It can be intimidating when starting a serious exercise programme. For every dedicated exerciser that heads to the gym six times a week, there are many just too frightened to begin.
With obesity levels rising and concern over the state of our general health, it’s important to assess just what is holding people back. It’s much more complicated for many people than simply being lazy.
We’re all lazy at certain points in our life. Even elite athletes have off days. But what if fear is stopping people exercise, rather than simple laziness? Many people say they dread exercise. It can be particularly scary for people who haven’t exercised in many years.
Common fears that stop people exercising
- Fear of getting injured or hurt
People who haven’t exercised much, beginning a new training programme can lead to easy injuries. It can also be difficult to tell the difference between normal aches and pains that come along with exercise, and real problems. For example, if you haven’t run in many years and begin a training programme, your muscles will ache, and it might be difficult to breathe. This is normal.
What can you do? Accept that you will feel discomfort when exercising. However, you must be able to separate normal feelings of discomfort from pain. Be aware of how your muscles should feel during exercise and ensure that you take steps to minimise the risk of injury. Here’s how:
- Use the right equipment – buy new running shoes and get them fitted properly.
- Learn correct form – if you’re new to lifting weights, you must learn how to do it properly. Otherwise you’re risking injury. Use a personal trainer or ask a member of the gym to show you how to do it properly.
- Warm up – don’t bother with stretching to warm up. Instead, do something that relates to the training plan. For example, if you are going to be running, warm up with a fast walk. If you’re weight-training, do a bit of cardio and light weights.
- Stay within your fitness level – injuries happen when you try to do too much too soon. Begin with a light programme and work up to more intense workouts.
- Fear of looking silly
If you’re not sure how to work a machine, or you worry about other people judging you, fear can hold you back. It can stop people from exercising entirely.
What can you do? Shake it off. If you have to ask someone what to do, or you fall off the treadmill, simply laugh it off. No-one cares. Everyone is focused on their own training and don’t have the time or inclination to worry about what you’re doing. No-one is a born athlete. Everyone has to start somewhere. Remember that most people are happy to help so just ask for help.
- Fear of it hurting
For some people, exercise means pain. They put off doing anything in fear of hurting too much.
What can you do? Remember that exercise is not meant to hurt. While your body will go through changes as you get fitter, you should not be in pain. And if you are, you should stop what you’re doing. If you can’t breathe while running, for example, stop. This means you are working too hard for your fitness level. Dial it back and work up as you get fitter.
As you become stronger, you will understand your body more. You will be able to differentiate between normal changes in your body and actual physical pain. Challenge yourself as you become fitter. If you ever feel sharp pain or pain at a high level, stop immediately. Go to a doctor and sort it out. Then start again.
- Fear of sweating too much
This may sound silly, but lots of people worry about how much they sweat while exercising. For some, the fear of sweating and smelling is enough to put them off entirely.
Here’s what to do: Understand that everyone sweats differently. There is no ‘normal’. It’s just the body’s way of cooling off. If it worries you, wear clothes made of wicking material so that the sweat is drawn away from your body. Avoid certain foods such as onions and garlic and remember that the only person worried about it is you.
About Surya Iacono
Surya Iacono is a fitness and wellness expert and blogger based in London, UK. Surya’s fitness blogs are aimed at keen gym-goers and exercise fans already well into their journey and looking for tips, tricks and ideas to take it to the next level.