Did you know exercise is good for you?! Oh, you already did? So do you exercise? If your answer is any kind of “no,” “sort of” or “off and on” then this article is for you. When you compassionately understand why you’re not exercising, despite knowing the benefits of exercise, you can stop bullying yourself and start moving toward a better, happier, healthier you.
There are many reasons people I meet don’t exercise, but no one has ever told me they didn’t exercise because they didn’t know it was good for them. What I do hear is people trying to bully themselves into exercising. They already know they should exercise but for some reason aren’t. “You should exercise, it’s good for you.” How many times have you been told that? How many times have you said it to yourself? As if you didn’t know already. This rarely leads to a sustained exercise practice and yet is the method often used.
So why don’t you exercise? If you want to be exercising but aren’t, ask yourself why. Be on the lookout for bullying yourself. “I’m lazy.” That’s a bully’s answer, a judgment about your worth. And it’s not true. It’s very difficult to address that kind of reasoning. But when you start to see the real (good) reasons that are holding you back from exercising you can address them and create change.
So what are your reasons? Please comment below and share what you discover. Here are seven good reasons I’ve seen many times. You’ll probably connect with some of these reasons more than others. If you find a particular reason rings true for you stop reading for a moment and let that realization sink into your awareness. Invite it in, acknowledge it, honor it. When you discover your reasons, you start down the path of understanding and compassion. Compassion and understanding are the first steps to change.
Here we go:
- You’re in physical pain and exercising hurts.
Often you’re hurting yourself in the name of health. Many people exercise to get out of pain but end up causing new pain or even worse, exacerbating pain they already have. And what makes me particularly sad is how many people believe exercise is supposed to be painful. They mistakenly hold the belief that some pain is how they know it’s working. How could a negative process, one of pain, cause a positive result, one of health? That doesn’t make sense.
- You’re bored when you exercise.
Do you think exercising is boring? And yet do you still try to bully yourself into doing it? Why would you want to do something that’s boring? You wouldn’t and that’s why you don’t. It’s pretty logical.
- It’s work.
Most people I know already consider themselves overworked. Do you want to add even more (unpaid) work to your schedule? No thanks.
- It’s tiring.
If you feel overworked you’re probably also tired. Why would you want to do something that drains your energy even more?
- You don’t have time.
Think of some activity you don’t particularly enjoy, maybe cleaning the dishes, responding to emails, doing your taxes. Do you feel you have time for it? Now think of something you do enjoy: perhaps going out for a drink, binge watching a TV series, doing your taxes (if you’re that sort of person). Do you have the time for that? Of course you do! The problem isn’t that you don’t have time for other things, the problem is that it’s difficult to make time for something you don’t actually enjoy doing.
- You’re unhappy.
You’ve probably heard that exercising is good for your mood. But it can be hard to exercise when you’re unhappy. And when you’re very unhappy the knowledge that exercising could help you is often, well, just not that helpful. It’s much easier to get moving when you’re already excited and pumped up to go but what do you do when you’re sad and lethargic? Even if you enjoy exercising sadness can make it hard to move.
- You should do it (but don’t want to).
It’s hard to keep doing something out of should energy. There are many articles available about the benefits of exercise; it’s easy to read these as telling you why you should exercise. I don’t know anyone who enjoys being told what they should do. Wanting to exercise is another thing altogether. Instead of punishing or forcing yourself with what you should do, wrap your mind around what you want to do. “I want to move because it feels good!”
Were any of these reasons true for you? They are good reasons. First, acknowledge that. Even if you try to deny them (as many people do) they are nevertheless still there. If you try to force or bully yourself you’ll still be feeling the pain of these unaddressed reasons. Can you give yourself a little empathy instead?
So now what?
If you associate exercise with these reasons/emotions/feelings then it’ll mostly just suck. So let it go. Let go of those beliefs about exercising and shift your focus.
Start living, playing, moving, and embodying yourself. This might be a major shift in your thinking. For many, movement is not something joyful or pleasurable, it’s a task. In working with people I mainly guide them to discover the pleasure of movement, living and experiencing the freedom of movement and the joy of freedom. It is possible. To someone on the outside watching one of my yoga or Pilates classes it might look like we’re exercising but instead I’m guiding the class to focus on the pleasure of movement. When you “exercise” in this way you’re building a positive relationship with your life partner: your body. Instead of focusing on what you should be doing for some future benefits, spend your energy on inhabiting the pleasure of the current moment. Rest assured you’ll be getting those long-term benefits anyway! Your whole life is full of movement and movement can feel good!