When it comes to mustering up the motivation to hit the gym, the struggle is real — and struggle is something most of us would rather avoid. As a result, personal trainers and coaches hear every excuse in the book from people who may want to get in shape in theory, but don't actually want to log all those hours in the weight room.
"We are hedonists, after all," says Holly Perkins, CSCS, certified personal trainer and creator of The Comeback. "We like to be comfortable. And so a lot of times we are just going to choose the option that's more comfy."
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But that, of course, isn't always the smartest move. No one likes going to the dentist or doing cancer screenings, but it's something we still do because if we don't, the alternatives can be much worse, says Bill Belott, personal trainer and owner of Body Designs West in West Los Angeles, California.
If you find yourself trying to justify not hitting the gym or skipping your weekly Pilates class, here are some arguments to persuade yourself to do otherwise.
1. 'I Don’t Have Time'
The truth is, almost no one has loads of time to work out. As Perkins points out: "You will never just kind of haphazardly wake up on a Tuesday and be like, 'Oh, look! I have an extra hour and a half and I feel like working out.'" That just doesn't happen.
The key is to make the time to workout, whether that means sacrificing another activity for a trip to the gym or finding simple ways to fit in exercise as you do other tasks. Only have 20 minutes? Do an energizing HIIT workout.
Have even less time? Do a set of squats while brushing your teeth or walk up and down the stairs while you're on a conference call. As long as you're moving, you can turn pretty much anything into a workout.
2. 'I’m Too Tired'
It's a vicious cycle: You're tired, so you don't work out, so you're even more tired. If it's been a while since you've exercised, start small and be kind to your body. Going for a 15-minute walk is better than nothing.
Plus, you'll find that once you start being more active, your energy levels will get a boost, helping reverse the cycle of not working out. A 2008 study published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics found that low-intensity exercise reduced fatigue symptoms by 65 percent. And regular exercise can help you sleep better, according to a 2015 study from the Journal of Sleep Research.
3. 'Gym Memberships Are Too Expensive'
Belott and Perkins have both found that for a lot of people, one of the biggest things holding them back from going to the gym are the fees. And with some facilities (we're looking at you, Equinox) charging as much as $200 a month, it's no wonder.
But going to the gym isn't the only way to get in shape. There are plenty of other activities you can do on your own that'll also burn calories, be it rollerblading, gardening or putting on a pair of headphones and dancing yourself sweaty. And building a home gym with dumbbells, resistance bands and a yoga mat costs much less than a fancy gym.
If you prefer the company of others, consider paying for a single class at a studio or joining your fit tribe virtually with a live-stream workout class, which will still allow you to get a quality workout for just a fraction of the cost.
4. 'Working Out Is Boring'
Exercising isn't always the funnest thing on your to-do list, but there are ways to make it more enjoyable. Realizing that you don't have to be in a gym or behind a bike to get fit is the first step to figuring this out, Belott says. So long as you're moving and being active, you're doing something beneficial for your body.
Listen to your favorite workout playlist or a podcast or audiobook with a particularly gripping narrative. These days, many newer cardio machines have small TV screens attached to them that can help divert your attention while you're burning calories. Just make sure you're staying in the zone rather than zoning out.
Or maybe human interaction and a little friendly competition is what you need to keep you engaged. Why not join a sports league? Team sports, like softball or soccer, are great ways to meet new people and break a sweat.
5. 'I Had a Bad Experience With a Trainer in the Past'
This is something Belott says he hears from time to time. The key is, whenever you choose to work with a personal trainer, you have to do your research. Since it's getting easier to become a trainer thanks to online courses, it's up to you to make sure that you're hiring one who is educated and has a legitimate certification.
According to Belott, two of the most recognized certifications in the industry are from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). Both organizations have sites where you can validate your trainer's certification. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) are two other reputable organizations for certification.
Belott described picking a trainer as a "buyer beware" scenario where the onus of vetting them is on you, the customer. Even if you do find one that is legitimate, you don't have to trust them implicitly. If a trainer asks you to do something that hurts or feels uncomfortable, say something.
Read more: 9 Questions Your Trainer Wishes You'd Ask
6. 'I Have to Take Care of My Kids'
Finding time to exercise with little ones around can be trick. But thankfully, there are at-home workouts you can do while they're sleeping or playing in the other room. Or if you can't live without an elliptical or weight room, find a gym that includes childcare services with your membership.
You might discover, though, that your kids want to join you with your workout (if they're old enough). "There are so many great activities that you can do together," Perkins says. For example, you can walk the dog, go on a family hike or have a dance party in your own home.
7. 'It’s Too Hot (or Too Cold) to Exercise'
Bad weather can affect a lot of things, but it doesn't have to mess up your workout. On cold days, Belott suggests starting your workout with some form of cardio — be it a walk that gradually turns into a jog on the treadmill or doing one- to two-minute rounds on the rowing machine. This warms you up and loosens muscles that might be tight due to the cold.
Or try hot yoga or Bikram. The heated classroom settings and specific exercises are a great way to fire up your metabolism, Perkins says.
For warm weather, swimming is an obvious option, but you don't have to skip the gym entirely either. Make sure the facility you go to has an adequate air conditioning system and consider taking it easy. Modify your workout by focusing more on strength training and stretching. Ditching strenuous cardio is a good idea, but if you don't want to forgo it altogether, reduce the pace or incline.
8. 'I’m Not a Morning Person'
There are some people who think that working out in the morning is the best — and thus only — time to get fit, but that shouldn't deter you from hitting the gym at any time.
In fact, an April 2019 study published in Cell Metabolism found that evening exercisers don't use as much oxygen as early birds, so they lasted longer before fatiguing. And a December 2016 study in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism found those who worked out later in the day experienced great muscle-building gains.
But really, any time of day that works with your schedule is when you should try to break a sweat, even if that means getting in a run during your lunch break or heading straight to the gym after work.
9. 'My Knees/Ankles/Hips/Back Hurt'
Fear of exacerbating an injury is a real concerns, but it shouldn't stop you from being active. Depending on the injury, you can find a qualified professional trainer or physical therapist to help you work around it.
Plus, in most cases, staying physically active can help you recover from injury or address underlying muscular imbalances leading to pain. For example, stretching and strengthening your quads and hamstrings can help prevent or even alleviate knee pain, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Or opt for low-impact cardio like swimming, water aerobics or cycling.
10. 'I Don't Know Where to Start'
Thanks to the internet, there's never been a better time ever to learn about working out. "There are millions of free resources online," Perkins says. "You can literally learn in the privacy of your own home."
If you want to learn how to use specific machines or target certain areas of the body, you can look that up. Or you can follow along with workouts on YouTube or fitness-specific streaming services. Check out websites like Workoutz.com, the BeFiT channel on YouTube, or the blog and streaming site, Jessica Smith TV.
11. 'I'm Too Self-Conscious to Exercise Around Other People'
Perkins suggested reframing this excuse with the following question: "What if being around super-fit people inspired you instead? There is a popular saying that you are who you hang around. If you hang around super-fit people, there is a good chance that you'll will adopt some of their attributes."
And science backs her up! A May 2016 study published in the journal Obesity found that overweight people lost more weight if they spent time with their fit friends.
If the problem is simply feeling uncomfortable in a big-box gym, find a specialized gym, like one designed for women, tailored to the senior crowd or specifically for the LGBTQ+ community.
Or if you're a dedicated introvert, you can always stick to at-home workouts.
12. 'I’m Already Too Out of Shape. Why Bother?'
Don't let a self-defeating attitude prevent you from getting healthy. No one's ever "too far gone," Belott says, and even after your very first visit to the gym you're already better off than you were before you left your house.
And, even for those of us who think we're already in good enough shape that we don't need to exercise, there's always room to grow — to get stronger, leaner, faster and more flexible. As Perkins pointed out, you have to ask yourself: "Are you really willing to live the rest of your life as you are now?"