Getting Past Your Mental Block of Exercise in Quarantine (and Beyond!)

Eat Smart Move More South Carolina | August 11, 2020

It’s hard to start exercising. It may seem easy when many people you know are doing everything from basic workouts to running marathons, but it’s hard! The only thing “easy” about exercise is how easy it can be to get discouraged when starting out or comparing yourself to others. If you’ve wanted to start exercising but don’t know exactly where to start, here are some tips and things to consider.

Start With the Smallest Amount of Exercise You Can Do

Depending on your personality, you may be overzealous and want to jump into full workouts right away. Or, you might be the opposite type of person, but still feel the need to do 30-minute to hour-long workouts just because it’s what “other people do.” However, doing full workouts without proper knowledge can be discouraging and even physically damaging. Many physical activity-related injuries come from using equipment incorrectly, doing workouts wrong, or even doing too much activity without prior warm-up or built-up endurance. This is why it’s important to start with the smallest amount you’re able to do. Instead of setting a goal that might seem small, like 30 minutes of exercise, try setting what you feel is the absolute smallest amount of exercise you can do. Maybe it’s 1 minute, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, or another amount of time. While it might seem easy, depending on what activities you do, you actually may not be able to complete it. But, that’s OK! Don’t get discouraged, and try to be consistent with it. If you complete it and feel you can do more, add another round of the same length or a bit more. Do what you feel you’re able to do, and go from there. It makes you much less discouraged if you are able to complete a smaller goal rather than miss a more unrealistic goal by a mile.

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

This point definitely relates to the prior one. You might feel proud of completing 15 minutes of a beginner cardio workout, but when you open Instagram and see ripped trainers and influencers doing 1-and-a-half hour cross-fit workouts, you might feel pretty bad about yourself. This leads to people either pushing themselves way too hard or just giving up entirely because they feel they’ll never meet their goal. This isn’t productive for anyone. Their success shouldn’t be your downfall!

Your goals should be personalized to you. Think about what you really want to accomplish with exercise. Looking a certain way can play into it, but it shouldn’t be the be-all-end-all. That may create a toxic relationship to exercise, and it’ll take any of the fun out of it for you, which could lead you to abandon it altogether or do it too much. Do you want to become more active? Do you want to do a certain skill like cartwheels or handsprings? Do you just want to feel better overall? All of these questions and more should be on your mind when creating the routine that’s best for you.

The most important thing about exercise is how your body and mind are changing and strengthening, right? So, why compare yourself to other people? Instead, record what you’ve been able to do as time progresses. Your successes may seem small or nonexistent at first, but the changes might be so gradual that you don’t even realize how much you’re really accomplishing. That’s why it’s important to look back and see how much you’ve improved. You’ll be much happier looking at your own progress than comparing yourself to others who have completely different fitness goals and circumstances than you.

Do Things You Like to Do

A workout is not just using weights and running on the treadmill. Don’t force yourself to do something that you don’t like when there are almost endless possibilities. Do you like dancing, even if you’re not good? Try an at-home dance workout! Is a traditional workout more your speed? Head to the gym and pump some iron! This might not be possible in quarantine or social distancing, so try using objects in your home as weights and using a yoga mat to work out on. If you’re a more calm person, yoga might be good for you. It can double as meditation, too! On top of these, there are so many sports you can play to get a good workout in. If you need something more gentle, there are walks, jogs, light bike rides, and more!

The most important thing is to not force yourself to do something you don’t like. Exercise should act as a stress-reliever and release, something to look forward to every day to several times a week. If it becomes another stressor, you should try to find the problem and make a change. It can always be hard to start anything in the beginning, but once you find something you like, it should make it much easier to get with it. Don’t be afraid to try a bunch of different things even once! For as long as quarantine and social distancing happen, you’ll be at home, and it’ll feel much less embarrassing to try something new you might never try in a class outside.

Reward Yourself for Any Progress You Make

This one is particularly important. Don’t take any progress for granted. No matter how small, give yourself gratitude for any workout you complete. You can even thank yourself for how much you were able to do, even when you couldn’t complete a workout. This isn’t to say that you should reward yourself with unhealthy food or choices that will make working out feel less valuable to you. Determine what things make you happy as small rewards, and give them to yourself. This could be a slightly longer shower, ice cream, your favorite fruit or snack, hobby time, or basically anything else that makes you feel rewarded.

Make Other Changes in Life that Make You Feel Better

Working out can make you feel better, but it’s just one aspect of self-improvement. There are so many other aspects of life where the discipline that comes from exercise can be applied to. When you set aside time to work on your body (and mind, as a consequence), it makes it easier to bleed this self-care into other aspects of your life. You can apply that discipline to making healthier (and still delicious) diet choices, working on career and personal goals, and more. When you start to have a positive relationship with your body, you’ll feel better, dress better, and just live better as a whole. This doesn’t mean becoming ripped, going vegan, and somehow becoming a millionaire. Well, if that’s what you want, then chase it. However, like your workout goals, keep it personalized.

Focusing on the mental aspect of health may be more important than the physical. Exercise helps, but if you can’t get past a mental block because of something like depression or another mental illness, it might be a good idea to talk to someone about it. Working out can be a great source of introspection, and by pairing it with mental work and self-discipline, it can really do wonders in terms of making you feel much better as a whole.

Quarantine and social distancing have killed some people’s workout routines, while it has started it for others. Whatever your situation, try and get back into it or start. It doesn’t have to be anything high-pressure or high-effort. Instead, give yourself a bunch of little pushes when you wouldn’t be doing anything else, without comparing yourself to people in videos or on social media, and you’ll find that with time, you’ll meet the goals you set when that seemed impossible.

Bryce Robinson, originally from Brooklyn, New York, earned my bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science from Winthrop University. He is currently working towards being a personal trainer. Some of his interests include watching and playing soccer, acting, and writing. Bryce’s life-long goal is to leave a positive impact on the lives of others and in his career endeavors.


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