Having a Hard Time with Exercise? Just Shut Up for a Minute

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Are you having a hard time getting yourself to exercise, because you just don’t like it very much?

Well, you’re not alone.

Most people who’ve been sedentary for awhile have a hard time getting started with exercise because it’s physically uncomfortable at first. The more out of shape you are, the harder it can be to get yourself up and moving. In most cases, this initial discomfort doesn’t last too long--especially if you start slowly and give your body a chance to adjust in stages instead of trying to run a marathon right away or recapture the glories of your youth overnight. With a little perseverance, patience, and experimentation, most people are able to find some form of exercise they enjoy enough to do it regularly.

But according to this article, some people find it very hard to get past the feeling that exercise is just too unpleasant or difficult for them.

I was one of those people for many years myself. My feet and ankles hurt even when I was just taking a slow walk, I broke out into a major (and embarrassing) sweat with the slightest activity, even in the cold winters of northern Montana, and I felt like a one-person traveling freak show if anyone saw me trying to exercise. I can’t even remember how many times I started a new exercise plan, got frustrated, and stopped again within a few days.

These days, things are very different. I get frustrated when I have to miss my daily dose of bike riding and/or hiking around in the hills or sand dunes. And this change didn’t happen just because I lost a bunch of weight and the exercise got easier.

In fact, it was the other way around. I lost weight because the exercise got easier. And that happened because I told myself to just shut up for a minute.

Well, actually, someone else told me to shut up for a minute. Luckily for me, I happened to be in graduate school during this particular effort to start exercising again, and was taking a class about how our expectations pretty much determine what we get. Not in the superstitious sense that if you expect to win the lottery, you actually will. But in the sense that you see just what you’re expecting to see, which is never all there is to see. The professor was kind enough to use me as an example for the class, demonstrating how my expectation that I would feel miserable during exercise caused me to focus on the discomforts and look for reasons not to do it, and compared me to another student who, of course, was doing the exact opposite and making all kinds of progress.

According to the professor, all I really needed to do was turn off that negative voice in my head that kept telling me all about my sore feet, how I was too heavy for exercise, how I’d just make things worse if I pushed myself to do something that didn’t feel good, etc, etc, etc. Once I stopped listening to that voice, he said, I’d be able to start hearing some other messages coming from less biased parts of me. He challenged me to go two weeks without listening to that negative voice, and instead, to keep a journal of what actually happened when I exercised, and how that made me feel.

I couldn’t argue with the guy without getting into trouble, so I played along with his little experiment. And…well, the rest is history. Here I am telling you the same thing he told me.

Do you tend to talk yourself out of exercising frequently with a lot of pessimistic or negative self-talk?

Are you ready to take the same challenge I took?

If so, here’s an article with some suggestions on how to keep the kind of journal my professor suggested to me: The Before-During-After Journal.

Look it over and give it a try. You might be surprised at the results.

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I could talk myself out of it, but my dog will tell me to get a move on! Report
Thanks for sharing. Report
Yes it is really hard to start but once you do go it gets easier and you also feel better too. Report
Yes. I'm the one who talks myself out of exercising. Great article. Report
Thanks for sharing this one! Report
Thank you for this excellent article! Report
I love this article it is so true. You can either tell yourself that your legs are sore and that you are tired, or as I have learned to tell myself "You've got this, you are strong, you can go all day and you love this". Report
thank you Report
Excellent great Report
thanks - needed this. Report
thank you Report
thanks Report
This holds true today. Report
Thanks for the article. I constantly fight to overcome the negatives. I planned to bike to work today and almost didn't because it looked like rain. Followed through, no rain fell and I felt great when I got to work! Report
Great advice! Thank you for the reminder, sometimes those voices begin to take over again and I forget not to listen. Report
Love it :-) Report
Absolutely! Report
Fortunately I do not talk myself out of exercising. I set mini goals and once the first goal is accomplished I shoot for the second goal. For example, I will set aside 2 hours to exercise 3 days a week. If I am started on a bad note (long day, bad night's sleep, etc) then my first goal is to dedicate at least 10 minutes to warm-up. Once that is done I shoot for a total 30 min workout. Once I get to 30 min I extend my goal another 15 min, etc. Eventually the 90 to 120 are done and I have survived. Report
What a great post! Thank you for sharing! Report
I can really relate to this article....Nett Report
My problem is that I don't listen to my 'good' inner self enough - my voice tells me that in 1 hour I will do some precise form of exercise and guess what - 1 hour later I decide to do something 'more important'.
My problem is that I go from nothing-to-something without physically warming up to the idea, i.e. I reckon if I started some simple stretching exercises, I might actually want to get on my elliptical trainer. Just like I used my elliptical trainer for 5 minutes yesterday to get my circulation going enough to do my daily walking outside in icy cold weather. My body is a temple, my body is a temple...! Report
Best thing I have read on this site so far!!! Great words that cover a multitude of areas in our lives.
Am sure it will be quite "freeing" as I incorporate it into my life! Thanks! Report
My negative thinking had kept me from starting again, not wanting to disappoint myself again. I was already telling myself that I was going to fail. But I ignored it and here I am. I am positive in mind and only looking forward. Good luck to everyone Report
Hmm. Def. worth a try. Report
I am also that negative person. Last year I was walking every day and when I missed it I was not a happy person. In fact looking back at it now, I was a much happier person when I did get to walk.

Thanks for the reminder! Report
I am that negative self talk person. Report
Right on! Report
When I was in my early 20's I was a runner, 5 miles a day & in great shape for a smoker/addict. Giving up addictive substances plus childbearing and illness (and of course outright laziness) has put me up to my current weight. I have started exercising again this week. Yesterday I walked/jogged my fat self for an hour and today I did 30 minutes. My feet hurt and I'm sore all over but I feel REALLY, REALLY GOOD. I can remember how it used to feel when I ran/worked out. I didn't do a complete hour because rain and pain stopped me. I think I put some dry sneaks back on and finish that other 30 minutes.
Playing "Superman" over & over on mp3 does help the "positive self talk" in my head! ;) ...."I may be disturbed, but won't you concede, even hero's have a right to dream.......looking for special things inside of me, inside of me" Report
So true, so very true. Report
I know that self talk has everything to do with where we are in life. I enjoy reading that I am not the only one that needed a wake up call. In fact it seems like I need frequent wake up calls. Thanks for the great advice. Report
You know it's funny -- I am the sort of person who jogs and bikes in the rain and snow (my inner voice actually says "hey, great, it's cold, so you'll have great fun!" believe it or not), and I only occasionally get the ugh don't wannas when it comes to exercise.

But I'm working on my MA right now, and I have a HORRIBLE time getting myself to sit down and write. I think I'm doing the same thing about the difficulty and discomfort with my academic life as some people do with working out. So maybe I should shut up for a minute and even keep an academic journal? Thanks for the inspiration, Dean! Report
Wow. Good words. Report
You are absolutely right about the getting started part. I do aquafit at least 5 times a week and if I have to miss it for something. My body tells me also I feel so good afterwards even the days I don't feel like going when I get there I feel GREAT. The main part about the story is start slow and find something you like try different things until you find the 1 that is right for you. Report
How much better I feel since I started walking and riding the recumbent bike. I'm 73 and when I started my hips hurt, that knee that had surgery hurt, and I couldn't last 10 minutes with exercise. With the encouragement of my husband and SP, I kept at it and now find that I hurt when I don't exercise. Report
I love the phrase "analysis paralysis" that NANCYJAC used! Thanks, Dean, for seeing into my mind about exercising. I will not listen to that little voice one day at a time. Report
I can so relate to this. When I joined SP in April I told myself I had to do the exercising, too. I had to talk myself into it every morning for a while. Then one day, it was so part of my routine, I didn't even think about it, I just did it. I do still talk myself out of using the treadmill. Report
i really needed this article, with the time change I've been unmotivated and my negative voice has been giving me ALL KINDS of excuses. I'm going to try this! Report
I started Spark two and a half weeks ago. I first did the strength exercises last Wed. On Fri. I didn't want to do them again because I was so sore! I made myself do them "Just to see what happens"; and, well, I felt so much better. It actually alleviated my pain and made me realize how much I NEED the exercise. I didn't realize that I was ignoring negative talk and focusing on a new expectation at that time. I will definitely keep this form of positive expectation up. Report
This definitely applies to me, but not so much for exercise. I'm a huge procrastinator, and I think the root of it comes down to expectations - that so-and-so won't be home when I call, that the store will be too crowded, etc. Wow. I've heard this before (and even called someone else out on it) but didn't stop to think how it applied in my own life. Definitely needed this. Report
I find that when I think about it in terms of "exercise" I never WANT to do it. When it's just taking the dogs out for a walk, or doing something physical that I enjoy, I want to do more and more. Right now I am trying to reframe my exercise into "playing". All those hours I spent outside as a kid trying to see how many times I could skip rope without messing up were really just great exercise! I just have to play more! Report
My INNER BRAT is named SPONDULEX and I try to tell her to SHUT UP, because she really hates to exercise, but she loves to criticize me when I don't do it. Report
My INNER BRAT is named SPONDULEX and I try to tell her to SHUT UP, because she really hates to exercise, but she loves to criticize me when I don't do it. Report
This was really helpful and came to me at just the right time! I usually fall into the group that gets really excited about a new challenge and I throw my whole self into it...until the next day when I'm tired and sore. Then I have a whole bag full of excuses to "rest" and never seem to get that excitement back. Next time I'm just gonna tell myself to shut up and think about not only doing it today but tomorrow and the next as well. Report
I really liked this I need to keep track for my self..I have a long way to go to my goal .. I have to do this for my self.. with a lot to loose..I have to tell my self every day to get out and do this.. i have a new friend that said that house work is a good form of exercise. any thing that you can do to help your self.. I hate that my husband can run 3-4 miles a day I might get in 2 miles of walking.. but I know that he has been a runner his whole life.. this is a start for me.. he is great he will after his run come and walk with me he tells me all the time that it will get better for me .. don't quit.. he wants me to be happy.. He is the one that get's me out there.. he say's it helps with his stress.. It's what you can do for your self Report
I know I am like others when I say that I am sometimes just too busy to find the motivation for exercise!

I go to school full-time, work part-time, and am a full-time single mom (of a very active 3 year old!) on top of all that. Most of my exercise is found in playing with my daughter, heavy cleaning and parking in the furthest parking spots at the store/work/school and walking the remainder of the way.

I try to do one heavy, solid work-out a week, but other than that, I just try to sneak little bits & pieces in! Report
I am a big proponent of self-fulfilling prophecy. My tendency is almost this exact opposite of what it described in this article. I want to do everything. Once in a while the end result is the same though. I get analysis paralysis trying to choose among all the things I want to do and end up not doing any of them.

I have also always had a major problem understanding what I call "victim mentality". I have encountered so many people who base their lives on what they think others or fate or whatever have done to them or keep them from doing. I really do try to be tolerant and understanding of those people, but my gut reaction is still "quit whining and take responsibility for yourself". Report
I have a love/hate relationship with exercise. I hate that it's so hard right now, but love the way I feel when I'm done and am stretching all those rusty joints and warmed-up muscles. My most difficult obstacle is simply getting out the door! Not because I'm that large (smile), but because there are a million-and-one tasks that cry for my attention. If I listen to those voices, I never get outside for my walk Report
This is exactly how I feel - I could have written this blog myself. So glad that I learned these secrets and now exercise has become such a part of my life that I can't imagine a day without it! Report
What great comments, and most of us can probably relate. I have just started to fight the excuses and get moving again. Report