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It’s too hard

Ok, I admit it, getting fit is not a piece of cake.  By its very nature, getting fit is going to be a challenge – you won’t improve unless you challenge yourself.  But if you’re reading this, you may have already made the decision that it’s going to be worth it.

And after hearing this excuse many times I’ve come to realise that there is more than one type of Hard.

The first is the “I didn’t realise it would be so difficult” variation of Hard, and I’m going to be kind here – it is possible, if you’re new to exercise or starting exercise again after a long period of inactivity, that you’ve dived too deep, too quickly into a hardcore programme for which your body is not ready and which it therefore really isn’t enjoying.  Trying too hard too soon is the classic mistake made by a lot of January resolution-makers – diving straight in to something which is way beyond their levels of fitness, so that their workouts are a humiliating struggle.  Why would anyone want to stick to something like that?

Martha Beck talks about “Edging into Exercise” in her book “The 4-Day Win”.  She quotes a friend of hers who told her “Ninety percent of being in shape is getting to the gym”.   He said this to her at a time when she was overweight and not exercising at all, but aware that she needed to change this.  So in the interests of edging herself into exercise, her first “workouts” were getting to the gym – yep, just getting to the gym, but not going in.  She drove to the gym every day for four days, parked in the car park, then drove home again.  After that, for the next four days, she drove to the gym, went in, and did three minutes of exercise, then drove home again.   After that she upped it to seven minutes, and so on.  Not long into this very gradual transition into exercise, she found herself wanting to do more than she was planning, and that her body “decided that it actually loved the gym”.  So gradual can be good.  There is absolutely no need to throw yourself into something at an advanced level on day one.  Martha upped her commitment every four days – so within a month she would have been doing 20-30 minute workouts, and the advantage was that she was actually itching to do more!

The other variation on Hard is “I don’t like working so hard”.   If you find yourself using this excuse, ask yourself exactly what it is that you find hard.  It might be a case of what I described above, or it might be that you just don’t like that particular activity.  I personally can’t stand running – for me it’s boring, and pushing myself to improve at it just doesn’t inspire me, so I find any sort of running Hard.  Whereas the effort involved in training with weights as heavy as I can possibly manage doesn’t strike me as hard at all, because I find it really satisfying.  So consider the possibility that you’re in the wrong gym class or forcing yourself to persevere at the wrong activity.  Start by asking yourself what it is you want to achieve, and make sure you’re doing the right activity to suit your aspirations (some tips: running doesn’t build muscle, Sunday football won’t give you well-defined pecs, pilates won’t burn fat).  Then consider if you like to exercise alone or with others – do you need to exercise with a friend, or in a class, or would you prefer to be going it alone?  And consider if, as part of progressing, you are willing to commit more time to it (running, cycling), to commit more intense physical strength to it (weight training) or to take more physical risks (climbing, gymnastics, martial arts).  Because at some point, to make consistent progress, your workouts are going to have to become more challenging ie. Harder.  “No pain no gain” is dated now, but “No challenge no change” is the modern equivalent.  And it’s true.  But if you’re working hard at something you find satisfying and effective, it will feel a lot less Hard than something which is not delivering results and which you find boring.

If you liked this sample chapter you can buy the “What’s Your Excuse…..?” books here