When you just can't stick with an exercise plan, there's usually a reason. Here's how to find out what it is - and fix it.

7 Obstacles to Exercising and How to Overcome Them

Do you get all gung ho about a new exercise regimen, then find yourself slacking off and finding excuses to take a break? So do we all; it’s a natural tendency to be excited about something when it’s new and fresh and to lose our resolve over time. And as the days shorten and the weather cools, the temptation to stay home on the couch gets ever stronger! To overcome this inner resistance, we have to identify the obstacles preventing us from exercising and creatively come up with workarounds.  Here are a few of the most common ones.

1. You’re just too tired.

If you can’t drag yourself out of bed for that morning workout or you’re too crashed at the end of the day, ask yourself, how much sleep are you getting?  If you’re not getting 7-8 hours a night, try it for a while.  That may be your first fitness goal!  Seriously:  I’ve been known to advise people NOT to start a fitness coaching program because they’re too sleep deprived to benefit from it. When we’re not sleeping enough, we’re more prone to illness and injury and our hunger and satisfaction cues for eating are all messed up.

Fix: Get 7-8 hours of sleep a night for two weeks, then try again.

2. There’s too much to do at home.

Does walking in the door of your house leads to distraction and reduced likelihood of getting to the gym? Yes, it does. There’s mail to open, the morning’s clutter to pick up, plants to water, pets to feed. No wonder we never make it back out.

Fix: Bring your fitness gear with you to work and go straight to the gym or pool or track straight after work.

3. You’re just too busy.

Can’t figure out how to clear the time for the hour of exercise you usually do?  Well, does it have to be an hour? What if you did 20 minutes of intensely vigorous work? According to recent research, working out intensely for 20 minutes is the equivalent of 40 minutes of moderate exercise.

Fix: When you’re just too slammed, cut your exercise time in half but work out twice as hard.

4. You’re too hungry to work out when you get home.

Ask yourself, when was the last time you ate? If you don’t have a mid-afternoon snack you’re likely to not have the energy to do it.

Fix: Eat a well-balanced snack (think peanut butter on whole wheat crackers) two hours before you plan to work out.

5. It’s too much to do both cardio and strength training.

If you find yourself knocking off halfway through your routine and promising yourself to do the weights or the bike next time, you’re in good company. Believe me, this one’s pretty much universal; but luckily, it’s the easiest to solve by coming up with a gym routine, fitness activity, or class that includes both at once.

Fix: Consider structuring your strength workout as circuit training and kill two birds with one stone. (Worst kept secret: This fitness coach gets bored with long bouts of cardio and almost never does it – it’s almost always circuit training for me or if I’m going to use something like a spinning bike or an elliptical it’s 20 minutes of high intensity intervals!)

6. Exercise is no fun.

When what we’ve been trying to do for a while hasn’t been working, we need to question all of our assumptions and start from scratch. Ask yourself: where do I want to move my body?  What kind of environment appeals to me? Do I prefer to work out with others or alone? What are my favorite parts of my workout routine and what makes me think I need to do the others as they’re currently designed?

Fix: Choose your favorite activities and jettison the rest. Then try a few new things and include those that work for you. Find a workout buddy or two if you prefer the company. Build a fitness routine the way you want it and go do it.

Heatherose Pitman is a licensed physical therapist whose passion is motivating people to make healthy lifestyle changes. As a Fitness Health Coach in the Health Education Department at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco, Heatherose works one on one with patients helping them meet their personal fitness goals. Her specialties include exercise physiology, strength training, and manual therapy techniques.