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Personal trainer and health coach Sara Southey from The Southey Way takes us through the most common reasons why we tend to avoid the benefits of exercise

Why We Don’t Exercise

Personal trainer and health coach Sara Southey from The Southey Way takes us through the most common reasons why we tend to avoid the benefits of exercise
The aim of The Southey Way is to help you become strong, energised and confident. To give you the skills and strength to take on life’s many challenges and go out and explore what the world has to offer.

"Fear is a huge mental challenge"


In this day and age, we all have multiple calls on our time. A combination of work, spouse, children, home chores and social activities all make their own demands on us, and by the end of the day the last thing that seems possible is to take precious time out of these tasks to spend on ourselves, exercising. It can feel selfish and arduous, and something that can happen tomorrow, next week, next month.

We all have time if we want it – time to pop for a quick drink with a mate, a brief shopping trip in our lunch hour, time reading Facebook posts or watching videos. Time for our regular TV programmes. The time is there – it’s how we choose to spend it. We all know that it’s vital to exercise. We only get one body and the better we use it the more we will be able to achieve, both in and out of the gym, the less health problems we will have in later years, and the more we will be able to play with our children and have adventures. So how can we find the time? Make yourself a priority: if you are fit and happy in yourself then it radiates out to the people around you, creating a positive change in your environment and encouraging you to continue to exercise more. Find something you like to do: exercise can feel like a chore if you don’t enjoy it. You don’t have to join a gym or run miles if you don’t enjoy it. Try different things and see which activity makes you want to go back and do it again.


I get it. Life is exhausting! On top of our usual routines, there are the old enemies of lack of sleep, cold bugs, aches and pains and the general stress that we encounter throughout the day. Quite frankly, the pull of the sofa, a nice cuppa with a biscuit and your favourite TV series seems to be the much better option! Leaving aside the medical reasons why someone may be too tired (a separate topic for another day), we generally use tiredness as an excuse for not doing something we’re not looking forward to. So if this is the case when it comes to exercising, we need to address why, and find the solution to take the need for the excuse away. Recognise the difference between physical tiredness and mental tiredness: If you are physically tired and your body hurts then it may be the day for a long walk instead of a full on blow out session at the gym. Mental tiredness can feel draining and you may not feel like doing anything. But, exercise is often the best medicine for this. The endorphins released when you work out help lift your mood, increase your mental and physical energy levels and can really set you up for a positive, productive day. So recognising the difference is important.

Find someone to share with: You don’t necessarily have to have someone you always work out with, but having someone who supports, encourages and shares your goals can be hugely beneficial when the going gets tough and your mind tells you to sit on the sofa and veg! That accountability and support makes all the difference to keeping you consistent with your exercise and helping you to continue to enjoy your chosen workout.


Fear of failure, fear of being laughed at, fear of not being able to do it, fear of not being good enough or not confident enough…fear is a huge mental challenge. It’s there to keep us safe, to stop us putting ourselves in a dangerous, threatening situation. When fear is used to avoid getting ourselves strong and healthy, it’s an issue that needs addressing, because logically, being fit and healthy is good for how we live our lives and the future of our lives yet to come. So, how can we ensure that the debilitating nature of fear doesn’t stop us from getting fit and healthy?

Exercise is one of the biggest stress relievers and confidence boosters out there. Discovering how much your body can do (even in a short space of time) is hugely empowering. Once you start and realise what you are capable of, then it filters through to your whole life. If I beat my fear demons completing a challenging workout, imagine what else I can achieve in spite of my fears? We are not living our lives if we shy away from challenges and stay hidden inside our comfort zones.

Easy when you see it like that, isn’t it? But what can we do to ease the mind’s self-defensive strategy and convince our subconscious that actually it is better and safer for us to exercise than not? List all the positives and benefits: Yes, actually write out a list of all the good that will come out of you starting exercise. When a negative comes in to your head, think what the positive alternative is and write that down. No matter how small the reason, write it down. Make sure each reason is worded in a positive, encouraging manner. Then read it out loud. If you hear that inner voice question the statement, have a good look at why and find the positive reassuring answer to the question and write that down. Keep reading aloud until the inner voice is happier with the list. Then, put your definitive list somewhere where you will. see it often – on your phone, iPad, laptop, fridge – anywhere you can read it regularly.

Don’t hide from your fear and don’t let it control what you do. Find the positive, find the support, make a plan and live your life to its fullest potential.


Putting off starting exercise and finding motivation to continue exercising are two problems that go hand in hand. Our mind will throw up a list of excuses why exercise can be skipped or not started, so how can we deal with the procrastination and motivation issues and make sure these excuses don’t sabotage us from getting fit, strong and healthy?

• Make a plan and set some goals: have an end goal and then break them down into smaller, easily achievable baby goals. Decide what needs to happen and when it is going to happen, then put it in your diary as an appointment that is as fixed as any business commitment that you make.

• Find solutions to the excuses: once you have a plan, spend some time imagining all the possible excuses that you can think of as to why you may not stick to the plan. Then for each excuse think of a solution that you will put in place to ensure the excuse will not sabotage your training.

• Have a trigger: change into your gym kit at work, put your running shoes by the door so you see them and set an alarm for when it’s time to exercise.

• Reward yourself: eventually, the satisfaction of completing your session will be your reward and seeing your progress. But as you start out and are building the routine, rewarding yourself for completing your session can be hugely effective. Maybe a £1 in a savings tin after each completed session for a reward at the end of the month or a hot bubble bath all to yourself – whatever floats your boat. However, I don’t mean a huge caramel mocha latte and a doughnut – beware of food and drink rewards!

• Just Start: sometimes there will be those days when you just don’t want to. No amount of practicing any of the above will convince your mind that exercise is a good idea. At this point you have to be the grown-up – Put your kit on and do 5 minutes at the very least. Just get on with it!

The aim of The Southey Way is to help you become strong, energised and confident. To give you the skills and strength to take on life’s many challenges and go out and explore what the world has to offer. To find out more visit thesoutheyway.com.


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