Exercise-Deprived? The Fearless Path to Fitness

By Marilynn Preston

February 14, 2017 6 min read

I have a personal question. It's not intended to make you feel guilty (which is the mother of all useless emotions). It's meant to tickle your neurons and invite thought.

What keeps you from exercising more?

You know you should. Exercise is the miracle cure for whatever ails you. Feeling tired? Depressed? Overcome with PTSS (post-Trump stress syndrome, a nonpartisan epidemic)?

Get your body in motion. Regular, rhythmical exercise — over time — also helps prevent heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure and is your truest and best friend when it comes to living a healthier, happier lifestyle.

But you know all that. Shoulda, woulda, coulda...

So what's the answer? What keeps you from exercising more?

Let me guess: You're too busy. It's the No. 1 excuse in America: too much to do; too little time; people to see; places to go; family members — including dogs, cats and parakeets — who need to be fed on a regular basis.

As your most personal trainer, I need to spread a little tough love. Not having enough time to work some amount of physical activity into your day is a lame and self-destructive excuse. And you're better than that.

Make exercise your priority — something you value because you know it brings relief and adds joy — and you'll make the time. You'll write it down in your calendar and not feel guilty when you follow through. You'll walk at dawn, replace happy hour with restorative yoga, spend more time on your bike and less time on the giant time-suck known as social media.

It's up to you. But what else might be holding you back?

That's it: Dig a little deeper.

Maybe it's fear.

Over 50 percent of people drop out of fitness programs within the first six months. Sports psychologists who have interviewed the dropouts have uncovered the fear factor as something that undermines people without their realizing it.

Could your fears be getting in the way of your best intentions? Let's explore.

FEAR OF DOING IT WRONG. This is a reasonable fear, because it's painfully true that if you don't learn the correct way to hit a ball, lift a weight or do warrior pose, you can hurt yourself.

So learn! Read a book. Study with good teachers. Learning to strength train safely isn't like learning to speak Chinese. You can master it without great effort if you're mindful and patient. Approach it with a beginner's mind. Ask questions; understand the basics of injury prevention. When confidence replaces fear, the ease of exercise increases mightily.

FEAR OF LOOKING STUPID. Chances are this fear began when you were a kid and grew up thinking you were klutzy and uncoordinated. Too bad someone kind 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, greater energy and more mobility.

You may not be the slimmest, fastest or 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; appreciate that you're doing the best you can; and keep moving. When you stop knocking yourself as too fat, too slow or too stiff, fears about looking stupid in front of other people will disappear.

FEAR THAT PEOPLE ARE JUDGING YOU. This is an ego thing, so let it go. Simple truth: Other people are absorbed with themselves. When you start imagining that others are watching you critically, simply come back to the sound of your own breathing. Focus on your performance, the sensations in your own body. Fitness isn't ice hockey: It's not a competitive sport. It's a personal journey. Turn your attention inward, and find joy in the moment. Allow that useless fear of being judged to melt away, like that extra flesh that keeps your jeans from feeling really comfy.

If you feel that personal anxiety is behind your failure to exercise more, get some help. Talk to a qualified listener. Join a support group. Start a journal. Acknowledging fear is the first step toward overcoming it.

Good! Class dismissed. Thanks for playing along.


"He who is not every day conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life." — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Marilynn Preston — healthy lifestyle expert, well being coach and Emmy-winning producer — is the creator of Energy Express, the longest-running syndicated fitness column in the country. She has a website, marilynnpreston.com, and welcomes reader questions, which can be sent to [email protected] She also produces EnExTV, a digital reincarnation of her award-winning TV series about sports, fitness and adventure, for kids of all ages, at youtube.com/EnExTV and facebook.com/EnExTV. 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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