5 Common Fitness Saboteurs and How to Defeat Them
by Randy Leopando

Ever have those days when you feel like the universe is conspiring to keep you from reaching your fitness goals? Even the most committed fitness enthusiasts (myself included) face challenges to staying active. Sometimes we sabotage ourselves. Other times, life interferes with our exercise plans.  With the new year just around the corner, perhaps this blog will give you an head start.

Check out this list of common fitness saboteurs and learn how to combat them with practical strategies that really work:

  1. Stress

When you’re up against a work deadline or the kids are sick, you may feel you can’t handle one more thing, including exercise. But taking time out to go for a brisk walk or workout is one of the best things you can do during times of intense stress. Exercise helps alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression and helps boost your mood, enabling you to cope with whatever you’re facing. Even a short workout is better than nothing.  And believe it or not, a low to moderate intense routine is more ideal when cortisol (the “stress” hormone) levels are high.

  1. Unrealistic Expectations

Novice exercisers get frustrated when they expect big results too soon after starting a fitness program. Because they haven’t lost a huge amount of weight or developed six-pack abs after only a week or two of exercise, they throw in the towel. To avoid this mistake, set realistic goals and practice extreme patience. You can’t undo 10 years of a sedentary lifestyle in a week of walking. If you stick with a regimen, your body will respond to exercise. It takes at least six weeks of regular exercise and sometimes more for physiological changes to kick in.  Unfortunately the older you get, the longer it takes to “kick in.”  And don’t forget your nutrition…you can’t out-train a bad diet.

  1. Overtraining

Demanding daily workouts without scheduled rest won’t help you reach your goals faster. Instead, it’ll undermine your progress. Overtraining occurs when the exercise load is excessive related to the amount of time allowed for recovery. Overtaxing the body’s systems leads to decreased performance. Your joints and other soft tissue structures may need extra recovery especially if you haven’t exercised in a long time.  A day or two off from vigorous exercise each week is recommended for rest and recovery. This can be done through a combination of scheduling rest days into your fitness plan and alternating hard and easy workouts. For example, cross-training, swapping out a few runs for swimming or bicycling, is another effective way to avoid overtraining, but scheduled recovery days are still recommended.

  1. The Unexpected

You were going to walk after work, but now you’ve been asked to work late. Or perhaps you got an email that got you distracted and made you complete a task even though it could have waited. Life happens, and you can either throw up your hands and say, “forget it,” or accept it and roll with it. Resilience is your ability to bounce back quickly from life’s surprises and setbacks. This can be improved with practice. Strategies include having a workout “plan B” (i.e. workout at a different time of day like early morning), being mindful of your diet on those off-days, alternating your normal routine that day and make it more active (extra stairs, parking further so you can walk), or putting down that smartphone and give time to yourself.  As you become more resilient, you’re less likely to ditch your workout when something comes up. Instead, you’ll be able to quickly modify your plans and move forward.

  1. Negative Self-Talk

“I’m so lazy, I’ll never be fit;” “I didn’t even exercise once this week;” “I’m such a loser.” Would you talk to a friend or loved one this way? Listening to negative self-talk isn’t motivating, so what’s the point? Negative self-talk only destroys your confidence and motivation to the point where you can’t visualize success. But you don’t have to put up with it. The next time you recognize a critical thought, stop it and replace it with a positive thought, like this: “I’m so proud of myself for walking at lunch time today. It took a lot of effort, but I did it.” Behavior change is hard. Give yourself some credit for every step you take toward your fitness goals.

Sources: American Council on Exercise (acefitness.org)