartfelt desire for a waterproof mp3 player. i discovered i hate running, but once going past the embarrassment, i kinda like nordic walking. i can tell if a teacher works for me during the first class, which is often a free trial, so that has gotten easier to manage.
    and then my husband decided to try “yoga for men”. he said, if he´d known yoga would be like this he would have started sooner. so i took a class with the same teacher and it was like nothing i ever experienced in seven years worth of yoga classes.
    i actually go twice a week now, and i look forward to every class. after years of forcing myself to go try yet another way, this is so cool! so yeah, i had to try for a good 10 years but right now: it is working! yay!

  3. You guys! I love all of these ideas, including a few I hadn’t considered, and I’ll be returning to this thread often to reread all of the wonderful responses. I had a feeling I wasn’t the only one feeling stuck, so hopefully this has been helpful for others as well. Now, to try and try again. Big love for the Offbeat community <3

  4. Sometimes you just have to do it. It doesn’t matter if you’re motivated, it’s a mental decision to do what you ultimately want to do. (Pssst, Self, do you hear this????)

    Keep in mind that you’re not the only one at the gym (or on the team) that feels awkward!

  5. A few months ago I downloaded a seven-minute workout app. Twenty seconds of exercise, ten seconds of rest; seven minutes of action total. No equipment needed (though I like my Pilates mat for the crunches).
    After a few days I decided to add a few sit-ups on my own, and increased that from five to thirty-five over a few weeks.
    It’s seriously the only thing I’ve been able to stick with, and with the help of a reflective friend, I realized it’s because of the “little gold star” reward (which is the reason I’m commenting).
    You get little notifications after the last side plank ( “workout complete, congratulations!”, “3 days in a row”, “7 days in a row”, “before 10:00 am”) which are nice. Within the app there’s a calendar with a green dot that shows up on days you do the workout. It makes me inordinately happy to see a long row of green dots over the past weeks, and that’s what motivates me to do it again and again each day.
    Also, I’m lucky that I don’t own a car and can get around via public transport and walking, so that much exercise is built into every single day.
    Other than that, I absolutely second the personal trainer idea. If you can afford it, there’s no better way to get that shit done and also to figure out where you personally could improve the most. I worked with a Pilates trainer for five sessions over the winter and I use the principles and positions she taught me every day.
    You got this!

  6. Try all the things! I know there are different options like ClassPass (I have never used it, just heard of it) that will let you try different gyms/studios. I tried pole dance classes 7 years ago when I was out of shape and convinced I could not be in shape. All these years later? I lift weights for fun, pole every week, joined a regular gym which I go to about once a week, and I run. Try lots of different activities with an open mind, and you might be surprised at what you love (I loved pole!) and what you don’t like (oh my damn I hated hula hoop class). And good luck. There are some times when I realize it’s been a month … or two… or three since I did anything. One commitment that has saved me is interning at a workout studio. I’m there, so I might as well work out…

  7. Ok, here’s what worked for me. I got a groupon for classes at my local gym. When I found a class I liked ( ZUMBA!), I kept going… and eventually became friends with some of the other women there, which became even more incentive for me to go each week ( socializing before or after class). I joined when the groupon ran out and I’ve been going to that class consistently for 3 years now, and it has motivated me to keep working out in other ways and to try other classes. Now I work out at least 3 times a week and I try to always do fun stuff so it doesn’t feel like a chore

  8. As a kid I was VERY active, at 12 I broke a vertebra in my back and being active was a thing of the past. In my later teens I started working out at home but once I started working a very physically demanding job working out wasn’t necessary anymore. Fast forward a few years, 2 serious motorcycle accidents, depression and a boat load of stress later and I’ve become a very comfortable couch potato who woks a completely sedentary job.

    I weigh more than I care to confess to and my fitness level is in the negatives. I’ve decided to get into shape or at least get fitter than I am now. The one thing nobody ever tells you about their fitness/weightloss turnaround journey is just how damn hard it is in the first few months. Nobody tells you that for at least the first week or 2 you’re going to ache in places you didn’t know you have places, that you’re going to be so tired all the time, that getting up super early in the morning is going to be utter murder and that one day your workout will go perfectly fine and 2 days later you’ll not even make it half way through before your body and the voice in your head are double teaming you, begging you to give up and go cry in the shower. The first 3 to 4 months will be the hardest and if you’re a couch potato like me, any time you get sick and can’t work out will lead to those first 2 weeks all over again when you finally get back into the gym.

    My personal tips would be:

    1) Realistic and increment goals. While it’s good to have an overall goal in mind, set your weightloss/fitness goals in increments and also realistically so that you don’t get discouraged by how far it seems you have to go or when you don’t reach an unobtainable goal within the time you’ve given yourself to reach it. If you want to be able to run 6 miles without collapsing but you can’t make it half a mile without looking and sounding as though someone should call the paramedics (ie the way I did) then set smaller, more easily obtainable goals like 1 mile, then 2 and so forth. Focus on these short term and more easily obtainable goals on your way to your overall goals to keep from getting discouraged.

    2) Celebrate every goal you reach to keep your spirits up, all work and no play make fitness and exercise very dull.

    3) Keep track of your progress with pictures or an exercise log so that you can see how far you’ve come to keep you motivated to keep pushing further.

    4) Workout buddy. Someone who will hold you accountable, who will help motivate and encourage you. It’s not as easy to give up or cheat/skip workouts if you have someone else who won’t be fooled by weak excuses and staying motivated will be a little bit easier if you have someone to speak words of encouragement when things get tough.

    5) Gym membership. Paying for a gym membership, especially a 2 year contract which you can’t get out of, will be a financial motivation to keep working out as opposed to wasting the money by not going. Another perk of going to the gym is that (especially during off-peak hours) there are going to be other unfit, out of shape people going through the same self betterment journey as you are and just seeing other people in your own situation slogging it out alongside you can be very motivating.

    Finally, it’s hard getting in shape and staying there. There will come a time when you’ll fall off the wagon, maybe it will be a few days, a few weeks, but even if you derail for a few months, getting back on track is always an option. Don’t see these times as failures, as hard as that may be. Setbacks happen to the best of us and it’s not failure as long as you get back on track and don’t give up completely.

  9. Generally, I suck at exercise too. I go through more active periods of time, but don’t generally stick to anything. But I’ve become a little more consistently active in the past few years, thanks to consciously recognising that activity helps my anxiety/depression. So I’ve been thinking about this since I saw this post, and here’s what has helped me.

    (1) The Non-Zero Principle
    I do not work out every day. Not even close. But I do try to make sure I have no zero-activity days, because if I do, then I know I will start having anxiety attacks and feel rubbishy. So I fit something in every single day. I’m lucky to be able to walk a mile to work and back, so that sorts me out most days. Otherwise, a ten-minute walk is good, especially if you can convince yourself you need milk or similar. If I can’t even manage that, a ten-minute youtube workout helps me. I usually use these:

    (2) The In-The-Mood Principle
    So, I try to stick to the Non-Zero Principle even when I’m not in the mood. But the flip side is – when I’m in the mood, I go for it. If I’m feeling frustrated or anxious and feel like running round the block really fast would help with that feeling, I go for it. If I want a ten-minute walk before bed, I don’t think “meh, I’ll do it tomorrow” – I go for it. Otherwise the feeling of wanting some activity will probably wear off and be replaced with chips. 🙂

    (3) The Optimisation Principle
    I try to keep a pair of gym shoes / old clothes / shower stuff anywhere I might want to go exercise. If you’re not sure whether you’ll go to the gym from work or home, keep supplies in both places – so that when the mood strikes, you can just go for it. This is less relevant to me now I mostly exercise to/from home, but have a think whether this could help you.

    (4) The Recording Principle
    I use MyFitnessPal to record food and exercise, not because I’m trying to lose weight, but because staying thoughtful about my health makes my behaviour better. I record with no judgement – it’s just an honest record, for myself, not a stick to beat myself with. A good tool if you can get into it.

    (5) The Phoebe Principle
    Via “Friends”. Going for a short run really helps me. But why should it be boring? If I want to sprint like a maniac to the next lamp post, why not? If I want to jump around and look crazy, who cares? (Obviously warm up and stretch first, and be aware of your limits. But otherwise, do what you feel like.)

Read more comments

Join the Conversation