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Don't like to Exercise? Overcoming Your Exercise Fears

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Updated October 08, 2010

Don't like to Exercise? Overcoming Your Exercise Fears
There's been much made of America's weight problem over the past few years and much discussion of why we're so fat. One obvious reason is that we don't move around enough and I can believe it, considering how much chair-time I put in on a regular basis. Some might call us lazy, but I'm wondering if that explanation is a little too easy. After all, some of the most accomplished and giving people I know are also people who don't exercise regularly. I wouldn't call them lazy, but I'll bet that's one of the things they say to themselves.

Are We Really Lazy?

While I'm sure some of us are lazy at times, I'm convinced that one reason we don't exercise isn't laziness, but a feeling of dread at the thought of exercise. Physical exertion can be scary if you haven't done it in a long time and, for some people, moving the body to the point of increased heart rate, heavy breathing and excessive sweating may seem as foreign as flying pigs.

So, what are you afraid of? You can try my new quiz, Are You Afraid of Exercise? and scroll through the list below to see if anything rings a bell. If so, you may find some solutions to your fear of exercise:

1. Fear of Injury.

If you haven't exercised very much, you may not be able to tell the difference between the normal discomfort you feel from exercising for the first time (e.g., burning muscles or heavy breathing) and pain. In fact, a beginner may feel so many tweaks and twangs, it may feel like everything is pulling, tearing or falling apart.

Attitude Adjustment. It's inevitable that you'll feel something while you exercise, but it's important to separate genuine pain from normal sensations. If you're worried, read through this list of warning signs to stop exercising and be aware of how you feel throughout your workout. You can also do a few basic things to minimize your risk of injury:

  • Get the right shoes. Wearing the running shoes you bought 10 years ago probably isn't a great idea and can lead to all kinds of problems. Invest in a quality pair of shoes to give your body the support it needs.
  • Learn proper form. If you're lifting weights, the first way to hurt yourself is by lifting too much weight and/or using bad form/posture during your exercises. If you don't know how to do the exercises, hire a personal trainer, visit my Workout Center to find workouts and descriptions/pics of exercises, or get a gym employee to show you how the machines work and give you some basics.
  • Warm up before your workout. Though you might see people stretching before workouts, my opinion on that is to skip it. You're better off doing a more specific warm up. If you're walking, start off with a moderate walk. If you're running, start off with a brisk walk. If you're lifting weights, do a little cardio first or try a warm up set of each exercise with light weight. Jumping into your workout without warming up can lead to injuries and pain.
  • Work within your fitness level. Many injuries happen when you do too much, too soon. Start with a light program and work your way up to more intense and frequent workouts when you get stronger. For example, if you can only walk for 10 minutes, start there and increase your time each week.

2. Fear of Looking like an Idiot.

I've fallen off a treadmill. I've seen other people fall of a treadmill. I've seen people trip on stairclimbers, drop dumbbells on their own feet and destroy their CD players by accidentally flinging them across the room. Anything can happen when you exercise, especially when you take a lot of sweaty people and put them together with machines that have moving parts. It's also possible to feel like an idiot when you can't figure out how a machine works or aren't sure if you're doing an exercise correctly.

Attitude Adjustment. If you fall off a machine, drop a weight or do something else that makes you want to crawl under the treadmill and die, there's only one option here: laugh...unless you really hurt yourself and then you should shout for help. If you can't figure out how to use the machines, don't be afraid to ask for help. None of us are born knowing how to use machines and weights…we all have to start somewhere. Ask a gym employee or trainer for help or ask a fellow exerciser (when he or she is resting between sets). Most people are happy to help.

Next: Fear of Pain, Sweating and Failure

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