Exercise: Fear of Trying – How To Overcome It and Get Fit

Marilynn PrestonBy Marilynn Preston

Why don’t more people exercise? They know they should — they would feel better, look zippier and have more energy — but something mysterious holds them back.

The major something is time, as in not having enough of it. Mystery solved. No time. Too busy. Too few hours in the day to do everything so you cancel your workout for today because you’re pretty sure you’ll find time to do it tomorrow. But tomorrow never comes because you’re still … too busy.

As your most personal trainer I must ask you to please wise up. Not having enough time to work some physical activity into your day — walk the stairs, bike to the store, a few yoga poses before lunch or after work — is the lamest of excuses. When you make physical fun a priority in your life, you’ll find the time. When you realize how regular exercise reduces stress, adds joy to your life and life to your years, you’ll make the time.

So what else might be holding you back from getting fit?
Maybe it’s fear.
According to sport psychologists and other researchers who look into the question of why upwards of 50 percent of people drop out of fitness programs within the first six months, one big reason is fear. They fear that they can’t do the exercises correctly. They fear that they look stupid doing them. They fear that people are standing around judging them.

This fear factor is one reason the Curves franchise is such a big hit around the country. Many people — especially women — say they feel less intimidated working out where there are no mirrors, no perfect bodies with sculpted biceps and rock hard buns.

So let’s go back and look at those fears head on and explore ways to deal with them:

Fear of Not Doing the Sport/Class/Exercise Correctly
This is a reasonable fear to have because it’s painfully true that if you don’t learn the basics, you can mess up your back or hurt your knees and shoulders on the way to health and wellness. So learn them! Read a book, go online, or hire a trainer for a session or two. Learning to lift weights safely, with awareness, isn’t like learning Japanese. You can master it in a short time if you pay attention and take notes. Ditto for whatever sport or activity you want to pursue. Open up your brain, and learn what you need to do. Then fears about doing it wrong (or unsafely) will fade away with your flab.

Fear of Looking Like a Sumo Ballerina
Chances are this fear began when you were a kid and grew up thinking you were clutzy and uncoordinated. Too bad someone smart and loving didn’t get to you and help you discover that there are no stupid moves when it comes to being active. Every move is bringing you further down the road to better health and greater energy. You may not be the slimmest, fastest or the most graceful person in your class or on your team, but so what? As we say in yoga, keep your eyes on your own mat. Enjoy the athlete you are, doing the best you can, and keep moving. When you stop judging yourself as too fat, too this, too that, fears about looking stupid in front of other people will disappear.

Fear That People Are Judging You
This is an ego thing. Let it go. People you work out with are not thinking what you think they’re thinking. (Unless of course they’re thinking the same thing) Still, if your mind wanders in that anxiety-producing direction when you work out, do the following:

Come back to the sound of your own breathing. Focus on your practice, your performance, your own body. Fitness isn’t ice hockey — it’s not a competitive sport. It’s a personal journey. Turn your attention inward, find joy in the moment, and allow your fear of being judged to melt away, like that extra flesh you don’t need that keeps your jeans from feeling really comfy.

If you feel that personal anxiety is getting in the way of your own fitness routine, get some help. Talk to a qualified listener, look for a support group, start to journal. The key to change is to let go of fear. What are you waiting for?

“To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.” — Bertrand Russell

Marilynn Preston — fitness expert, personal trainer and speaker on healthy lifestyle issues — is the creator of Energy Express, the longest-running syndicated fitness column in the country. She has a website, http://marilynnpreston.com and welcomes reader questions, which can be sent to MyEnergyExpress@aol.com. To find out more about Preston and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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