How to get past a mental block to start exercising

How to get past a mental block to start exercising

With all the stressors people are facing today, finding your motivation to start exercising in the new year may be challenging. Perhaps you’re struggling to get past a mental block about exercise or you’re simply overwhelmed at how to get started.

“When talking specifically about exercising — mental blocks are often associated with a lack of motivation that is in turn associated with a lack of vision,” says Dr. Munther Barakat, director of Behavioral Health Therapy at Aurora Psychiatric Hospital, Wauwatosa, WI. “The vision of what it means to exercise and how you measure success has to be clear. This makes it naturally reinforcing.”

Your plan should be objective and within reach, he said. The best way to get started is by deciding what time of day works best to exercise, what type of exercise you want to do, then plan for how often and how long, Barakat said.

“These goals have to be within reach, and you can build on it down the road. You can’t set a goal to work out every day for 2 hours a day when you’re currently at zero,” Barakat says.

With COVID-19 surging, some gyms are shutting down again or you may not feel safe in a gym environment right now. There are still plenty of options to get your exercise in at home through streaming platforms and apps. Many of these options focus on using weight resistance, so you wouldn’t need any special equipment.

Kelly Schneider, director of Rehabilitation Services at Aurora Health Care, added that setting short-term goals is key.

“Set short-term goals to build towards a larger goal [and] reward yourself for achieving short-term goals,” she says. “Don’t get discouraged!  Every day is a new day.  If you miss a target or have an ‘off week,’ just start again. Often what derails people most, is spending too much time lamenting over their small slips.”

Finding what motivates you is also important to your success. Each individual is unique, she said. Some people are motivated by an accountability partner or group and others are motivated by more physical rewards like buying something you want. Technology like step counters can also be great motivators, Schneider said.

Are you trying to watch your weight? Take a free online quiz to learn more about your healthy weight range.

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Sarah Kennedy

Sarah Kennedy is a digital content specialist with Advocate Aurora Health. She previously worked as a managing editor for a B2B publication and a digital editor for various websites. She studied journalism at Columbia College Chicago.