Do You Hate to Exercise? 14 Strategies to Help Motivate

I hate to exercise. There I said it. What about you? This of course does not mean I do not exercise. I do. There are many things each of us does on any given day that we don’t like to do, but yet we do them. For me, exercise is one of these things.

While I don’t like exercising, I do love how I feel when I’m finished and I know it’s good for me, so yes, I do it. I exercise.

I don’t know about you, but I get tired of reading countless articles stating that exercise is good for us, helps ward off diseases, recurrence and pounds. Everyone is aware that exercise is something we should all be doing more of. The problem with many of these articles, which often also point out that many women post-diagnosis are not getting enough exercise, is that too often they don’t offer suggestions about how to go about getting that exercise.

And sometimes just doing it isn’t all that easy for various reasons.

Giving and repeating information without also providing some tools to implement, isn’t all that helpful for some of us.

There are countless websites offering loads of advice from fitness experts, as well as non-experts. Such sources are great and probably helpful for many.

However, sometimes it’s nice to get strategies from somebody who’s a bit more like you, in this case, a person who doesn’t like to exercise all that much, but does it anyway – a person like me! (Of course, if you do love to exercise, I hope you’ll keep reading, too. Maybe you can share some advice to help the rest of us).

This is why I decided to put together a few strategies that I have found helpful. I will never be anything close to a fitness expert, nor do I care to be, but nonetheless, some of these suggestions might help. Or not. You decide.

14 Strategies to Help Motivate 

1.  Stop calling exercise ‘exercise’.

Personally, I like to refer to it as movement, but whatever word works for you is fine. I don’t get excited about saying I’m off to go exercise. In my mind, that conjures up images of misery… but if I insert the word movement, it sounds more fun, or doable, or something. Go figure. And movement of just about any sort is good.

2.  Stop comparing yourself to your daughter who runs marathons (yeah, mine does), your neighbor who rises at dawn to run 5 miles each day or your cousin the tri-athlete.

You are you. You are not them. Comparing almost always results in frustration, negativity and thoughts of why bother.

3.  Accept your body right now, exactly as it is.

And guess what? You are a worthy person no matter what you weigh, what kind of shape you are in or not in, if you have never exercised in your life and even if you never plan to.

You are worthy merely because you are you. Exercising does not make you more worthy. It might make you healthier, but you will not be of more worth if you exercise.

4.  Start really small and really slow. 

I know we’ve all heard this countless times because it’s important and it’s really what you need to do.

I am not kidding, if all you can handle is sitting in your chair and taking deep breaths in and exhaling them out, that is where you start.

Movement. All movement counts for something. Once you start, you can gradually increase.

5.  Join a gym, club or YMCA.

Dear Hubby and I finally broke down and joined one this past winter. We have a treadmill and weights at home, but I was finding it far too easy to push exercise to the back burner. Physically getting in my car and driving to the club helps me. I am forcing myself to take time for me. And then, of course, there’s guilt if I don’t go because it’s an expense. Whatever helps, right?

And it doesn’t hurt to play the cancer card either. Check to see if there might be a ‘cancer discount,’ special classes or some kind of incentive. It never hurts to ask and you might plant a seed in the manager’s mind about something they might consider offering in the future.

6.  Consider taking a Livestrong class for cancer survivors at your local YMCA if this is available to you.

Classes are free and the whole family can participate in a short-term YMCA membership, which is included when you sign up for this class. I found the class to be very worthwhile and I met some great people too. Sometimes colleges offer courses for free too.

7.  Don’t want to join a gym or take a class? Consider buying an exercise DVD, or two, or three.

My collection includes Jane Fonda (remember feel the burn?), Denise Austin and Richard Simmons (I know, can you believe it?) among others. With DVDs, just remember to not push yourself too hard and be sure you’re following instructions carefully.

8.  Try to recruit a friend or neighbor you can walk with.

This works really well. I did this for years when my kids were young. My next door neighbor and I met every morning at 6 am and walked around our neighborhood. We both hated exercise, but we loved the chat time. When you are meeting someone else, it’s hard to not show up. Too bad we both moved…

9.  When you foul up for whatever reason, don’t give up and tell yourself there’s no point in continuing.

This self-care thing takes a lot of perseverance, patience and persistence for most of us.

10. Try to find something you sort of enjoy doing.

Yeah, I know we’ve all heard this one too. The only sports I’ve ever really enjoyed because I’m not bad at them are table tennis and badminton – not huge calorie burning sports. I enjoy walking, so that’s why I try to fit in a daily walk. Admittedly, it’s harder, way harder, during the winter months.

11. If you have a dog (and even if you don’t), try to commit to going for a ten-minute walk most days.

Ten minutes isn’t that long. Try to ditch the excuses. I’ve used them all; it’s too hot, too cold, too icy, too slushy, too windy, too rainy, too humid, too buggy… Ten minutes is pretty doable even in less than perfect conditions. And the ten minutes benefits you and your dog too!

12. When you’re ready, go out a limb and try something new.

Sign up for a class, buy a basketball hoop, take up cycling or whatever you get up the nerve to try. I swear to God, one of these days I am going to sign up for a yoga or spinning class. I will do it – eventually.

13.  Don’t focus on your scale. This is about getting and staying healthier. It’s not about a number on a scale.

I won’t say throw it out. I also won’t say don’t weigh yourself daily because doing so helps some of us. But don’t fret over the numbers. And yes, I’m still working on this one.

14. Tell yourself you are doing the best you can.

It’s nice to hear and it’s a great motivator to keep at it.

So there you have my tips.

I hope they help! 

Update:  You might want to read, Ditch the Excuses! Seven Tips to Help You Get Out the Door for Winter Walks

What would you add to this list?

Do you like to exercise or not so much? 

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Do you hate to exercise? 14 strategies to help motivate #exercise #cancer #movement

27 thoughts to “Do You Hate to Exercise? 14 Strategies to Help Motivate”

  1. Sitting here laughing in Lalaland as I read your post, Nancy. Sitting is the operative word, something I do too much of when I’m on FB. Have considered getting a standing desk. Okay, I’ll be back in ten. Going to walk the dog. 🙂 Great piece!!

    1. Nicki, Your comment made me laugh. Maybe I need a standing desk too! Hope you enjoyed your walk. Thanks for reading, commenting and sharing.

  2. I also was never much of an “exerciser.” Now I ask myself if I would rather exercise for an hour or spend a week recovering from my last round of chemo. Easy answer for me! I really think of it as putting another deposit in my life bank. I go to a spinning class. When the lights are out, I visualize some of my most favorite places I have walked or biked. Makes the hour go faster and I am smiling when done.

    1. Teresa, I am trying to think of it in much the same way. I’ve always exercised (well, not always), but I still don’t like doing it. I’d much rather do something else. Love your idea of visualizing your favorite places when at your spinning class. That’s just great. Thanks for reading and sharing.

  3. I can’t stand “exercise” but do love activity. So, biking, badminton, cleaning, and working at a library part-time moving books is my engagement. The badminton beats all for bringing out a sweat.

    We play with the idea of getting a dog, and certainly the walks would be a lovely side-benefit for everyone 🙂

  4. I don’t really “work out” all that often, but I am very active, always walking my dog or walking even without him. I enjoy walking and find it relaxing, so I think you are right that the key is finding something you actually enjoy doing. I can actually get quite crabby if I don’t get a walk in, so that’s another reason I do it first thing almost every morning.

    Other fun things (in my opinion) are sledding, ice skating, playing at the beach, etc.

    Also, just signing up for some sort of “event” can be a motivator, like just paying the $35 registration fee for a 5K months in advance. If you pay for something, you’ll stick to it and probably at least train a little for it.

    1. Lindsay, I know that should be the goal for all of us, to be more active in general. It’s all about movement. I admire the way you have always stayed so active and how you even walked dogs in sub-zero weather. It’s funny that you get crabby if you’re not active. I think you’re right about paying for something… that’s one reason I’m more motivated to keep going to our club. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I like your use of the word movement Nancy.Movement for me is more than physical–it helps me clear my thoughts, it helps me work through emotions, and it enhances my spiritual health by giving me reasons to be grateful and present in the current moment.
    I love to move, especially run, and I appreciate it even more after my cancer surgeries and treatments. I think the key is to not be too tough on yourself. Any movement is better than none, and tomorrow is a new day. A suggestion I would add to the list would be to get a pedometer and wear it throughout your day on some days. You may be surprised how many steps you amass doing housecleaning or cruising up and down the aisles at the store. It may even motivate a person to park farther away from a store or other destination to get more steps in. Thanks for another helpful post Nancy!

    1. Lisa, I love your comment. You are always so kind and compassionate. I know you’re a marathon runner, something I can’t even fathom doing… But you’re right of course, a person shouldn’t be too tough on herself and each day is a fresh start. I like your idea of the pedometer. I might need to think about that. Thanks for reading and sharing.

  6. dear Nancy,

    what a great post! you did exactly what is needed to encourage “movement” – followed through with helpful tools instead of just the same ole, same ole blah, blah about how exercise is good for us. and I also liked hearing what you like to do and the reasons behind each activity. I am sure you have provided real motivation to so many of your readers – great job! thanks!

    much love,

    Karen xoxo

    1. Karen, I am so tired of those ‘blah, blah, blah’ articles. I hope my post helps somebody. I know many of us struggle and some are dealing with very real pain, fatigue and other various issues, so it’s not always so easy to just do it. Thanks for reading and for the kind words. xoxo

  7. I feel like my relationship with ‘exercise’ has evolved over the years. When I was at school it was torture, shivering on a frozen hockey pitch and not getting picked for the netball team. When I was in my twenties I went mad with running marathons and working out like a loon at the gym – I had to have a goal to keep me motivated. In my thirties with kids I tried pilates and took up the running again but it was never quite the same. Now all I ever do is go for a walk, which clears my head if I’m alone. If I’m walking with a friend, I love the chance to talk – a different kind of therapy altogether (2 for the price of one!)

    1. Rethink Street, It sounds like you’ve always stayed active, so that’s commendable indeed. Once I get out the door, I love walks and with fall coming up, I plan to do more of it with my dogs since they love it so much too. I miss the days I walked with a friend, but now dear hubby and I walk and that’s pretty great too. And sometimes walking alone is the best, as it’s a great ‘thinking’ time. Thanks for reading and sharing.

  8. Nice idea to call it “movement”. I used to exercise and love it, particularly the sauna afterwards. But since my cancer diagnosis and my operations–I’m still on chemotherapy–I am incredibly tired and spend most of my time sitting. I was actually really thinking of what to do and how to overcome this ‘impasse’ when your blog entry arrived in my mail. Thank you! You have inspired me to do something about it.

    1. Katerine, Since you’re still doing chemo, you do need to be extra careful and listen to your body. Some exercise is still advised during chemo and it does make a person feel better, but please don’t push yourself too hard. It sounds like your body is telling you to rest and take things slowly. You’ll get back to doing more when you feel ready. Thanks for reading and sharing. Good luck with the rest of chemo.

    1. Marie, Nothing to feel ashamed about, Marie. I’d rather do other things than exercise, but I still try to fit it in when I can. In fact, I’m heading out the door now to walk the dog! Thanks for reading and commenting too.

  9. Hi Nancy,

    This is a great post, and your list is so helpful and comprehensive. I also like your term “movement” — it’s less harsh than the word exercise.

    I would add doing housework, if one is able to, as an excellent form of movement. Whenever I clean, sweat drips from me, so it counts, right? Do an hour or two of intense cleaning, and you have some exercise and a clean house to boot!

    Getting out the door to the gym, for a walk, etc. is the hardest part for me. Once I’m exercising/moving, I love it. Before my major surgery, I was a runner, as you know. Just did 5Ks and signed up for a race every week (and you get a t-shirt with such participation!). I did it with a friend, and these are some of my happiest memories. I was always the slowest one, but I didn’t care.

    After major surgery, running is too difficult, so I walk and swim, as you know. Now that Ari is six, she takes walks with me, and that helps me so much.

    I enjoy “movement” and am going to join a gym with an indoor track (for winter walking) and swimming soon. I hate the gyms that are meat markets, where everyone has a nicely toned body, which I no longer have.

    I enjoy the endorphin rush after a workout. And it really enhances my emotional well-being. Movement is the best drug in the world.

    1. Beth, You’re right, housework can be great exercise. Pushing around that vacuum is definitely a work out, although I find I have to be extra careful now post-mastectomy… geez, maybe that’s why I don’t clean as much anymore! ha. I’m glad you liked the post. I know you miss running, but it’s great you’re a swimmer and a walker. Walking is definitely something you can enjoy with Ari from here on out. It’s my favorite form of exercise, always has been. There’s something about being outside in the fresh air. Thanks for reading and sharing, Beth.

  10. Exercising is tough. TOUGH.
    During or after treatment, “tough” becomes “near impossible”.

    One little trick which seems to work is doing it in groups.
    A little motivation from others, a little chit chat between sets or as we walk, or even pushing each other to walk that extra block… they help a lot.

    The group does not have to share similar health backgrounds. No matter what, though, it’s kind of like a support group…”on the go”!

    1. Care Across, I like your one little trick. It does help sometimes to do things with a group or even just one other person. And I love that phrase – a support group on the go! Thanks for reading and sharing.

  11. As a cancer exercise trainer and health coach, I find that most people have misconceptions about what exercise should feel like. Those bad memories from being forced to run laps in gym class… Everyone has their own comfort level and it takes time to learn what is the right effort for you. Many people try to push themselves too hard and then get frustrated and give up. I love your suggestions to not think of it as “exercise” and instead, as movement. Once you reach a basic level of comfort with movement, and any health issues (such as anemia) are resolved, then it is possible to focus on building fitness and increasing effort. It’s important for each individual to start where their body is and only push for more intensity when they are ready.

    1. Alene, There are lots of bad memories for some of us that’s for sure. Exercise is so important, but some of us do really struggle post-diagnosis for a whole host of reasons. As you said, starting where you’re at is key and building from there slowly. We all probably know this, but actually doing it is the challenge. As it is with many things I guess. Thanks for reading and sharing.

  12. I’ve never been a gym person, but that’s not to say I’m sedentary. I engage in exercise under the guise of having fun. It should be enjoyable.

    1. Eileen, I’ve never been a gym person either. I engage in exercise too, but I have yet to find something that’s fun, other than going on my daily walks. Guess I’ll stick with that. Thanks for sharing.

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