A Common Mistake That Makes Exercise More Difficult and Less Productive

Filed in Diet & Exercise by on October 30, 2014 4 Comments


There is a trap many people fall into that results in exercise being much more difficult and painful than it has to be. It also greatly reduces the results they obtain. So what is this common mistake?

Lack of consistency, or “yo-yo” exercising.

By far the toughest part of any new exercise program is the first couple of weeks. I call it the “lose-lose” period (the opposite of a “win-win” scenario), during which most people get frustrated and quit. You are tired and sore from all of the jogging, aerobics classes, resistance training, or whatever it is you are doing to get in shape, and you haven’t yet seen any meaningful results.

Tired and in pain + no observable improvement (the “lose-lose” exercise period) = a lack of motivation to continue.

There is no way to sugarcoat this initial phase. It is hard work, plain and simple, and your body needs to go through it to become conditioned and adapt to the new workload.

But if you stick with your program, at around week 4 or so, something miraculous begins to happen. During exercise you start to feel a sense of stamina and strength in your body. Your muscles become more under control and you feel a sense of power in them. You are also no longer so tired after each workout. And you start to see measurable results, when you step on the scale, put on your pants, or look in the mirror.

Eventually, you accomplish a goal or hit a milestone: losing 15 lbs., running a mile in under 10 minutes, or bench pressing your bodyweight. This is very positively reinforcing.

When all of this happens, while your exercise will likely still not be the favorite part of your week, at least it has become more enjoyable and rewarding. Also, you are now feeling more fit, confident, and self-assured. You have reached the “win-win” phase of your exercise program, and it is much more satisfying than those first couple of weeks!

If you have made it to this point and continue to exercise, then you have avoided the common trap that causes people to despise working out. The mistake they make is exercising for a few weeks, suffering all of the difficulty and pain of this initial period, and then quitting. Then a couple of months later they begin exercising again, maybe obtaining some minor results, and then they quit again. And what do they conclude? Exercising is just too tough, and produces too few results. I can’t do it. How does anyone do it?

It’s sort of like joining the military and spending your entire tour of duty mired in boot camp, never becoming a well-prepared and fit soldier who enjoys regular military service and is promoted to higher ranks. That wouldn’t be very satisfying, would it?

If you can somehow muster the discipline to exercise more consistently, you can finally get to a place with it in which it becomes much less difficult and produces the results you seek.

There are things that transpire in everyone’s life that make it tough to stick with an exercise program. If you enter a difficult period in your life when work becomes extremely busy or you have some other major distraction, then I advise you to cut back your exercise to a “maintenance” program during this challenging period. Try to continue to exercise at least once or twice per week to maintain your fitness level, or let it slip only slightly, so that when you return to your regular exercise program you don’t have to start from scratch.

I hate to see people suffer, and in the process, not achieve their goals. If you can be more consistent in your exercise, you can quickly lift yourself out of exercise “boot camp hell” and instead enjoy being fit, strong, and happy!

About the Author ()

TIM MCINTYRE retired in 2004 from his position as president of Applied Systems after facilitating a successful sale of the company. At only forty-six years old, he made the unusual decision to fully retire to pursue other interests and simply enjoy free time. As a hard-driving Type A personality, this turned out to be a significant challenge for the Notre Dame and University of Chicago-educated MBA, CPA, and Certified Cash Manager.

Comments (4)

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  1. Leslie says:

    Thanks for this much needed pep talk Tim!

  2. Karin says:

    Tim you are so full of wisdom! I, myself have been on an exercise roller-coaster. It takes a while before I have seen any results but I have to keep telling myself that I am healthier for all of my hard work even if I don’t have jlo’s bod.

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