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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


Saturday 3rd of February 2018

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.


Monday 5th of February 2018

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.

Alene Nitzky

Wednesday 20th of August 2014

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.


Wednesday 20th of August 2014

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.

Care Across

Tuesday 19th of August 2014

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"!


Tuesday 19th of August 2014

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.

Beth L. Gainer

Tuesday 12th of August 2014

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.


Tuesday 12th of August 2014

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.

Weekly Round Up | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

Monday 11th of August 2014

[…] I am in the latter camp and really envy those who love to exercise. Thankfully I am not alone and Nancy shares some great motivating tips to encourage us┬áto get moving. If there is one thing I dislike […]

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