What’s Holding You Back from Fitness? by Lisa Snow

lisa-snow-2When people think about getting in shape, they typically ask questions like “which form of cardio burns the most calories per hour?” or “how can I get/stay motivated to exercise?”  But these people are on page 20, and I’m still back on page 1.  Before the answers to these questions can have any meaning, we need to rewind and find out what’s holding you back from getting in shape in the first place.  After all, if nothing was holding you back, you would have already achieved your fitness goals.

Actionable Knowledge

Most people either have very little knowledge about nutrition and fitness, OR a lot of knowledge of random facts about the science and research, but aren’t sure how to actually apply it to their lives.

Examples of people whose limiting factor is knowledge include someone who:

1) Goes to the gym every day, but always does the same thing (such as walking on the treadmill or steady pace pedaling on an exercise bike) because they don’t know how to use any other equipment.  (Notice that this person doesn’t lack access to workout equipment—they’ve got a gym—and doesn’t have a lack of motivation—they’re showing up every day.)

2) Is consistently exercising, but keeps aggravating an old injury because she doesn’t know which exercises to avoid and which to include in their program.  (Notice that she, too, doesn’t lack either a place to workout or motivation to do it regularly—the only thing missing is the know-how.)

3) Reads fitness books or articles every month, but isn’t actually exercising.  This person isn’t lazy or unmotivated!  They’re stuck in “analysis paralysis”! They have so much information that they don’t know what to actually do when they get to the gym.

If either a lack of knowledge (or too many random facts) is stopping you from getting in shape, you can fix this in at least 3 possible ways.

Free: Visit reputable websites like NutritionFacts.org  and the ACE Exercise Library from the American Council on Exercise.

Inexpensive: Learn how to cook and eat healthier with books like Crazy Sexy Kitchen by Kris Carr, or start getting shape with books like Shred It  by Robert Cheeke.  If you’re the person who gets stuck in analysis paralysis, pick ONE book and follow that program for at least 3 months before you give into the temptation to start reading other books with potentially conflicting information.

A bigger investment for a customized solution: try working 1-on-1 or taking a class with a running coach, a martial arts teacher, etc.—whoever has the knowledge you’re lacking.


Someone who doesn’t have an actual place to workout is missing “access” to exercise facilities.  Examples include someone who:

1) Is self-motivated to exercise, and used to workout every day, but moved a few months ago.  She hasn’t found a gym and gotten started in her new neighborhood.  (Notice that she has the knowledge of how to workout and the motivation to show up consistently.)

2) Used to exercise at home, but now works overtime and has no free time to spend at home.  She’s never joined a gym, but now might need to join a gym near work if she’s ever going to get there.

3) Has a disability and finds that the local gym is “accessible” only in the sense of having a wheelchair ramp at the front door; the workout equipment is difficult or impossible for her to use.

Most people think access is the main roadblock to their fitness goals, but are you sure this is the case for you?  Do you have all the (practical) knowledge you need to succeed?  And do you have the time and motivation to workout every single week?  If not, access isn’t your primary challenge, and buying a gym membership won’t fix it!  Nor will having more or better workout equipment at home.

 If access truly is the problem, here are 3 easy solutions:

Free: Go online (both Google maps and your local city government’s website) to find parks, public pools, hiking trails, and bike paths in your neighborhood.

Inexpensive: Purchase small pieces of exercise equipment to use at home.  For some ideas, see my previous article: Have a Home Gym Cheaply and with Little Space.

A bigger investment for a customized solution: Join a gym, fitness studio, or yoga studio in your area.  Skip the big chains that often treat their customers like numbers.  Instead, try to find a locally owned gym or studio, where the people who run it actually care whether or not you succeed.


Being accountable to yourself or someone else means you’ll need the time, energy, and resources to workout regularly.  Whether you have time to workout 10 min a day, or an hour a day, are you actually following through with your plan consistently?  Are you having a good time doing it?

Free: Find a friend or family member who shares your goals and wants to workout with you.  Choose a time that works for both of you, and put it in your calendars.  Many fitness apps are very inexpensive. However, a totally free website to track your progress is Joe’s Goals.

Inexpensive: Pick a workout class that sounds fun, anything from yoga to bootcamp, from hula hooping to spin.  Sign yourself up, and put the class dates on your schedule.  Whether it’s at a gym, a yoga studio, or outdoors, select a program that charges per class.  A gym membership that comes with unlimited classes frequently results in people attending zero classes.  Even if it’s only a few dollars, knowing you’ve paid something to attend that Monday night yoga class means you’ll actually be there.  Programs with fewer students in each class are better on many levels.  It’s easier to make friends and both your classmates and the instructor will be more likely to notice when you’re not there.

A bigger investment for a customized solution: Working with someone 1-on-1 will ensure you show up and hopefully allow you to have some fun along the way!  While most people are aware of personal trainers for fitness, but did you know that many yoga teachers also offer 1-on-1 sessions?  Perhaps you already get to the gym consistently, but need more accountability about your eating habits.  If so, doing six months of individual or small group sessions with a nutritionist might be a breakthrough for you.

Missed last month’s column? Read it now:

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Protecting the Spine While Stretching Your Hamstrings – Part 2
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