I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know: You should exercise regularly. Yeah, big surprise. And you probably also know why too: Stuff like burn calories and control weight, decrease the likelihood of disease, sleep better, look better, get more energy and keep up with the kids, reduce your appetite, and, heck, even increase your life expectancy. A pretty compelling case. And the list just keeps going on.
And yet you’re coming up with all kinds of seemingly reasonable excuses: You don’t have time, you’re too busy, it’s hard on your body, you’re too old for this shit, you have an injury or physical limitation, and parts of your body simply hurt when you exercise.
A little disclaimer: I’m no medical professional and if you have an actual injury or illness, have never exercised, or any other health concerns, please do see your doctor. That aside, and I hate to tell you this, but these are all a bunch of excuses. Period. I know this stings a little, but somebody has to tell you this.
Let’s take a look, shall we?
If you’re out of shape, isn’t that the point of exercise!? Yeah, I know, it’s tough to get started and nobody likes to feel your body scream when you do stuff it’s not used to, but this is exactly why you need to get going. True medical issues aside, pain is your body being challenged and forced to adjust. Physical change is predicated on you pushing your body just a little bit past its current abilities, which is what prompts your body to change.
I’m not talking about overdoing it here or causing or ignoring actual injuries. Just challenging your body. (And of course, make sure pain or discomfort isn’t caused by poor technique or bad gear.)
If you’re a little sore after working out for a day or two - good! Muscle soreness is, in part, caused by micro-tears in your muscle tissue. And these little tears are good because when they heal, the muscle adjusts and gets stronger - every time. It’s part of getting healthy and in shape.
There’s tons of good material out there about how to start an exercise program. Find one of those resources and get going. You’ll start slowly, carefully, and build up from there. Frequency and consistency matter. Get going and don’t let a little discomfort stand in the way of progress towards a healthier you!
Sorry, but it’s never too late to start. Your body never loses its ability to adapt and improve. Things might take a little longer, but it’s still happening. And trust me, you need this. Without exercise, your cardiovascular system will slowly degrade and muscle loss sets in. You don’t want that. The good news is that these effects are reversible.
Don’t think you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Well, there are plenty of examples. I myself got a black belt in Tae Kwon Do in my late thirties and after never having run more than 20-30 mins, ran my first half marathon in my late 40’s. Just a year ago, I picked up yoga and am now getting more into HIIT and strength workouts. Age will only hold you back if you let it.
So being too old is not really a good excuse, my friend. Of course, you’ll have to start slowly and with the right types of exercises. Especially in the beginning, when your body isn’t used to it and your weight might still put a certain stress on your untrained joints, I might recommend no to low impact forms of exercises and then work your way up from there. A good example of how to start a routine can be found here.
We’re all busy, I get it. But let’s be honest: How many hours do you watch TV every day? How much time do you spend on social media or browsing the web on a daily basis? Yeah, I thought so. So if you really want to, you can make the time. If you logged where your time actually goes for a week, I’m sure you’d be able to identify opportunities to carve out 45 mins a few times a week, right?
And let’s not forget that a little creativity can go a long way too. Can you take a walk during your lunch hour? Maybe you could get up a little earlier and squeeze in a workout? Or head for a quick run when the kids are in bed? Maybe your work situation allows you to do “walking meetings”? Could you mix up your reading habits and listen to an audiobook instead while you go for a jog? How about doing stretching, bodyweight exercises, or light-weight training while you watch TV in the evening? Absolutely can’t find 40 mins of time? Well, could you find two slots of 20 minutes?
Once you think outside the box, new options will emerge.
Got a sprained ankle or tweaked knee? Or some shoulder injury? I feel ya. So obviously you can’t work out now, right? Well, not so fast, grasshopper… It would surely be convenient to get a free pass from exercise when you have an injury, but once again, I challenge you to think again.
I’ve had all kinds of injuries and issues over the years and in the end, all they did was make me mix up my routine. Knee or ankle hurt? Swim laps. Shoulder injury prevent you from lifting weights? Do cardio or yoga. Lower back problems? Walking or yoga actually help! Unless your doctors orders strict bed rest, chances are very good that there’s always something you can do! You’ll just have to get creative, mix up your routine, and design a workout that works around your injury. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
If you’ve followed me, you know I’m a big fan of habits. Habits are things we do regularly and almost automatically. There are several aspects to habits and I won’t go into too much detail here, but they start with motivation. Why are you doing something? How much do you want it?
When I went through my own weight loss journey (yes, I’ve been there!), one technique has really helped me. In the book Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success, the authors suggest you visit your default future. What does your future look like in, say, 5-10 years, if you don’t change? What will happen if you don’t do anything different and just keep going? I looked in the mirror, thought about that, and I didn’t like what I saw. I would gain pounds, just a few, every year, but steadily. I envisioned looking in the mirror a few years in the future and I didn’t want to become the reflection looking back at me. I didn’t want to see a belly. I wanted to be slim and in shape and hopefully see a few muscles.
What will you look like? What will your body be like? How will you feel? Will you be healthy and energized or overweight, dealing with onset diabetes, high blood pressure, fatigue, and other ailments? Really think about your default future…
There’s a lot more to it, but this is a good starting point. To make lasting and sustainable lifestyle changes, we need to anchor new behaviors into our lives via habits. We can’t rely on willpower. For more tips on habits and to jump-start your own healthy habits, please check out my cheat sheet.
Sorry about the tough love, but the truth is that if you really look at it, the reasons you bring up as to why you can’t possibly get regular exercise, are just excuses. Your age, schedule, physical condition, and limitations may be obstacles, but none you can’t overcome.
If you get clear about why you need to make changes in your life, think outside the box of your current routines, and don’t let your own thinking limit yourself, you can start on the path to getting fitter and healthier.
And we’re here along for the journey and ready to support you along the way.