Hate Exercise? How To Rewrite Your Fitness Story

If you’re not a fan of exercise, don’t worry, you’re not alone! But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some tips and expert advice to help you find your mojo.

Erin Fisher Author Image
Erin Fisher

May 2, 2024 - Updated May 2, 2024

Kayla with Mic

Love and joy definitely aren’t words that everyone associates with exercise. Depending on the person, the idea of exercise can bring up a whole range of feelings, from boredom or fatigue to even dread or anxiety. The good news is, if your relationship with movement isn’t feeling so hot at the moment, it can get a whole lot better. 

In a recent episode on Sweat Daily, our co-founder, head trainer and podcast host Kayla Itsines dives into this very topic with psychologist and author Dr Ahona Guha. Together, they shed some light on what you can do to move the dial in a more positive direction. 

Find the root and replant yourself

For Ahona, it was at the age of five that she first started to believe moving your body (in her case, running laps of a field) was something you did as to punish your body and make it smaller, rather than for enjoyment or fun. As a psychologist, she knows that hating exercise can have many different origin stories.

“I think people try certain types of exercise even though they hate it because that’s what they think they should do. As you continue, you actually learn the revulsion that builds. That’s a tricky place to be in,” she explains, saying that it’s incredibly demotivating when you’re driven to exercise by a punishing or critical voice rather than a cheerleading, positive one.

If this resonates with you, she recommends three simple steps. Her first port of call is to ask - when was the first time you hated exercise or started to believe you hated it? Pinpointing a specific age or stage of life and thinking about what may have been going on around you can be incredibly insightful. For the average person who doesn't have a disability, chronic pain or illness, Ahona says there's usually a deeper reason behind their feelings towards exercise.

Her second step is to build up a sense of motivation to exercise by figuring out what is personally valuable to you (not your friends, not everyone on social media, you) about exercise. 

“Do you want to be around longer for your grandchildren? Do you want to live independently or be pain-free as you age? Do you want a nice butt? Whatever it is!” she laughs, recognising that there are plenty of powerful motivators for different people. 

And finally, she encourages you to try out forms of movement that feel joyful to you - things that you actually enjoy, even if it’s just a little bit to start with. If you don’t want to go for a run, try turning on some music and dancing in your lounge. Go for a bike ride with a friend. Explore what it feels like to do a gentle yoga flow in your bedroom. The key to transforming your relationship with exercise is to try and find movement that feels good, and then build on it from there or discover a range of training styles you can switch between depending on your mood and energy levels.

“A high-intensity workout is great for days when you’re more energetic, but then days when you’re more tired or want to slow down with exercise, a walk, swimming or yoga is great,” she suggests.

“It's also about cutting ourselves a bit of slack sometimes and knowing that there are certain types of movement that just don't resonate for us.”

It can be challenging, but try to remember that you don’t have to follow the crowd when it comes to exercise. If all your friends are into weight training and you love barre or Pilates, do that! Find your groove and be proud of it.

Woman dancing in kitchen

The power of your mind

Some of Dr Ahona Guha’s most important takeaways are to tap into the power of your mind, understand neuroplasticity and adopt a growth mindset. When you can think of a million other things you’d rather do than exercise, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking this is just who you are, but your relationship with fitness and movement isn’t hardwired. It can evolve over time. 

“Start from a beginner’s mindset and be curious to explore and practice. This allows for the possibility of plasticity as we grow through life, which I think is so important - that idea of just giving things a crack. Then you're likely to be able to find a type of movement that actually resonates for you,” she says.

Adopting a sense of curiosity can also mean questioning your own thoughts and beliefs. Even if you’ve spent years telling yourself that you can’t do push-ups or run, don’t enjoy exercise, or can’t work out, it’s not necessarily true (or remotely helpful!). Simply starting to question those thoughts, recognising they aren’t true, and challenging your own beliefs can be a stepping stone to feeling more empowered. Even if you can’t do something right now, that doesn’t mean you never can.

As you start to make steps towards rewriting your fitness story, know that it’s normal if you feel some discomfort. Lean into it if you can!

“Emotions are going to come up when you do something you aren't good at,” Ahona explains. “But realistically, no one cares if you look silly. This is just about you. So it's important to expose yourself to that difficult feeling repeatedly so you can start to drop the stress around it. Over time, your brain's actually going to realise - this is okay.”

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A more positive and empowered relationship with fitness doesn’t have to begin tomorrow. It can start right now. You can listen to the full episode with Dr Ahona Guha on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts, or if you’re looking for a fan-favourite Sweat program that explores this exact mission? Redefine Fitness with Kelsey Wells. A blend of strength training and mindfulness practices, this program is exactly how she rewrote her own fitness story.

Erin Fisher Author Image
Erin Fisher

Erin is a writer and editor at Sweat with years of experience in women's publishing, media and tech. She's passionate about the power of movement, and you can often find her on a yoga mat, a hike, a dance floor, in the ocean or the gym.

Sweat Daily
Redefine Fitness: Strength and Mindfulness with Kelsey

* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.


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