"I'm too far from my goal, so why start?"
Rut Buster: How about this for an incentive: Just by walking a little more every day, you can shrink your waist in 12 weeks. When formerly sedentary women consistently tallied a weekly average of 470 steps more a day — that's about a five-minute walk — than they had the week before, they lost a quarter inch from their waistlines without dieting. Whether you have a lot of weight to shed or a certain distance to run, break up your goal into smaller units, suggests trainer Tracey Mallett, creator of the Lose the Belly Flab DVD. Little victories, like dropping a pound a week or running an extra minute without stopping, will fuel your momentum.
"I hate cardio."
Rut Buster: Swap endless treadmill time for circuits, suggests trainer Jim Karas, author of The 7-Day Energy Surge. According to a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, circuit training beats aerobic exercise for building upper-body strength while giving an equal boost in cardio capacity. Try Karas's technique: Alternate one-minute sets of upper- and lower-body moves, resting for 30 seconds in between and doing each set with enough weight so that your muscles cry uncle at 10 reps.
"I'm bored with my same old routine."
Rut Buster: Spicing up your steady sweat sessions with speed will wake up your mojo, a study in the Journal of Sports Science found. Exercisers who did 50-minute runs rated their enjoyment as much higher when they mixed in six 3-minute intervals. Is it time to expand your routine repertoire? Check active.com for sporty events near you, or get free workout podcasts at motiontraxx.com/gseriesfit.
"I don't have the energy."
Rut Buster: Exercising at even a very easy pace will give you more energy than if you sit it out. A University of Georgia study of people who reported persistent fatigue found that those who rode a stationary bike three times a week at low intensity got a bigger energy boost than those who didn't exercise. In a follow-up study, the same cyclers maintained the extra oomph over the six weeks they kept exercising.
"No matter how hard I try, something always foils my workout schedule."
Rut Buster: Get a plan and then grab a pen. People who have a process goal, such as a target number of weekly workouts, stick to their routines with significantly more success than those who focus on a big-picture outcome — such as losing 20 pounds — or go along without any specific goal, a study in the International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology found; they also feel less stressed about squeezing in exercise. Next, schedule your gym time just as you would a business meeting. "That way, when someone asks if you can meet at 5, you can honestly say, 'Sorry, I have an appointment; how about 4 instead?'" says Sherri McMillan, owner of Northwest Personal Training in Vancouver, Washington.
"I just don't have the time."
Rut Buster: "Most people think they need to exercise for 30 to 60 minutes, which can seem daunting, but you can actually get a better workout in just 20 minutes," says Wayne Westcott, PhD, exercise science instructor at Quincy College in Massachusetts. The time-trimming trick: intervals. Try alternating two minutes of moderate-intensity cardio with two minutes of high-intensity intervals, Westcott suggests, for a simple-to-remember session. Still can't squeeze in 20 in one sitting? Do one 10- to 15-minute session in the morning and one after work. A study at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh found that overweight women dropped equal amounts of weight doing one 30-minute workout, two 15-minute sessions, or three 10-minute bouts.
"I bulk up too fast."
Rut Buster: If you want a foolproof formula for sculpting sleek limbs, "select a weight that you can lift 15 to 18 times," says Michele Olson, PhD, a FITNESS advisory board member and professor of exercise science at the University of Alabama at Montgomery. "That amount is not heavy enough to build any bulk, but your muscles will gain greater tone and increased staying power."
"I don't have any indoor options."
Rut Buster: Filter tons of DVD routines at collagevideo.com or online exercises at fitnessmagazine.com/buildavideo by searching for those that don't require equipment.
"I'm getting nowhere, so why bother?"
Rut Buster: First of all, swap the carrot for the stick. "You didn't gain 10 pounds in 10 days, so it might take a while to lose it," Karas says. "Be patient and visualize yourself in leaner days for positive reinforcement." Then look beyond the scale. "Remind yourself that the benefits of exercise — being healthier, happier, and living longer — are so much greater than the weight loss," says Kelly McGonigal, PhD, a psychologist at Stanford University. But if downsizing is your main motive, raise your game: Pick up your walking pace or add reps or sets. "You can't expect bigger results by doing the same thing," McGonigal says.
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, October 2009.