Common Barriers To Starting Your Fitness Journey

I suppose you could say that barrier is just a nice word for excuses. Still, either way, many common reasons keep folks from an exercise routine/healthy eating/generally living a healthier life. Today, we're going to take a look at twenty of the most common barriers cited. How many have you uttered when challenged to do better? Let's find out!


20) I Can't Afford A Gym Membership

I get this one. Trust me; I'm the Pauper... When I finally got back into the gym (October 2019), it was a sacrifice of fun money in order to purchase a family gym membership at a local gym for my wife's birthday. At $65 a month for the three of us, that breaks down to just under $22 for each of us. I justified it because I had switched careers and could no longer take my daughter out to breakfast every Wednesday morning. That more than made up for the gym membership.

Gym memberships also vary widely these days. You can grab a bare-bones minimum membership at a chain gym for $10 a month. Then you have deluxe memberships that include all the bells and whistles for more. There are even gyms in town with a $230 per month price tag, *cough* Crossfit *cough*.

The big point here is that if you want to start exercising, nothing will stop you. Quarantine proved that to me as I could no longer go to our small gym due to local restrictions. Instead, I started doing these bodyweight workouts until I could purchase some dumbbells. In the picture of the article, you can see five orange spraypainted dots. These are plyo-dots on the floor of my building, and my daughter absolutely crushing some agility work on them.


19) I Can't Stay Motivated/Don't Have Success On My Own

There is nothing that makes me happier than an empty gym. Solitude as I clang and bang to my favorite music. No one to compete with for benches and dumbbells. That's my true Iron Paradise. However, one of the titans of the fitness industry, Arnold Schwarzenegger, admitted that having other folks in a gym kept him focused on his own training (Encyclopedia of Modern Body Building, 1985).

Unless you are an internally motivated person, then you need a workout buddy/accountability partner. Having someone hold you accountable can boost motivation, and you'll naturally see more success when you're pitting yourself against a friend.


18) I'm Too Self-Conscious To Work Out In Front Of Others

This is one of the most common reasons I hear around the office about why more folks don't use our pretty stacked work gym. What was surprising is that the folks that claimed to be self-conscious had otherwise natural self-esteem and all sorts of different body types. While your body composition might come into play, we'll cover those later on in the list.

To these folks, I recommend a few things. Find a tiny 24-hour gym and go when there is no one there. My wife does this every single morning. Not a soul to be seen during the 4 AM hour. Another solid option (for where there are store locations) is Planet Fitness. If you want a judgment-free zone, it's legit their mission statement. Unless, of course, you're one of those lunks for which their lunk-alarm tolls.

On top of that, there are literally thousands of home workout ideas on any social media platform you can imagine (thanks 'Rona)! Grab your workout clothes, tune in to your favorite fitness influencer, and slay away wherever you are!


17) I Just Get Bored

This one blows my mind. What is y'all doing in the gym to get bored?


Is it the dread-mill, or has some other repetitive machine hurt your attention span in the past?

Here's what I want you to do. Please find some workout headphones. This way, you can listen to your murder podcast, jam to music that gets you going, or binge shows while you're on a contraption that makes you bored. If you can sit on the couch for hours at a time, you can walk and watch, I promise!

Now, for those of you that get bored lifting. Tough love moment. You're. Not. Lifting. Heavy. Enough! That, or you're not doing enough reps. Heavier weights keep you more focused on what you're doing so you don't injure yourself, and if you do enough reps with lighter weights, the pain of the blood pushing into your muscles will get that attention back!

If you just get bored of the routine, then switch it up. The worst workout you can do is the one that doesn't happen. Therefore, the workout you will do is the best one for you at the time. Eventually, a workout becomes a habit and even a joy.

Again, there is an internet full of different workouts that could possibly keep your attention. Especially HIIT workouts like @thedadwod on Instagram for an endless variety of ways to punish, I mean shape, your body.


16) I Don't Like To Sweat

Haha! Oh, you're serious. Well... I suppose this could be a valid reason not to work out. Here in the Southeastern US, sweating is more of a way of life than a bodily function. However, if you don't like to sweat but still want to exercise, I have a couple of recommendations.

Low-intensity exercise may be the way. Walking on a treadmill, or another cardio machine, in an air-conditioned environment. Lifting heavy weights for fewer reps and slowing down movements for the maximum pump when lifting. There are also lower-intensity flexibility classes such as yoga and tai chi. Just stay away from anything with "hot" in the name.


15) I'm A Full-Time/Single Parent

Now here is a valid excuse. I, too, am a parent. Dad is my favorite title, by far. Fortunately for me, I was dedicated to being an insipid lard-ass while my daughter was small. Thus, I didn't have to worry about making time for fitness. Unfortunately for me, I topped 300lbs in no time. Now, she is old enough to enjoy working out with dear old dad (when I'm not dancing/dabbing in the gym to embarrass her, as is my right).

There are gyms out there that offer daycare services for parents that wish to maintain, or create, a healthy lifestyle. This, however, may be few and far between. We only have two in our area that offers this service, and even then, COVID-19 has suspended those services for the time being. One day, hopefully, this will die down a bit, and gyms will begin offering that daycare service. If you're lucky enough to find that, then go for it.

Now, once again, I'm going to champion the home workout. I understand that you have a list of things to do; your kids won't even let you go to the bathroom by yourself. So, how are you supposed to exercise? This one is tough, but it has to be important enough for you to lose some sleep, force some time apart, or sacrifice some space for your own health. That's the long and short of it. Refer to point 19 and get yourself an accountability partner that would literally watch the kiddos for you for a workout.


14) I Travel, A LOT!

Personally, I don't have a job that requires me to travel these days. Especially since the 'Rona times hit. However, I used to! One thing I found to be true is that most hotels have a gym. If they didn't have a gym, then they certainly had a sidewalk I could pound for a bit before I had to get back to business. Don't let travel derail your motivation for a better you. You have to be stronger than your excuses!

Another really cool thing is the fact that we live in the age of the commercial gym. You can visit any of the chains anywhere you go. Just do a little research on your chain of choice to make sure what they offer when traveling.

The last thing is food. I recently took a trip to Kentucky while on a shred cycle. Y'all, it was bad. For three days, I only caught one healthy meal (being relegated to a charter bus), and that was a breakfast from First Watch. I failed in the basic task of recon. Make sure to look at where you're going, weigh the options, and plan accordingly!


13) I Don't Know Where To Start

In the age of the internet, this one is easy to overcome. May I humbly suggest you start here:

Mistakes We Tend to Make Getting Fit

Home Bodyweight Workout (for those that don't feel ready for a gym)

Getting Started Lifting Weights

If you have the time and the money, consider a personal trainer (like me)! If you're short on time and change, then look on the YouTube machines for a limitless amount of workouts from nearly every decade. The most important thing is to get started somewhere. As you gain experience, you'll open yourself up to more varied workout routines and options.


12) I've Tried Before. It Didn't Work.

Me too. Me too... However, don't let that stop you from trying again! The best thing about failing is that you're now starting over with experience. So, maybe that particular workout didn't work for you. Maybe you didn't have the willpower to stick it out, but now you do. The main thing is that you're not the same person that failed. Contemplate it, do some research, and start again from a place of knowledge and power.


11) I'm Too Skinny

Let me play you the world's tiniest violin. Just kidding, sort of. Being of a naturally larger (and squishier) build, I'm jealous of those that have trouble gaining weight. On the flip side of that, I'm training with a fellow at work that wishes he had my size and could work to lose instead of gain.

It's all in perspective here. Being skinny means that you're going to have to put the work in at the gym and mealtime. Whether you want to tone up, strengthen up, or put on muscle, you're going to have to eat... a lot. I've seen folks at work "dirty bulk" with fast food and all sorts of garbage. The folks that do it right play the long game. That is, eating whole foods at a caloric surplus. This primes the body to make the right gains over a longer period of time.


10) I'm Too Tired


Are you now? Are you really? Or, are you just tired of being tired?

Good news! Exercise scientifically raises your energy levels and the total amount of energy that your body can expend overall. How? You ask.

The mitochondria is the...

If you didn't know how to answer that, then what did they teach you in school? It's the powerhouse of the cell, of course! Therefore, the more of them you have, the more energy your body will have. How do you get more of them? By creating more cells in your body. How do you do that? Exercise! Boom!

Seriously though, you can improve your energy by as much as 20% and decrease sluggishness by up to 65% by participating in low-intensity exercise. [Legit Study] Now, work your way into some HIIT and see what happens.


9) I'm Too Stressed

The overall cortisol (commonly known as the stress hormone) levels are on the rise worldwide in our instant knowledge/instant stress world. Get enough cortisol, and you'll start pumping some adrenaline too. Getting ready for that fight for flight response.

Well, once again, exercise may just be the answer. Now, I'm not trying to say fight clinical depression with exercise. However, routine exercise lowers the body's natural levels of cortisol and adrenaline. On top of that, exercise releases a healthy dose of endorphins (the pain-killing mood-boosting hormone).

Also, side effects of exercise include a slimmer waistline with increased strength and stamina. That's a built-in source of less stress as we feel more comfortable and confident in who we are continually becoming.


8) I Feel Intimidated By The Super Fit People

Being intimidated in a gym is a tale as old as middle-school gym class. Being of husky size, with an unfortunate undercut chili bowl, I know too well the sting of being picked last in the gym.

Fast forward to adult life, and the equivalent is sitting down on a bench in front of the dumbbell rack trying to figure out what to do when Gary Gunz walks up and asks if you're still using the bench. Maybe getting on a treadmill at a brisk walk when Susie Six-Pack starts tearing through back-to-back 8-minute miles.

It can get to you. However, much like being self-conscious in the gym, you'll have to come up with a workaround that works for you. If you're too intimidated by the ladies and gentlemen that throw around weights, you can yet dream of, then go when they're not there. Better yet, get one of them to recommend exercises for you as a beginner. I promise that folks that work that hard on themselves will usually be more than happy to give you some pointers.

Also, keep in mind the gyms that are programmed towards those just beginning their journey and employ the "lunk alarm" type systems for those that might otherwise be seen as intimidating. Most folks that are at the gym to work out are there for just that... to work out. If self-consciousness starts, refocus on what you're doing and turn up those headphones I mentioned earlier.

The other thing to help with this is to make a plan before you hit the gym. Know what you're going to do. Where you're going to be. The areas of your body that you want to work on. A plan is harder to shake than randomly occupying machines. It also gives you confidence and purpose to finish what you started.


7) I'm Too Old

If you're thinking this, then you've got some rethinking to do. Exercising as we age is immensely beneficial for our health; it lowers healthcare costs, strengthens our muscles and bones, improves our balance, and reduces the risks of chronic diseases. Here are some things you can do, if you're of a certain age, to get started on a fitness journey of your own.

First and foremost, talk to your doctor. It's vital that you consult with your healthcare professional before starting any routine that may tax your system.

Next, find a community center or local class that is geared towards seniors. Most of them will be a low-impact aerobic class. However, socialization is what keeps many coming back, even if the exercise is pretty difficult.

Most importantly, if you used to exercise when you were younger, please start where you are now and not where you used to be. Patience with your own body will reward you with time. Your body needs time to adjust to a new routine at any age!


6) I'm Too Fat

I don't want water; I'm too thirsty. Yeah, pretty much the same thing...

If you're too heavy actually to do any physical activity, then you start in the kitchen. Fitness is not isolated to the gym. In fact, the kitchen is the most important front of the battle! Once your body gets to a weight that allows you to move, then you can start simple. Take a short walk each day.

If you're just over the obesity line, then get in the gym. Some jerks may judge, but I promise you the majority of folks at the gym are like me. All I can think when I see someone huffing and puffing along on the treadmill or experimentally lifting their first weights is, "Hell yeah!" The ones that think otherwise are too busy looking in the gym mirror or hitting their Insta angles to judge anyhow!

Check out this helpful site to get started today! The good thing is, many of the tips are FREE!


5) I Have Arthritis/Joint Pain

Whew, that tough. My dad is starting to get that as well. My mom has had back surgery, my wife has had a knee replacement, and my knees are straight garbage. However, they are not injuries.

The thought of getting up and moving around on arthritic joints is not one to relish. Walking around the block sounds like a big ask when standing up out of your chair makes you grunt and strain. However, the fact remains that exercise is crucial for those with arthritis and joint stiffness. Here is why:

  • Strengthens the muscles around your joints, easing strain.

  • Improves your balance and body awareness.

  • Aids in strengthening bones.

  • Naturally boosts your energy level.

  • Aids in weight loss, taking weight off your joints.


4) The Significant Other/Family

So, you want to do better, but your love or your family are stuck in an unhealthy lifestyle. The very last thing they want is to join you on a walk, head to the gym, or help you do anything about getting healthier.

If it's your significant other, then you might want to rethink that relationship. If it's your wife or husband, then it's time for a serious talk. If it's your family, then it's time to take matters into your own hands. They don't have to understand, and they don't even have to join. All they have to do is wish you well. If they can't do that, then find you some friends that will do that for you. A group class, schoolmates, coworkers, or a social media support page. There is always someone out there in the same shoes as you looking for someone to help them and hold them accountable!

For example, my wife and I have very different fitness goals. We also have different feelings about the time of day to go to the gym. Therefore, she gets up early to go to the gym, and I enjoy my lunch workout at work and my evening session later at night at the gym. I don't have to be with her to work out, and she doesn't have to be with me. Yet, we're both supporting one another's journey by picking up family duties during the time the other is gone. That's what you're looking for!


3) I'm Afraid It'll Be Too Hard

Fear of something new is to be expected—especially where you're having to give up long-standing vices and habits that are dragging you down. However, don't worry if you think it will be hard, because it's definitely going to be.

In a good way! In most cases, we're in a position where we can start small. We don't have to go cold turkey on our favorite (terrible for us) foods or start two-a-day workouts right away. Sit down and make a plan on how you're going to be one step better than yesterday. Is it giving up your evening bowl of ice cream? Maybe it's taking a stroll around the neighborhood, switching that soda for water, drive or walk past Starbucks, parking further away at the grocery store, or making a choice to cut out fast food. It only takes water's temperature rising one degree to make it boil, and it only takes small efforts every day to lead you to your next goal.


2) Work Gets In The Way

I have this at number 2 because it is the number 2 reason I hear from my own workout partners. My job is wildly different than theirs, and I'm not mad or even disappointed if they miss our 11 AM gym time at the office. What I do take notice of is the fact that they then use that one missed workout to reset their entire week.

"Well, I'll just start next week. I was too busy today."


What does that have to do with this evening? Tomorrow? Listen, we stay busy in this world. However, we find plenty of time to binge the newest shows, watch people in the shape we wish we were making millions of dollars playing sports, and engage in hours' worth of mindless scrolling. But why doesn't work get in the way of those?

Prioritization, that's why. Our office has an honest-to-goodness gym with showers and towel service, and folks still won't take 10 minutes out of their day to exercise. Yes, sometimes you're busy, and work gets in the way. Other times... it's you.


1) I Don't Have The Time

This one is easy. Yes, yes, you do. In a way of speaking, exercise and healthy living actually give you more time at the end of your life. Not only that, they make your twilight years better for you and less of a burden on your family. So, keep that in mind.

However, you're probably not too worried about that right now. How do you balance work, a social life, kids, family, hobbies, movies, shows, books, vacation, and, and, and... Man, you're pretty busy! Maybe you don't have time.

Just kidding. Full-time job, full-time dad, recently finished my Certified Personal Trainer course, currently taking my registered dietitian course, housework, writing, this website, friends, family, and more. Yet, two times a day, I find enough time to exercise. Why? Like I stated before because I prioritize my fitness. I have found the harder I pursue health, the better equipped I am to pursue everything else!

There is almost zero doubt in my mind that you have thirty extra minutes in your day that you can carve out for your own health. Don't think thirty minutes will make a difference? Well, here's what it can do for you:

Getting at least 10 minutes of continuous moderate activity three times a day can give the same health benefits as 30 minutes of nonstop exercise. Boom! Break it up! Here's what it looks like!

10 Minutes of Cardio: Take ten minutes to walk to a nearby place to grab lunch. Walk around your building a few times. Walk up and down stairs between floors. Heck! Stand at your desk and do jumping jacks for three songs.

10 Minutes of Strength: Roll out of bed, hit the floor, and do crunches. Stand and do lunges. Use small weights and slow movements to get in some lifting while watching TV. On the phone? Calf raises or squats while you talk (if you can squat without grunting...)

10 Minutes of Stretching: Download an app with some great stretches! I suggest Start Stretching. Good for beginners and advanced alike!


Now, be honest... How many of these have you used? Me? Well, too many, I'm afraid. However, I hope that helping you call out your excuse will aid you in tossing it out with all those fast-food coupons you've been hanging on the fridge.

Identifying some of these widespread barriers to health can help start you down the road to overcoming them and becoming the healthiest version of yourself. If that you is thicc, then awesome. If that you is lean and shredded, then great! We all have different goals, and we all have different excuses. Don't let those excuses keep you from that healthiest you!

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