3 Reasons Why People Never Start an Exercise Program
Being a personal trainer sometimes places me in a bubble. I mean, I just assume people worry all day about their protein intake and spend hours trying to perfect the pull in their snatch. While I’m sitting there trying on different weightlifting shoes, some people are trying to muster the courage to get into the gym for the first time in a lifetime. Sometimes it helps to put yourself into someone else’s shoes to see how they fit.
Case in point: we all have a friend who avoids working out like it’s a root canal. It can be easy to shake our head at their lack of activity, but I can tell you that their reasons lie deeper than you think. Too often people who don’t’ start an exercise program get labeled with the “L” word – lazy. I cringe at the word and do my best to avoid it. Telling someone they’re lazy isn’t exactly going to light a fire under their “you know what.”
So why does that friend of yours never start working out? Or why did they stop exercising only two weeks into the New Year? Let’s take a closer look at this issue. We’ll also offer some alternatives so you can jump in, play hero for a bit, and make sure your buddy stays on the right track. It’s up to you if you want to wear a cape while you help them.
- Poor Expectations
Research with sports psychologists tell us something interesting: the more you overestimate your gains from an exercise program, the more likely you’re going to quit (1). That could be why your basement is flooded with all those infomercial gadgets. Doing crunches on some ab device you bought? Wondering why you don’t look like the fitness model that used that same contraption in the commercial? People tend to think one quick fix will cure all their fitness woes. It’s also why a lot of guys quit going to the gym after doing a set of bicep curls and not seeing any growth.
What to do: If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is. Get rid of all those wacky devices you bought and stop following that celebrity diet. Here at UEFP, we’ll tell our personal training clients what’s realistic: losing 1 pound of bodyfat (not just weight) is considered an aggressive approach. Two pounds a week is extreme and hard to keep up after four weeks. It sounds like small progress to some, but the smaller your success is, the more likely you are to keep the weight off long-term.
- Self-Perception/Body Image
A lot people get in their own way when it comes to training. The more weight you have to lose, then the less likely you are to start an exercise program (2). Which is unfortunate, because we know that the heavier you are the higher your risk for heart disease, diabetes, joint issues, and a whole host of other issues. But some people will actually stop exercising because they worry that they’ll look awkward in the gym (3). Even seemingly fit looking individuals can have image issues.
What to do: Perhaps training in a private studio would help, or at least hiring a trainer. An exercise buddy that’s just as serious as you can help. But more importantly, it helps to shed the image of what we think is “fit.” Bodybuilders on magazines and fitness models are not what we call real – it’s a moment in time. Doing a photo shoot for a fitness magazine requires diet manipulation, lotions, lighting, water management, tanning….just to name a few. Don’t get caught up in all that noise. It’s not really important how you look, what matters is that you’re trying to take control and make steady improvements to your lifestyle.
Everyone has time to exercise. I’ve worked with medical professionals who work midnights and executives who put in 70+ hours at the office per week. You have time to exercise too. After all, it only takes three to four 45 minute sessions a week to get into shape. You just might have to put in 6 months to get your ideal physique (see point #1). What happens is managing priorities. You’ll have to sacrifice some of your free time. Notice I said some, not all. Maybe going to the bar four nights a week needs to come down a tad. Or do you really need to binge watch the entire Breaking Bad series in one week?
What to do: Look, you don’t need to become a gym rat to get fit. But you’ll probably have to trim a few side activities here and there. What I tell people to do is to make a list of four things that need to be done in a day. Need means it has to happen that day or the world will implode. Most people can’t come up with three things. So it’s not a time issue, just a matter of tweaking what’s important to you.
Like I said, the issues for a lack of activity go far beyond calling someone “lazy.” Where there’s a will there’s a way, so wrapping your head around these three issues will help you get – and stay- on track.
1. Whaley, D.E., Schrider, A.F. “The Process of Adult Exercise Adherence: Self-Perceptions and Competence.” (2005) The Sport Psychologist 19, 148-163
2. Trost. S.G., Oewn, N., et al. “Correlates of Adults Participation in Physical Activity: Review and Update.” (2002) Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 34;12, 1996-2001 \
3. Huberty, J.L., Ransdell, L.B., et al. “Explaining Long Term Exercise Adherence in Women Who Complete a Structured Exercise Program.” (2008) Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport. 79;3, 374-384