No More Excuses
It's 4 p.m. and you're at your desk, wondering how on earth you're going to make it to the gym when there are umpteen things you still need to do. Don't despair - you can get to your workout! The trick is learning how to counter the excuses that keep you from exercising. "By adjusting your thinking, you can overcome any hurdle," says Michael Sachs, Ph.D., a professor of exercise and sport psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia. Taking control of your workouts not only helps you get the body you want, it also makes you feel more in control of your life. So stop making excuses-and start making progress!
1. I'm Too Tired
"Unless you're incredibly sleep deprived or jet-lagged, there's no reason not to exercise when you're tired," says Sachs. In fact, working out will rev you up. Robert E. Thayer, Ph.D., and his colleagues at California State University, Long Beach, found that just 10 minutes of brisk walking can give you up to two hours of increased energy. If possible, work out in the morning. A.M. exercisers are better at sticking to a fitness regimen, say researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. If early evening is the only time you have, try drinking a cup of coffee beforehand. The caffeine jolt will get you to the also improve your workout performance.
2. I'm too busy
Many people don't exercise because they feel weighed down with work, but a good sweat session will make you more productive on the job. You'll have less stress, a clearer head and a better perspective. "You can actually get more work done after your workout than before," says Mark Anshel, Ph.D., a performance counselor with LGE Performance Systems, a corporate training center in Orlando, Florida.
A recent study at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign suggested that people who thought they were too busy to exercise really did have the time but chose not to make it a priority. Figure out how to incorporate physical activity into your workday. Try exercising at lunchtime, when many of us can steal away without missing too many calls or meetings.
3. I'll never look like Jennifer Lopez, so why bother?
"Comparing yourself with others is unrealistic and often leads to feelings of frustration, which can sabotage your workouts," says Richard Van Haveren, Ph.D., a sport psychologist at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Instead, set challenging but attainable goals, then focus on how you're going to achieve them, for example, by running two miles a day three days a week. "In this case, running is something specific that you know you can do, whereas looking like a certain celebrity may not be."
4. I'm too sore from yesterday's workout
Light exercise the day after an intense workout may help you recover faster, says Priscilla M. Clarkson, Ph.D., a professor of exercise science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. When you lift weights, you cause microtears in your muscles that then mend, making the muscle even stronger. Exercise, she says, probably increases blood flow, nourishing the muscles with oxygen and removing waste products. A recent study at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, shows that people who engaged in light activity the day after a strenuous workout experienced less soreness than those who didn't.
5. I feel as if I'm getting sick
Feeling under the weather doesn't have to keep you from the gym. Research from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, shows that working out with a head cold isn't harmful. The study, which divided volunteers with colds into two groups—one that exercised every other day and the other not at all—found no difference in the duration or severity of volunteers' symptoms. "While exercise may not improve or shorten your cold, it certainly won't make it any worse," says lead study author Thomas Weidner, Ph.D.
6. I'm bored with my workout
Boredom is one of the major reasons people give up exercise, according to sport psychologist David E. Conroy, Ph.D., an assistant professor of kinesiology at Pennsylvania State University. If you've done the same routine day after day for months, it's time to try something new.
To keep yourself interested, try varying your activity. Experiment with new moves from magazines or books, or sign up for a class you've never tried, like kickboxing, African dance, yoga or Pilates.
7. I'm too stressed
Instead of adding tension to your life, exercise actually reduces it. Studies show that when faced with nerve-racking situations, regular exercisers are less likely to experience chest or joint pain, anxiety or depression. Working out can buffer stress simply because it acts as a distraction. University of Wisconsin — Madison kinesiologist Bill Morgan, Ed.D., compared the effects of meditation, hypnosis, exercise and resting quietly to determine which had the greatest ability to promote relaxation. He found that by diverting people's attention away from their worries, exercise was most effective at lowering tension levels, with its calming effects lasting up to five hours.
8. I'm not in the mood
If you're in a bad mood, a good workout can improve it—almost instantly. In a study conducted by the department of exercise science at the University of Georgia in Athens, researchers found that women with high levels of anxiety experienced marked relief after riding a stationary bike for 40 minutes. Many researchers attribute the exercise-induced mood lift to several biochemical changes in the body, including a rush of endorphins to areas of the brain that control emotion and behavior (a phenomenon called runner's high).