Why do we make excuses to avoid working out?

by Patrick Ibsen on Sunday 15 October 2023

3 min read

It can be tough to get into shape and all too easy to fall out of it. Why is this? Why can it sometimes be a struggle to workout? This article details five reasons that can act as a handbrake to your motivation. Some are unfortunate remnants of our ancestral past, while modern expectations influence others. All is not lost, though! We explain ways you can prevent these excuses from derailing your fitness goals.

You’re hardwired to conserve energy


At a basic level, our brain is wired to keep us alive. One way it does this is by conserving calories should we experience leaner times tomorrow. It many ways, it’s thinking similar to when we were hunter-gatherers and weren’t certain where our next meal was coming from.

Unfortunately, we still have this conservation instinct, which can cause us to think, ‘I’ll work out tomorrow and relax on the couch with a bar of chocolate today.’ The challenge is to overcome this mentality. Because as much as it benefits our physical health, it also helps maintain a strong mental health.

Our brains don’t realise we can easily pop down to the shops for food and needn’t worry about where our next meal is coming from. You don’t need to conserve your energy, instead, you can burn right through it and reap the rewards and endorphins of a rigorous workout.

You lack motivation and enjoyment

Sustaining a consistent workout routine requires motivation, and maintaining that motivation over time can be challenging. When motivation dwindles, excuses can start piling up. We suggest finding a workout buddy who can help you stay accountable and motivated. Set achievable fitness goals, such as running a couple of minutes longer on the treadmill, and reward yourself for achieving them, like treating yourself to a delicious post-workout smoothie.

Doing this can also restrict the perceived lack of enjoyment that comes with working out. If you don’t enjoy a particular exercise or find it boring, you’re more likely to make excuses to avoid it. Equally annoying, if your body gets used to a routine and your brain lacks stimulation, your enjoyment of exercising may drop significantly.

Finding a fun or rewarding activity can easily make exercise more appealing. Try to add a bit of variety to your workout routine as well, such as a group fitness class where you are all in it together!

You have no time to workout


Life can get hectic with work, family, and other responsibilities, leaving you feeling like there's no time for exercise. But here's the truth: you can always find time to work out!

Treat your workouts like non-negotiable appointments by scheduling them into your day. When time is scarce, opt for shorter, high-intensity workouts. Sneak in a brisk walk during your lunch break or right after work. And if you find yourself waiting for that toast to crisp up in the morning, throw in a few push-ups or squats – every bit counts.

If you still find it hard to fit in a workout, consider looking at ways of improving your work-life balance.

It’s uncomfortable and you don’t feel better

The very thought of going for a run or pumping weights at the gym can make some people feel uncomfortable. The reality is that exercising can be physically demanding and sometimes painful, especially when starting a new workout routine or pushing oneself to the limit. Also, frustratingly, you often experience this pain, but may not see the results until much later.

There’s absolutely no shame in feeling this way. It happens to the best of us. We recommend you start slowly and gradually increase the intensity of your workouts. Focus on the benefits of exercising – such as improving your health and mood – to motivate yourself. As for the ‘all pain and no gain’ mentality, try to train your brain to wait for the delayed gratification of feeling good or looking better. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

If you’re unsure where to start, one of our helpful, friendly Personal Trainers can assist you in developing an achievable and enjoyable workout routine.

You're feeling a bit intimidated


People who aren’t particularly confident in their physical abilities or are simply self-conscious about their appearance may use this as an excuse to avoid exercising in public settings like gyms or group classes. Overcoming ‘gymtimidation’ can be as challenging as exercising itself, and much like exercising, the effort you put into reducing this feeling pays dividends in the long run. We promise! Everyone at the gym will be supporting you, and moreover, they're also just focusing on themselves.

Some ways you can alleviate this is by setting realistic goals, tracking your progress, practising self-compassion, and surrounding yourself with supportive people – like those at your local Virgin Active gym. Drop in for a free trial and chat with one of our friendly team members about ways you can reduce the no-exercise excuse.

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