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How To Overcome Exercisers Block

A client and friend of mine recently emailed me and asked me if I would write on a subject that she was struggling with. It’s something that anyone who exercises for any length of time will undoubtedly find themselves struggling with as well.

Hitting a lull where you struggle to find motivation and enjoyment with your workouts. It’s referred to as “exercisers block” and is one of the main reasons people fall off the wagon and abandon fitness routines.

The most important thing to remember is when you finding yourself hitting a lull, it’s just a sign that something needs to change. Don’t beat yourself up as it’s normal to go through phases just like with anything else in life.

What are the causes of exerciser’s block?

Identifying the problem is the easy part. You find yourself not looking forward to workouts and your enthusiasm and motivation are in the tank. Perhaps you’re feeling tired, overly sore, and burned out. Your workouts are more “going through the motions” then focused and determined all out efforts. In short, if you do make your workouts, “you’re there but you’re not really there.”

I’ve found you can typically pinpoint one or more of a handful of reasons that bring about exercisers block. The first step is identifying the underlying causes of the problem so you can take the necessary steps to correcting it. Let’s see what might be culprit…

Have you had a change in environment?

The first thing to look at is seeing if anything has recently changed with your routine in general. Did you change where you workout at, with who, etc?

A lot of times I like to get feedback from personal training clients who take a break from working with their trainer. It could be for financial reasons, work issues, or that they’re simply going to workout on their own for a while. More than any other comment I’ll hear about how they find it difficult to find the same level of motivation.

The reality is things won’t be the same as when you were with your trainer. You won’t have the same level of accountability and motivation. The environment will be different, the interaction different, and the list goes on. You just have to recognize this fact and accept that it’s a change, plain and simple. And let’s be honest change can mess with your psyche for a moment.

Particularly difficult is leaving coaching and going off to workout on your own without any structure and accountability.

This is why I recommend transitioning into a small group personal training class, boot-camp, or some other group oriented exercise. This way you wont’ be completely on your own and instead will have a time and place to show up, along with people waiting for you to be there.

If you go to a group setting and still find yourself in a rut try another class or another instructor. Maybe it’s just not a good fit. This is one of those intangibles with fitness training. Everyone has a different fit and people they click with. If you don’t find it keep looking. There may be other issues we need to address but this would be a good place to start.

Have you lost focus with your goals?

If exercise becomes like tedious work you’d rather avoid, something has to give or you will fall off the wagon. Just know very few people really enjoy working out in the beginning. A smart coach understands this as just being reality.

Most people aren’t fitness fanatics and those who are have no trouble looking forward to workouts. Fitness is no different than most any other habit, routine, hobby, or endeavor in life. You start out slow, learn the basics, and attempt to develop things one step at a time.

There are actually three phases of progression with fitness that I’ve identified (from just starting out to having it be a part of your lifestyle) I’ll wait to detail these all out in a future post so we can keep moving.

The point is far too often people try to leap frog over the natural progressions and wonder why they can’t get into it. If you’re still fairly new to a regular workout routine, it’s much more likely to feel like work then something you can’t wait to do. Accept it as being normal but keep showing up because your goals are more important to you.

If you’re exercising just because you think you should or because your doctor, spouse, etc told you should, you’re days in the gym are numbered. You MUST have some clearly defined objectives and goals for WHY you’re doing what you’re doing. The more emotional these goals are to you, the greater the likelihood of your success.

When a new personal training client sits down at the assessment desk in my studio and tells me she wants to lose 20 pounds and get a hot body because she just got divorced and “wants to show her ex-husband and his chubby little girlfriend what time it is”….I know it’s game on and all I have to do is deliver the instruction and get out of the way. Not a lot of need for extra motivation or coaching.

You obviously don’t have to get a divorce to get really motivated (and that’s the last thing I’d wish on anybody) but you do need a strong reason “why” you’re doing what you’re doing. If you don’t have that “why” clearly defined, or you’ve lost track of it, get re-focused with your goals.

Setting small short-term goals for the month does wonders to keep your interest and focus. You’ve got to make the connection between why exercise is important to you and the effort that will be required.

Over time, the habit will become more and more enjoyable but in the beginning make sure you have your strong reasons “why” and you think about them before every workout.

Have you been over-training?

If you find yourself being sore or tired all the time, this is a sign that something is wrong. Exercise is no different than anything else. A little bit on a regular basis is a good thing, too much is a bad thing.

A see this quite a bit especially with females who are obsessed with keeping their weight down and do hours of cardio in attempts to stay lean. This is a one-way-ticket to over-training and getting into what’s called a catabolic state.

Eating very few calories and doing excessive cardio leads to muscle breakdown and a cascade of falling hormone levels. The end result is nothing more than frustration because no matter how much cardio the person does they still find themselves struggling to get the lean, muscular body they want.

While cardio certainly plays a role in fat loss and overall health, it’s not the magic bullet many make it out to be. The idea is to build an aerobic base by doing more longer-slow-distance type cardio workouts in the beginning then progress to fewer, shorter, and higher intensity interval or burst training workouts later on.

Combined with resistance training to support lean muscle development, good nutrition (not starving yourself), and plenty of rest, you’ll get the body you want with patient persistence and hard work.

The point is more is not always better. In fact, you want to be progressing so you can do more work (higher intensity effort) in less time. This means the time you spend on fitness can actually go down as you progress your level of conditioning.

If you find yourself stuck in rut with not seeing results and express symptoms of over-soreness, tiredness, difficulty sleeping, lack of motivation, etc, then the best thing to do is simply take a break.

Yes, that’s right just take a break from everything completely.

One week away from your workouts won’t set you back or cause you to add pounds of body fat. You need the rest and recovery for both physiological and psychological reasons. You’ll have to trust me on this one.

I’ll frequently take week long breaks periodically throughout the year with my training. The longer I’ve been in the game the more I understand and see the value in taking short lay-offs.

Other tips to help break exercisers block….

Try new activities…start riding a bicycle, if you don’t own a bike you can visit Bike Hint and get one, or go swimming, walk-run the bridge, do something new in regards to exercise from time to time so you don’t get bored. I do weight training pretty much all the time but I’m not a big indoor cardio person so I love to do things outside and mix it up. Find your flavor and just look for things you might enjoy.

Be a kid again…stop thinking exercise has to always be so serious and rigid. Exercise is just about moving your body so have fun with it. Watch kids when they play, they could give a hoot what anyone thinks. They’ll jump, roll, crawl, climb, and run around without even knowing their exercising. As adults we tend to stop doing a lot of these things. Ever ask yourself why? Hey, the kids are having fun, why shouldn’t you be? Go play with them every now and be a kid again yourself. You’ll be glad you did.

Join a contest…putting your name to something where people will see whether or not you’re sticking with it, is a sure fire way to change your internal motivation and psyche.

Post your goals on Facebook…and tell your friends that you’ll be posting your weigh-in’s every week….if you stop showing your results, you’ll hear about it, I’m pretty sure of that.

Get a workout buddy…..regardless of whether you do the same class or workout on your own together, having a training partner is the next best thing to having your own fitness coach. If you’re struggling on your own, stop being alone!

Last but not least, get some coaching. Maybe you can’t afford to meet with a personal trainer several times a week but you could make a commitment to meeting him/her once a week.

When you’re stuck sometimes you just need a support line along with some hope, encouragement, motivation, and direction. A coach who really cares about seeing you succeed can provide you with all of that and more.

Any coach who is a true professional will tell you that the ultimate goal is just to be there when you need them. Taking this approach with clients has served me well over the years as I’ve found people appreciate the difference.

I’m always here for you when you need me. When you could use some coaching I’d be grateful for the opportunity to assist you. Between myself and the staff of 10 certified Charleston personal trainers at Shaping Concepts we can help you get back on track.

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. You can receive a totally free trial of his Charleston personal training programs with no obligation to experience the Shaping Concepts difference for yourself.

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