Click to toggle navigation menu.


ExpertBeacon Logo

Changing your mindset to help you workout and not dread it

Sabrena Merrill Senior Exercise Science Consultant American Council on Exercise

Most people know that exercise is a healthy, worthwhile endeavor. However, for many, knowing what they should do and actually doing it are two different realities. The strategies in this article will help you see exercise as something to look forward to and will offer ideas to make your workout experience a positive one.


Do find a role model you would like to emulate

Search for people on social media or in your local area who inspire you to be more fit. Follow people who are similar to you in age who have accomplished appealing goals. Perhaps there is a healthy lifestyle advocate in your area who has a compelling back story that resonates with you. Often, these inspirational people share tips and strategies for overcoming common barriers. Seeing their posts can be motivating and may help you look forward to your workouts.

Do find a workout that you truly enjoy

This may seem obvious, but if your exercise program doesn’t appeal to you, it is highly likely that you will dread doing it. Consequently, if you dread doing something, you will find reasons to avoid it, which kills motivation and ultimately results in non-adherence. For example, if you dislike exercising indoors, yet your entire cardio program is based on treadmill workouts, you can imagine how quickly the routine will become dreadful.

Do purchase new exercise apparel (without breaking the bank, of course)

Having the appropriate apparel can make workouts more comfortable and it can help you feel more confident while you’re exercising. For example, wearing clip-in cycling shoes and padded cycling shorts makes a world of difference in comfort during an indoor cycling class. In addition, if you choose to workout among others, finding flattering exercise apparel can make a big difference in feeling good about your appearance. Being comfortable and feeling confident during workouts are safe bets for motivating you to continue with an exercise program.

Do find a person or a group of people with whom to connect while you exercise

People function well when they have social support. Connecting with others in the workout setting can reinforce exercise competence, which will help you feel like you belong in a particular group or place. Feelings of social connectedness and camaraderie can be important factors that inspire a motivation to continue to workout. This could mean finding a fitness instructor to lead you through your workouts, or meeting people in a class setting and developing relationships with them that center around exercise and healthy habits.

Do start an exercise program doing achievable tasks and master them accordingly

When people successfully accomplish a new skill, they build self-efficacy. Acquiring a new skill creates a mastery experience, which motivates a person to continue with the activity. Skill mastery in exercise can be as simple as going on a 20-minute walk, three times per week or completing your first resistance-training workout on a circuit of machines. If your early workout experiences are successful, it is very likely that you will want to further develop your skills in exercise, especially if you enjoy the activities.


Do not be afraid to try something new

When we are involved in a new learning experience, such as trying out a new piece of exercise equipment, we often feel completely engaged. This engagement can be exciting and even fun if you’ve been exercising for awhile and are looking for something to spark a new interest in your workout program.

Do not worry if your first couple of workouts result in muscle soreness

Delayed onset muscle soreness is very common and experienced by pretty much every person who exercises at some point. This type of soreness typically occurs between 24 to 48 hours after a workout, especially when there are new movements or increases in exercise volume. If this happens to you, don’t let it dissuade you from your future workouts. In fact, it probably won’t happen again if you complete the same workout as long as you are consistent with your routine. Also, be prepared to experience this type of discomfort if you progress in your exercise program, as it can be a normal part of becoming more fit.

Do not attempt to master a skill that is beyond your ability

When you try a new exercise modality, be sure to start conservatively and perform the basics first before you try the most complex version. For example, watching a professional dancer or elite Olympic weight lifter perform their craft is truly inspiring. They make the movements look virtuous and effortless. However, that level of skill was developed over thousands of hours of conditioning and practice. If your goal is to perform complex movements at an advanced level, do yourself a favor and learn the fundamentals from an experienced instructor who can guide you through the process. This will save you from hours of frustration and potential injury.

Do not equate any past or future unsuccessful exercise attempts with who you are as a person

Exercise is a skill. Improving fitness is hard work. There are many ways to succeed, and just as many ways to fail. If something doesn’t work for you, then call it what it is. It is simply something that didn’t work for you. Move on to something else and keep exploring ways to incorporate movement and activity into your life. Even when you find an exercise program or workout strategy that you truly enjoy, there might come a time when you leave it for something else more interesting. That is how you develop a variety of skills in fitness.

Do not think of exercise as something you “must” do

Instead, consider it one of the best parts of your day. We rarely get an opportunity to devote quality time to ourselves in any given day. Having a regular workout routine, however, gives us an opportunity to disengage from daily stressors and focus on how awesome it is to use our bodies as intended. When muscles contract, lungs exchange gases, and the blood circulates through the vessels, we are truly experiencing our anatomy and physiology as they were designed, all the while becoming healthier in the process.

Jumping cartoon

Being a regular exerciser is challenging and takes commitment. But it doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Mastering exercise skills, connecting with others, and enjoying yourself are all possible as you increase your fitness and improve health.

More expert advice about Fitness and Exercise

Photo Credits: LeeTorrens/; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas -

Sabrena MerrillSenior Exercise Science Consultant

Sabrena Merrill, M.S., has been actively involved in the fitness industry since 1987, successfully operating her own personal-training business and teaching group fitness classes. Merrill is a former full-time faculty member in the Kinesiology a...

View Full ProfileRecent Articles