Exercise Doesn’t Have to Be Hard

That’s not a workout, it’s just a warm-up!”

“Grip it and rip it!”

“It’s not worth it unless you can’t walk for 3 days!” 

I’m sure you’ve all read or heard one of these quotes or any number of others telling you to give your workouts everything you got, that you should leave nothing in the tank. That the way to make progress is to put yourself in the pain cave and stay there. Not only have I heard them all, but there was a time in my life that I said them all too—and meant it at the time.

But it’s not true most of the time, and for many of us—it’s not what we need right now. Exercise is a wonderful thing with so many benefits, but we need to be mindful that it can put stress on the body. If you already have a huge amount of stress in your life with work, home life, constant negative news and countless other stressors, don’t beat yourself up if the last thing you want to do is a workout where you have to pick yourself up off the floor.

Just because you’re used to going all in on a workout doesn’t mean that anything less doesn’t count. Doing a workout at 50 percent of what you normally would is still a deposit in your well-being bank. Just doing the warm-up and saying “that’s all I have today” is still doing something.

I’ve spoken to so many people recently who are struggling to find motivation to workout, they’re out of their routine, when it used to be that exercise was the highlight of their day. I own the darn Pilates studio and I’m struggling to find motivation to exercise. Don’t be too hard on yourself for feeling that way. This happens at different times in our life and it’s perfectly normal. I promise, you’re not alone.

Try reframing why you’re exercising. The end goal doesn’t have to be 6-pack abs or a sub-6-minute mile. The goal can just be to move. To have some time to yourself. Or to have some time with someone else. Doing some exercise is still a huge positive even if it doesn’t feel like you’re going to die doing it.

If you are struggling with exercising or have completely given up, here are a couple of suggestions that might help.

Exercise in the morning. I’m a mom of a teenager and I’m often up late either helping her with homework or driving her all over town, so I’m fully with you if the idea of doing this sounds ludicrous, but stick with me. We’ve all got a set amount of willpower and it depletes as the day goes on. If you can get your exercise in before you start your day when your willpower is at its strongest, the chances of you doing something are much greater.

Pick easier workouts. A 20-minute walk counts as a workout. A set of 10 push-ups and The Hundreds is a workout. Working out while watching re-runs of Glee (if you know, you know) is not only acceptable, but I’d highly encourage it. Move. Pick something you love doing. Forget doing things because you want to be better at them or because they’re your weaknesses. Working out should be fun at the best of times—it has to be fun in the current time.

If you’re struggling to come up with workout ideas:

Push-up/Ab Curl/Squat grid. Draw a grid on a sheet of paper, like noughts and crosses. It can be as many boxes as you want, but the more boxes, the harder it is. So start with just nine. Pick a movement. While you’re watching TV or catching up with friends, do a set of that movement. Write the number in the grid. Rest and relax. When ready, do another set. By the time your show has finished, you’ll have done nine or more sets without even realizing it.

12-minute EMOM (every minute, on the minute)

Minute one: squats

Minute two: push-ups

Minute three: lunges

Minute four: plank

Aim for just 20 seconds of work each minute, giving you 40 seconds of rest.

Workout with someone. If you live with someone, see if they want to do something with you. It doesn’t matter if you have vastly different fitness backgrounds or abilities. Training with someone means you’re accountable to someone.

If you don’t live with someone, get outside and exercise with someone. Or if Chicago weather continues to make it feel like we never know if we want to step outside on any given day, video call them and train together. It doesn’t even matter if you’re not doing the same thing.

There’s more than enough going on around the world taking its toll on you. Don’t add to it by being hard on yourself when it comes to exercise or the lack thereof. Try doing something.

If you don’t manage it today, that doesn’t matter. Try again tomorrow.