Health & Wellness

No More Excuses: How to Banish Those Self-Defeating Thoughts Keeping you from Exercising

By Jeffrey Segal, NSCA-CPT
Some of the smallest positive changes in behavior can be the biggest spark leading to major change. 
It might begin with something as simple as taking a multivitamin in the morning. Feeling better about yourself, you eat a healthy breakfast. The next day, you may add a short walk around the block. The walk around the block might become a daily walk around the block. When you look in the mirror, you see a happier reflection. Before long, several things seem to have changed for the better. The possibilities are endless because minor healthy changes can begin a chain reaction, resulting in awesome personal achievements.
On the flip side, dodging minor healthy changes can become self-defeating and take up a lot more time and energy than the activity itself. Some people think about starting an exercise routine all day until, before they know it, the day is over.
The stress involved in letting yourself down can grow. The thought of starting in a few minutes becomes hours, days, weeks, months, and too often, years.
We tend to rationalize why we are not going to begin.  We have endless excuses, many of which are described below.
But remember, if you do not currently have a component of physical fitness in your daily routine and you add only one thing, you have already made a 100 percent improvement. And when you start that new exercise program, you are unknowingly making changes in everything you do.
Here are ways around those self-defeating thoughts that can become barriers to getting started: 
1. “Why start something I know I won’t finish?” Start slowly and do not try to pick up where you last ended. Always have a short-term, achievable goal. Share what you have done and plan to do with others. It can be as simple as posting your goal or activity on a blog or social network such as Facebook or Twitter. Try not to get caught up in the long-term goals. Remember that puzzles are completed one piece at a time. 
2. “I don’t have the energy.” Exercise may actually help increase your energy. Again, start slowly. Pick a time of the day you usually have the most energy. It can be broken up into segments. Make sure whatever you choose to do is in a cooler environment. The ideal temperature for indoor exercise is 66 to 74 degrees Fahrenheit. For people with MS, it is ideal at 66 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. 
3. “There is no time!”  First, ask yourself if you have enough time for dessert or to eat a few extra bites after you are full. If you keep a datebook or schedule, add a few possible times for exercise. Do you have enough time for your favorite television shows? You can do something while you watch television. Activities such as stretching can be done during a commercial break. If work is the issue, take a couple 10 minute breaks. That might seem short, but remember that five minutes is 100 percent more than zero minutes, and 10 minutes is 100 percent more than five minutes.
4. “I do not have the right clothes to exercise.” Sneakers, shorts and a t-shirt is all you need. If you do not have that, get it. If it is aquatic exercise, all you need is a swimsuit. If you have it but it does not fit, you now have a goal.
5. “I need to lose a few pounds before I start.” You can lose a few pounds by starting. Try to get stronger. The larger your muscles are, the more calories they will burn while you rest. That must sound good! Muscle is much more metabolic than fat (about three times more) and is much denser, so it takes up less space where it is stored. 
6. “I do not like to exercise.” Exercise does not need to be a sport, nor does it have to be done with large machines. It can be something you enjoy. Some-where along the way, we enjoyed playing; unfortunately, we stopped. Going dancing, swimming, gardening, or playing with children or other adults counts as exercise, too. Exercising with a partner is a great way to enjoy it. 
7. “I am too old to exercise!” How can that be? Did you wake up one day and say, “Today is the day when I have become too old to exercise”? You are never too old to exercise. It is like saying you are too old to eat. The longer you go without exercise, the more deconditioned you become and the greater the need is. Start slowly. You got out of shape over time, as you will get back in shape over time. 
8. “I do not know how to begin.” Exercise is not as difficult as it seems. If you do not feel comfortable exercising, try working with a personal trainer. Visit a gym and ask questions. Ask your doctors if they know of any local programs that will help you get started. The toughest part of beginning a new routine may be mental preparation. It is important to believe exercise is something you are able to do.  You can do it! 
Jeffrey Segal is a personal trainer in Boca Raton, Fla., and a motivational speaker and presenter nationally. A graduate of Florida State University, he was diagnosed with MS in 1998. He is a MSF Ambassador, and works with people affected by MS daily. Jeff was awarded the 2007 Personal Trainer of the Year by the National Strength and Conditioning Association and The Fitness Institute International. For more information, visit or by email,
 (Last reviewed 10/2009)