How to Overcome the 5 Most Common Beginner Fitness Excuses

Jessica Smith
by Jessica Smith
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How to Overcome the 5 Most Common Beginner Fitness Excuses

We always start out with the best intentions: Hit the gym three — no, wait, make that five — days a week, run or walk 3 miles in the mornings before work, take that killer spin class on your lunch hour. You know the drill. But, if you are like most people, you might set the bar so high that you end up giving up on a regular exercise plan. Whether it’s being too sore to move from a killer bootcamp session or running out of time in your busy day to squeeze in a strength session, there are a million reasons to skip your workout.

Instead of looking at your routine as an all-or-nothing proposition, maybe it’s time to give your exercise program a makeover to better fit your current needs, schedule and preferences. You may find it much easier to stick with and might even find you start to look forward to your workout time (yes, it’s possible!).

Here are five common exercise excuses and the best ways to beat them:

  1. I don’t have 45–60 minutes a day to work out.

Solution: “I have no time to exercise.” This is the No. 1 excuse I hear. For some reason, we’ve got it in our heads that if our workout isn’t 45–60 minutes long, it’s not worthwhile. The truth is shorter workouts can be just as effective — and are often more effective — than a longer session. I’ve seen countless people go to the gym for an hour or more, but the actual time they spend exercising is probably 20 minutes or less.

Here’s the thing: If you have a plan and stay focused, you can get a great workout in 10 minutes and sometimes less. You also can do several 10-minute sessions throughout the day.

Whether it’s 10 minutes or an hour, your time at the gym won’t do much for your health or your waistline if you sit the rest of the day. So in addition to concentrating during your actual exercise time, stay on your feet and move as much as possible during your remaining waking hours.

Start off with a plan to fit in three 10-minute sessions a week. That’s such a manageable goal and, once you get that down, you’ll most likely feel motivated and inspired to do a little more. Gradually build up your exercise as your schedule allows and keep your workout time for just that — working out.

  1. I’m too tired/sore/exhausted to exercise.

Solution: This is actually a really valid excuse. But rather than continuing to blow off your workouts forever because of it, it’s important to address why you are so tired, sore or exhausted all the time. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, then focus on that first. People are always shocked when I recommend sleep over exercise, but the truth is it’s more important to your health and is crucial to having a good workout. Without enough sleep, you aren’t going to get very far.

If you are too sore from a previous workout to walk (or sit down), then it’s understandable you aren’t going to be able to complete another workout. This level of soreness, in my opinion, means you are doing too much, too quickly. Some degree of muscle soreness is normal when you are adjusting to a new exercise program, but when it gets to the point where you are limping, that’s not going to do you any good. If your workouts leave you on the couch for the rest of your day (or week), you’ll probably end up burning fewer calories and feeling worse than before you did that over-the-top fitness session in the first place.

Be sure to progress your workouts gradually. Master the basics before you add more complicated moves, heavy weights, etc. If you aren’t sure how best to do this, consider hiring a certified personal trainer who can create a customized program for you based on your needs and preferences.

And finally, if you are too exhausted, exercise may be just what you need. Stress can wipe out your energy fast, but a gentle workout is a wonderful way to recharge your body and release tension and anxiety. Ask your body what it needs. Some like to blow off steam with a good boxing session, while others may do better with some gentle yoga. Channel your energy into movement for an instant energy burst and stress relief.

  1. I only have 20 minutes to exercise during my lunch break, so what’s the point?

Solution: While fitting in shorter workouts can help (see solution 1), it’s also important to note that just because you don’t break a sweat, it doesn’t mean you aren’t getting a beneficial workout. If your lunch break is your only window of time to move, make it count! Whether it’s simply a moderate 20-minute walk outdoors or a 15-minute standing Pilates session, something is always better than nothing.

If your lunch hour really is the only time you have to exercise, consider getting your employer involved. Many workplaces encourage employees to exercise regularly; your office may even offer special benefits for it. Talk to your co-workers and boss about scheduling group activities, such as team sports or group exercise classes. I know several people who work out to my exercise videos on their lunch hour in a conference room.

Get creative, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. There may be many others in your office wishing for the same opportunity. Midday exercise is an excellent way to boost your energy level, stay healthy and keep your brain sharp — all of which can improve your productivity, so it’s a win-win for everybody.

  1. I can’t afford a gym membership or expensive fitness classes.

Solution: Gym memberships and boutique classes can get pricey, but there are so many other ways to stay in shape that this isn’t an excuse to skip exercise. Walking or jogging outdoors is free, and many parks even offer gym-style equipment that’s also free. Need a specific plan to follow? Check out MyFitnessPal’s free workout plans, programs and fitness plans!

Want a personal trainer, but shy away from the cost? Research certified professionals who offer team or group training sessions. Splitting the fee with several other people can help reduce your bill but still offer you semiprivate instruction and attention from a trainer. Love fitness classes? Check out online subscription services, apps or exercise DVDs. While they are still an investment, most are cheaper than a monthly gym fee or class pass.

  1. I’m just not motivated to move.

Solution: I get it. The treadmill can be dreadful (I hate it, too!). The good news is there are countless options out there when it comes to fitness, so spend some time finding what works for you. No one wakes up one day and says out of the blue, “I just can’t wait to go to the gym today!” It happens over time. Developing a fitness habit isn’t easy, but it can be much easier if you can find something that you look forward to doing regularly.

Think beyond the gym walls to discover what you enjoy. If you’ve always loved dancing, for instance, check out a local Zumba class. Love the water? Check out stand-up paddle boarding or kayaking. Love spending time in nature? Try hiking or cycling outdoors.

Whatever your exercise excuse has been in the past, it’s time to get real and figure out the best way to overcome your obstacles. Let go of the idea that if you don’t follow a serious schedule of regular weightlifting, running and yoga that you’ll never get in shape. Start small, start simple. Do something every day to get your body moving. Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day and that real results take time. Stay consistent, and do what you can with what you have every day.

And, if you need some extra help finding your perfect fit program, please check out my “Walk STRONG: 6-Week Total Transformation System.” This all-new, low-impact program has everything you need to succeed, including online support and accountability. Save 20% when you use the exclusive MyFitnessPal promo code “3Z74EZAT” at checkout on Amazon.com.

Tell me, what’s your biggest excuse or obstacle for not sticking with a regular workout plan? How do you overcome it? Share it with us in the comments below!

About the Author

Jessica Smith
Jessica Smith

As someone who struggled to lose weight for years, Jessica found that the key to her own 40-pound weight loss was making small, healthy lifestyle changes that led to big, lasting results. Now, as a certified wellcoach, fitness instructor and personal trainer, she has spent the last 15 years helping students and clients reach their goals in New York City, Los Angeles and Miami. She now reaches millions online through her YouTube Channel and home exercise DVD series. Please visit walkonwalkstrong.com to learn more about her fun, results-driven programs for all levels of exercisers.

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42 responses to “How to Overcome the 5 Most Common Beginner Fitness Excuses”

  1. #2 is very true. Everyone who experiences this should get a Thyroid panel (TSH, T4, T3, Thyroid antibodies, etc tests) as well as tests for your levels of B12, Vitamins D, C, and a few others. Deficiency and thyroid issues are way more common that most believe.

    • Avatar Tamas Dora says:

      Perhaps they should see a doctor first.

      • Avatar MsPooh says:

        How else would one get these tests besides visiting a doctor?

        • Avatar Tamas Dora says:

          I meant that I would not take a lay person’s advice. I hope that I clarified it for you.

          • Avatar MsPooh says:

            I didn’t really need clarification. My point was that it is not as if anyone can go to the drug store and pick up tests for thyroid and vitamin deficiencies. The only way to have any of these done would be to see a doctor.

          • Avatar Tamas Dora says:

            Great! Then we are in agreement that let’s the doctor decide what tests someone needs.

  2. Love this blog! Exercise is so so important to me and my life. I can relate so much to what you have said and helps me with my way of thinking at times. Thank you!

  3. Avatar Sheri says:

    Honest, positive, and helpful. I need to read this about once a month.

  4. Avatar James says:

    30 minute circuit sessions using a barbell n some dumbells worl really well and i come away more exhausted than a 2 hour weight session

  5. Avatar Tamas Dora says:

    I love the idea of going to the gym during lunch. IF you have enough time to drive there/take the public transportation there… and after working out still have time to take a shower, wash your hair etc. So, unless someone has a 2-3-4 hours lunch break and/or a gym at work, this will not work.

    • Avatar Jordan Bradfish says:

      I have an hour break and drive 10 minutes to the gym. You don’t need to shower and wash your hair afterwards. Get over it.

      • Avatar Tamas Dora says:

        First of all, not everyone’s schedule is flexible. Second, not everyone has an hour for lunch! Third, have you ever tried using public transportation or driving in lunch time traffic? Furthermore, not every gym is located conveniently next to someone’s work place. And finally (I have many more “excuses”), there are some people who have to deal with students, patients, or “just” clients/customers, and probably would like to take a nice shower after work out (if the person was able to go to work out), because not everyone likes to smell like a lion… and btw, I hate to smell someone else’s body odor. I am glad that all the wonderful people who are commenting here has a handful of times or maybe work-from-home or stay-at-home daddies/mommies, etc., because some people may rush between administrative, teaching and clinical jobs during the day, and by the time they day is finished, some gym are actually closed. And family is not even in the picture that requires additional time… So much about “if a person really wants to do it”… “Get over it”.

        • Avatar Cori Straw says:

          I don’t know where you live, but there are 24 hour gyms were I live. I have a full time job and six kids and I manage to work out…usually at lunch because it is my only free time or dragging myself out of bed in the morning(usually on the weekends) to go for a bike ride. In the evenings there is always soccer practice, dance, football, dinner, kid showers, quality time, story time and bed time so anyhow this is not a practical time because I am tired after cleaning up and I want to go sit in the hot tub or read for 15 minutes before I crash and get up and go like a crazy person to get to work on time. Point being just because you don’t make time doesn’t mean you can’t make time. It just means you have to want it bad enough! And I don’t think it’s polite to assume just because you make time means you stay home. Actually the peeps that stay home have it rougher sometimes when they actually want to get away. Who is going to spot them when they want to go on a run? The babies can’t watch themselves. P.S. You don’t have to go to a gym to work out.

          • Avatar Tamas Dora says:

            I am happy for you. I invite you to work on the health care field, be a nurse, and let’s see how much time you will have during lunch (if you have lunch). NOT everyone has the luxury to take off 30-60 min lunches, go to work out, not mentioning that you have to drive/walk back and forth, and “use clean wipes” as others suggested. If you read carefully, I was commenting on the lunch time breaks. Some people assumed that we all have time during lunch. Oh, and there are no 24-hour fitness gyms across the country. Just so you know.

          • Avatar Cori Straw says:

            It’s too bad you don’t have 24hr gyms. We have quite a few here. I’m sorry to hear that you don’t have a lunch at all. I think I might starve to death if I didn’t have a lunch (jk):)

          • Avatar Tamas Dora says:

            I am not saying never have lunch, but when someone gets sick, or quits, or there is any other reason for shortage, lunch times are curtailed. Also, I wish I have a job M-F, 8-5 with no weekends/holidays, but throughout my life I have worked many more 12-hour (or even 16-hour and 24!) shifts (yeap, you can do it! when you live in Europe), than 8-hour shifts. The lunch time we got was 20 minutes, and not one time after 7 minutes we were called to work (I worked as paramedic for several years). Again, not everyone job description allows to take off during lunch time and head for the gym. Also, in Europe, gyms are barely open after 8 PM. Or, while in the US, I came across gyms that closed at 11 PM, and/or opened no earlier than 6-7 AM.

          • Avatar Cori Straw says:

            That is a very, very long shift. Kudos to you for your dedication to work and to the care of others. That is a lot of time on your feet. Just think of how many calories you burned just being awake for that long! I can’t say that I’ve been that many places either. That’s what I get for assuming. Good luck to you in the future 🙂

          • Avatar Tamas Dora says:

            I don’t work as paramedic anymore, but yes, it is a lot of walking… I reacted to the above post to show that not everyone is looking for an excuse not to go to the gym, so that would be incorrect! I studied in the US etc., and even been the member of Bally’s. I made a 3-year contract for several hundreds to save, and some 7-8 months later the gym was closed. Practically, they knew that the gym would close when they offered the contract… Needless to say that I have never got back the rest of my money. They told me that I have another Bally’s within 25 miles, and I can go there. They missed the point that I used the swimming pool section of the now-closed gym, the new ones (there were two) did not have swimming pool, besides one of them was in a very bad district (regarding safety). The icing on the cake that when the aforementioned contract expired I got a mail for the renewal… and if I remember correctly, even it showed up on my credit history once that I did not pay (for the renewal). Great. Tried to call them, pushed different buttons, and after 40 minutes still could not get anyone on the line. I despise gyms like Bally’s., and after that I decided to pay by visit (you can do it in Europe) or go month by month.

          • Avatar Cori Straw says:

            Sounds like a horrible experience. I also do a pay by month gym because I’m always looking for excuses not to go and believe me I have a lot of them! 🙂 I haven’t gone for some time now especially since it’s warmer. I would much rather be outside than in the gym and it’s free except for the shoes and tires.

          • Avatar Tamas Dora says:

            Yeap. I was just googling Bally’s. They went bankrupt. Looks like I was not the only one who got the notice about the late fee for the renewal. Now I am sure that I was correct about seeing their late fee on my credit history and looks like not only for me (then it is disappeared from the credit history, and now it is clear why!).

          • Avatar Tucson Gal says:

            I, too, experienced a gym closing just a few months after selling me a multi-year contract. I was able to successfully dispute the charge with my credit card company and I got my money back.

          • Avatar Tamas Dora says:

            Yeap, now I educated. But around that time I did not even know what credit card means or that I can dispute (never had before). Surely if it would happen nowadays I would tear them into pieces with my bare hand…

        • Avatar Jordan Bradfish says:

          I drive in lunch hour traffic 6 miles to the gym I go to. Takes about 10 minutes. If the gym you belong to isn’t within 10 minutes of your house, leave it and join a new one! A lot of people don’t stink when working out (me being one of the many) but I can see that if you have a BO problem you’d need to shower. This is about the only point I agree with you on. Not a work from homer either – I work 8-5 and have a 40 minute commute each way, which is why I choose to work out on my lunch break.

          Not everyone can come up with a long list of excuses not to work out, but those that can are the ones that don’t commit and don’t get the gains and life that they are jealous of. Yes I sacrifice my lunch hour every day but it is worth it to me to be able to spend time with my family after work. Im already not home so I might as well spend down time continually improving myself.

          I’m sure a lot of people would love to work out 6 days a week and have a healthy body that looks good, but it is only reserved for those of us that commit to it, sacrifice, and don’t make excuses. Working out is for yourself and guess what? The only thing money can’t buy you is physical fitness. Sorry if this came across as a rant but for those that continue to make excuses, Im sorry but you don’t deserve to get the results without the commitment.

    • Avatar Peace of Mind says:

      Change of clothes, wet wipes, and dry shampoo do the trick for me. You are not squeaky clean, but you are clean enough to go back to work. If that is the only way for you to squeeze a workout in your busy schedule, perhaps it is worth trying.

    • Avatar MsPooh says:

      If a person really wants to do it, it’s possible. My employer offers flexible work schedules, so I chose to either come in 30 minutes early or stay 30 minutes late a couple times a week so I could extend my lunch hour. This allowed me to get to the gym, work out, shower, and still eat lunch. I’ve even done the wet wipes and change of clothes when time got really tight. Just like anything else, if a person really wants to do, they find a way and make the time.

      • Avatar Tamas Dora says:

        First of all, not everyone’s schedule is flexible. Second, not everyone has an hour for lunch! Third, have you ever tried using public transportation or driving in lunch time traffic. Furthermore, not every gym is located conveniently next to the work place. And finally (I have many more “excuses”), there are some people who have to deal with students, patients, or “just” clients/customers, and probably would like to take a nice shower after work out (if the person was able to go to work out). I am glad that all the wonderful people who are commenting here has a handful of times, because some people may rush between administrative, teaching and clinical jobs during the day, and by the time they day is finished, some gym are actually closed. So much about “if a person really wants to do it”…

        • Avatar MsPooh says:

          No, the point still stands is very clear. If a person really wants to do this (going to the gym) or anything else, they make time and find ways. I didn’t say you were making excuses before, although you really kind of seem to working at it now. Whatever. Go to the gym or don’t. It’s your life, your decision. You said it wasn’t possible. I (and a few others) demonstrated that it is, whether you agree or not.

    • Avatar Jo Amy says:

      Remember, you don’t need to go anywhere, have any equipment, or need much time to get in a workout! Even doing 10 mins 3 x a week can help you get a boost of energy and benefits of exercise. You could do 3 x 10 squats, wall push-ups, and tricep dips. A great 5 minute workout is 5 exercises, each for 0:50 with a 0:10 rest between each one: squats, push-ups, lunges, air-rows (fast rows as if you were using a band – these work!), and plank (or any kind of plank modification depending on your fitness level and where you are trying to squeeze this in).
      Good luck!

  6. Avatar Crazy Lila says:

    On here!! got answer for doubts for fitness, Thank you nice article

  7. Avatar Stephanie McCarty says:

    My biggest obstacle is getting sick (cold, flu, ect.) I’m too exhausted to exercise and then I fall out of my routine. This happens to me every winter.

    • Avatar JimmyCrackCornOnFeet says:

      It’s probably your body getting rid of toxins. Happened to me when I first started to work out. I battled through it the best i could and eventually didn’t get sick. Now I barely ever get sick in general.

    • Avatar Renee Soronen says:

      Happens to me too. I’ll get a great routine going for about 5 weeks then bam! Sick again. No workouts, eat like crap. Then I have to muster motivation to start again…

  8. Avatar Marilee Jikey says:

    I started putting my workouts on my calendar just like meetings, appointments and, social events. This seemed to work for me.

  9. Avatar Michell Holladay Gill says:

    I was doing really good. I was working out everyday, losing 1-2 pounds a week for 14 or 15 weeks. I got really depressed, and after not losing anything for a couple weeks I quit working out. I keep telling myself I’m going to start again tomorrow, but the next day I find an excuse, or just don’t feel like it. I lost my motivation and desire. I lost 2 pounds last week and so ihought that would be my motivation to get back at it, but so far, nope. Perhaps tomorrow will be my day.

    • Avatar Krishna says:

      What helps me the most is treating myself to new work out clothes. Even if it is a new sports bra, or a pair of shorts. You should try it!

  10. Avatar KJones says:

    I really feel like my biggest excuse is judgement or people looking at me. I hate when you go the the gym and as soon as you walk in you feel someone looking at you thinking “where have YOU been” or “man she really needs work”. It’s a confidence blow before I even warm up. I need like ways to build my own gym self esteem. Haha

    • Avatar Krishna says:

      I completely agree with you! A colleague of mine from high school goes to the same gym as me. He was extremely popular, and I was not. He even made fun of me to his friends. I see him every single day and I feel so embarrassed, I feel like he is secretly taking pictures of me, or texting about me to his friends etc. BUT I feel sorry for him because he doesn’t have a nice job like I do, or have a nice car like I do. It makes me feel much better about myself because I didn’t spend my four years in high school judging people, and he did. Honestly, don’t worry about those people because they don’t know your life, and don’t know what accomplishments you have.

    • Avatar MrT61 says:

      Sorry for your impression of “watching eyes”. Unfortunately I know it occurs but I want to remind you that not all people at the gym are…well, so rude! Last week I saw a young lady that was obviously just getting a start on her health journey. MY impressions was “Way to go girl!” What I saw was a young lady that had more guts than most because she was present, now, starting to make a difference INSPITE of judgemental stares. In fact, I considered her to have more character than all who may have been thinking as those you descirbe in your post. Just want to encourage you and remind you that some of us are screaming inside with excitement and joy when we see people like you! Keep it up!

      • Avatar KJones says:

        Thank you for that response! Knowing that there are those who are mentally “high fiving” you is a great way to shake the judgmental thoughts. 🙂

  11. Avatar Anna says:

    My biggest challenge is time. I have a 5 1/2 year old. My day starts at 4:30a, and wake my son at 5:30 to drop him off at school by 6:50 so I can start my day. In all honesty, when do have an hour to spare to insert the DVD to start the work out (I can work out at home), I’m exhausted…and I find myself dosing off while reading with my son. I know that I need to start working out as I’ve gotten a bit jiggly (I hate to admit this). But, I don’t know when I can do this. Help! I’m open to suggestions.

  12. Avatar Jane in AZ says:

    How about the pain of arthritis or other joint issues…not covered in this article. I’m not yet old enough for the “senior” classes…so what to do (I do get several walks in during the week…grocery store, drug store…each a mile one way).

  13. Avatar CTRL X says:

    One of the biggest excuses i would give was “i haven’t got the motivation” – especially when it was bad weather. Thankfully now, i have one of the best fitness trainers in the biz! No excuses and i’m worked like a donkey! I WILL get fit!!

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