I am going to give a rough estimate here and say that I have helped close to 1000 individual people with their health and fitness over the last 12 years. That's a conservative 83 people per year. Considering we have nearly 100 personal training members in ACLAÍ at the moment, it is probably more than that. Anyway, let’s say 1000 people. 1000 sets of problems, 1000 goals, 1000 training programs, and 1000 sit down initial consultations with people who want to regain their health and fitness but are not sure where to start.
With that many encounters, it’s easy to start seeing some trends and patterns when it comes to the biggest barriers to exercise that people encounter when starting out on the new journey of health, fitness, strength, and mobility. Here are 5 of the most common barriers to physical exercise that hold people back from getting started and making progress in physical activity.
1. Barriers to Physical Activity: Pain
Having acute pain and long standing chronic pain are both serious barriers to physical activity and long term health. In fact, one of the When you struggle to tie your shoelaces, get out of the car, or hang the washing out on the line, it does nothing to inspire you to burst out the front door and run down to the park for a set of jumping squats. There are two areas of concern when considering getting back to physical activity when you are in pain. All factors that influence our physical activity can be controlled.
Firstly, the main priority is to establish the cause of the pain. Sometimes this is easier said than done, but the right combination of diagnosis and treatment gives you the best chance here.
Secondly, you need to be sure that the form of exercise that you are doing or starting does not exacerbate the pain, lock it in, or bring on new aches. This is tricky without professional guidance, and even if you are an experienced trainer, it can be tough to self regulate your training without some outside guidance. In the past, when I have had injuries, I have veered towards exercises that constantly tested the injury, all while I was asking myself ‘Is it still sore?!’. Not the best approach when trying to heal an injury. What you need is a set of exercises that both work areas unaffected by the injury and exercises that have a therapeutic effect on the injured area. The right combination here with adequate recovery periods will do just the trick!
2. Not Knowing What to Do
It’s hard for me to count how many times people have confided in me that one of the main reasons they were seeking personal training at ACLAÍ is because they just didn’t know where to start when they walked into their local gym, which is a top barrier to physical activity. It’s not surprising given that the standard gym membership starts with an ‘induction’ consisting of a quick tour of the machines, and a standard program print-out given by the gym instructor, followed by lonesome trips to the gym wondering if your are doing the exercises right. Two of the standard goals that we have for members at ACLAÍ is that;
Each member can do things that they were not able to do when they started with us and overcome physical barriers.
2- Each member knows how to train. Good training technique vs bad training technique, what a training session should look like, and how to make progress in each session.
3. Personal Barriers: Embarrassment of Being Unfit
Being self-conscious is quite a normal part of the process when it comes to getting back on track with your health and fitness and to overcome a lack of motivation, and is double common when you are starting a new activity in a new and unusual environment. Of course, it isn't helped along by the images of semi-clad models with spray on sweat that hang in many training facilities or that bombard your social media feed. It isn't eased by wall length mirrors when you are working hard and sweating it out in the gym, or the insecurity that comes with questioning whether what you are doing is even helping you get fitter, or is it a waste of time. What does help is having an enjoyable training program that fits your goals and ability, an experienced coach at hand to help you through your session, and a training environment that is unintimidating and friendly, and that is frequented by others who have similar goals to you. This is exactly the type of facility that we have built at ACLAÍ, and it is a big part of why our training methods and coaching proves so effective with our members.
4. Information Overload
There is just so much information out there on the web and in the print media these days that it is next to impossible to decipher the marketing fads from the genuine and proven advice. As a rule of thumb, if the language used is sensationalist, if the imagery is stock photos of models, or if the main protagonist of the diet or training method is the person that is selling it, then it’s probably rubbish. Look for information that is down to earth, doesn't make you feel even more self-conscious, provided by experienced fitness professionals with real track records, and that make you feel empowered over the mumbo jumbo and ‘fit-spiration’ variety of ‘expert’.
5. Overcoming Barriers to Exercise: The Yo-Yo Effect
When you get sucked into a diet or a fad exercise program, the likelihood is that you will see a measure of initial success, followed by a backlash that sends you back to where you started if not further back. A diet followed by dramatic weight loss, followed by a crash, followed by weight gain. An intense training program that results in initial progress, followed by burnout, injury, or tedium, and eventually has you sitting on the sofa wondering where it all went wrong. I have been that soldier! From a personal and professional perspective, I can tell you that the most effective way to get fit and healthy is to get professional advice, and gradually adopt the habits that will bring you closer to the state of health and fitness that you aspire to, especially overcoming a lack of physical activity and obesity. It costs more in the long run to try the DIY approach, jumping between one program or diet to the next, compared to going straight to the best person you can find for the job, getting the most effective advice and support from the start, and doing it properly once and for all.
This Article is by Managing Director Ainle Ó Cairealláin MSc CSCS