9 Solutions for anyone who hates exercise

How to let go of your dislike for ‘working out’

One of the main reasons why people don’t exercise regularly is because they dislike it.

What if instead of thinking of it as ‘exercise’ you reminded yourself that all ‘movement’ is awesome?  The word exercise can conjure ideas of punishment, penance, #Fitspo, performance pressure and it’s usually associated with organised classes and gyms.  If we instead shift our focus to movement, it can help us to transform our approach to being active.

If you find ‘exercise’ a dreaded chore, this post is for you!  Let’s drill down to pinpoint exactly what you don’t like about it and either tweak your current activities, find you new ones, or revolutionise your perspective so that you don’t dread movement.


Why do you dislike exercise?  Some solutions


Exercise feels too uncomfortable

When you’re new to exercise, or it’s been a long time since you’ve been active, getting moving can feel extra tough.  The key is to start very easy, be consistent, and give it time before you up the intensity.  Avoid going for broke and hating every minute of it.  Aim for a level where you can talk and laugh and you’ve found a level that’s sustainable.  Avoid forcing yourself to do it every day and then ditching it because it was too much pressure on your schedule.  Three windows of movement a week may be a good starting point if it’s been a while since you were active.


I hate getting all sweaty

You don’t have to get sweaty every time you exercise – in fact you don’t have to get sweaty at all!  If this is what holds you back from being active, there’s a few solutions:

  • Choose low intensity ways to move.  Walking is awesome!  Gardening is brilliant!  Just because other people are posting on Instagram how much they love a ‘sweat session’, don’t feel guilty because you don’t.
  • Schedule your low key activities like gentle yoga, walking and Pilates for times when you can’t grab a shower (ie. at work during lunchtimes or on your way to work).
  • Save your super sweaty movement options for right before your shower or when you were about to wash your hair anyway – problem solved!
  • Keep a few handy items in your bag or desk like dry shampoo, wet wipes, deodorant, and a hair tie or head band that can make a huge difference to your comfort.  My advice for women with long hair is to inject a few forgiving, up do, hair styles in your repertoire.  Hair Romance has a stack of twist and pin options that will keep you looking respectable at work despite post-sweat hair.


I’m scared about my back pain (or other injury)

This is a very valid reservation!  If you experience chronic back pain or other nagging injuries, you might be reticent to flare them up.  It’s imperative that you see see a professional for advice.  An exercise physiologist or a physiotherapist will be able to set you a program that will help you to get fitter without risking further injury.  And the session can be claimed on many health insurance policies!


It’s boring

Find exercise boring?  You’re doing the wrong exercise for you.  I love running however I get bored to tears on the treadmill.  I struggle to stay on there for longer than a song or two, however when I’m outside the time flies and I enjoy myself.

What if instead of thinking of it as ‘exercise’ you simply got curious about what ‘movement’ you might enjoy?

Try the following:

  • group exercise for the social fun, laughs and motivation
  • move with a friend and enjoy a chat at the same time
  • add some rocking music
  • go to your favourite spot for your walk/cycle/swim/jog
  • dance around your lounge room to your favourite tunes
  • set yourself a gardening project
  • throw a frisbee at the park with a friend, or hit a tennis ball against a wall
  • follow a program via an app
  • set yourself a fitness event as a goal – having purpose to your training can make a huge difference
  • try a new form of exercise – indoor rock climbing, stand up paddle boarding, yoga, dancing, hula hooping, kayaking… get creative!


I feel stupid / People will laugh at me

Give yourself permission to be a beginner.  No one starts out an expert the first time they do something.  Our boxing beginners usually take 3 – 6 classes before the combinations ‘click’.  Messing up the moves is fine!  And you know what?  No one even laughs, they’re too focused on their own movement.

Whether you’re exercising at a gym, on a jogging path, or in a pool, there’s so much power in realising that most* people are just worrying about themselves and living in their own bubble.  Certainly in my 19 years of being a fitness professional I have never witnessed a participant laughing at or criticising a fellow participant.

*Unfortunately though our culture does fuel body judgement.  One of our Facebook family, Sarah, commented “Bear in mind that for many fat people, ‘People will laugh at me’ is an issue that isn’t all in their own heads – getting catcalled and even having stuff thrown at you when out exercising is a thing that happens. This is great advice as far as it goes, but we need wider changes of attitude before people of all body sizes can feel comfortable moving in public.”   

If you’re nervous and want a safe space that’s body positive try a fitness class or yoga class or fitness professional with a HAES® approach.  There’s great confidence in being in a group of people who ‘get it’.

Or start in your own lounge room.  There’s so many exercise programs, or instructional YouTube videos, you can do in a tiny space and you don’t even have to change out of your PJs!  Your lounge room is the perfect venue for some YouTube yoga, Zumba, hula hooping, tai chi, bellydancing, or shadow boxing.


I get too sore for days afterwards

It’s completely normal to feel sore and stiff for around 48 hours after you do exercise you’re unaccustomed to.  It’s best to start out nice and easy so you’re not crippled with DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).  Going all out only to be left unable to move will only make you dread exercise even more.  If you haven’t exercised in a long time start at about 40%-50% of maximum effort for your first session and build up slowly!


I don’t know what to do

That’s ok!  There’s plenty of expert advice you can tap into.  Hire a personal trainer, exercise physiologist or a running coach to set you up with a program geared towards your level and your health and injury history.  Often just a couple of sessions will set you up right and you can just check in now and then for a program update.  Join a class, a group or a gym so you’ll learn technique and be motivated.  Try some online videos or home programs from reputable sources.  Remember that if you have health issues or an injury it’s important to see an allied health professional for specific advice.


I’m not good at it

What does being good at exercise even mean?  Are there prizes given out for being the best at walking around the local park?  Medals for cycling down the bike path?  An honour role of dog walkers?  Exercise is not a competition.  We leave that to the competitive athletes, and ditch comparison.  When you focus on yourself – how you’re feeling, and what you’re enjoying – you’ll find that comparison starts to slip away.

Remember you don’t need to be ‘good at exercise’ for it to bring you benefits!  And remembering that is incredibly liberating!  We don’t need to run elite times or lift olympic weights to improve our cardiovascular fitness and our strength.  Ditch the comparisons to others.


I’m not a ‘sporty person’

You know what?  Despite the fact that I’m a fitness professional, I can’t hit a tennis ball to save myself, I make golf look like earth excavation, and I’d be lucky to swim a lap of a pool (across ways!).  You don’t have to be a sportsperson to be fit and enjoy the many benefits of physical activity.

If you feel uncoordinated and unskilled, then start with movement that isn’t a sport.  Maybe bushwalking? Dancing in your lounge room with no one watching?  Walking your dog?

Keep in mind though that these skills can be learned if you’re willing to embrace being a beginner.  I’ve seen hundreds of ‘non-runners’ consistently stick at one foot in front of the other and go on to run their first half marathon.  I’ve also seen women who were terrified of PE class, surprise themselves when they fall in love with HIIT boot camp and boxing!  Let go of that self-limiting belief and instead embrace “I’m the kind of person who will give it a go”.  What ‘IT’ is you can determine for yourself, because there is no one right way to be physically active.

If you try all of these measures and still hate exercise I’d love you to contact me!  

We’ll work something out together.  Movement is an essential part of a healthy life so you’ll need to work out how you can incorporate it forever without the drudgery!

An important note about eating disorders & disordered behaviour

If you’re experiencing or recovering from an eating disorder or disordered behaviour around food and/or exercise, then physical activity may not be appropriate for you right now.  You may dislike being active for a very good reason – it does not feel safe for you, it is triggering ED behaviours/thinking, and is harming rather than helping your health.  This is something that only you and your health professional team (counsellor/psychologist/G.P./exercise physiologist etc) can determine.


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