6 Things That Can Derail Your Exercise Plans before You Even Get Started


How many times have you started an exercise program only to quit two weeks later because it was too hard, you couldn’t find the time or you weren’t seeing results? Sound familiar?

No doubt about it – exercise is hard work, but the rewards that come with it are too awesome to ignore.

Let’s put it in perspective. You’re not the only one who thinks exercise ranks right up there with cleaning the toilet and emptying the trash, but you still DO those things, don’t you? Why? Because you know it’s important and what the consequences will be if you don’t. 

Well, we’re here to tell you exercise is no less important. It’s an investment in your long-term health, well-being, and happiness. According to the National Cancer Institute, exercise can extend your life by as much as 4.5 years AND it keeps you functional too.

Alright, enough preaching. You already know exercise is de rigour for your health – the key is to do it. That’s the hard part. The truth is most people set themselves up for fitness failure before they even get started. We’ve seen this again and again.

If you want to make exercise a part of your life, here are 6 mindset mistakes to avoid. Sidestepping them will greatly increase the chances of being a long-term fitness success, rather than an on-and-off exerciser who never really gets anywhere.

Thinking Big

It’s nice to have big dreams and goals – lose 20 pounds, drop a pants size, show off your new six-pack abs, but fitness goals are more manageable when you take things SLOWLY and make small, incremental changes.

Don’t set SCARY goals for yourself like running 5 miles when you feel winded just walking around the block. You’ll burn out before you even get started. Keep your goals SMALL and ACHIEVABLE.

Challenge yourself to do 10 minutes of exercise each day. Once you’re doing that consistently THEN you can add more time or increase the intensity. Progressive overload, gradually increasing the challenge over time, is what leads to change, but it’s an incremental process. 

Not Strength Training

Aerobic exercise has a variety of health benefits, but it alone won’t change your body composition or help you retain lean body mass as you age. You begin to lose muscle after the third decade of life and the process speeds up after the age of 50.

Why is this so bad? Loss of lean body mass (muscle) = loss of functionality and a greater risk of falling. Nursing homes are filled with people who are frail and no longer functional, partially because they did nothing to preserve strength and lean body mass – but it’s NOT too late.


In studies involving nursing home residents, researchers got the residents started on a strength training program. Lo and behold, even residents in their nineties developed greater strength and muscle size. Most importantly, some who were confined to a chair were able to get up and walk.

In addition, strength training helps preserve bone mass. As you know, you also lose bone density as you age. Yes, aerobic exercise conditions your heart and burns calories, but strength training is what keeps you functional.

Being an “All or None” Person

Please, please, please don’t adopt an “all or none” mindset. Examples:

“I’m really pressed for time today. I don’t have 30 minutes to devote to exercise. Therefore, I’ll do nothing.”

“My life is just too busy to do such and such an exercise program, so I’ll wait until I have more time.”

Guess what? Doing nothing gets you nowhere and “more time” just never shows up. It’s not a matter of “having” time, it’s about “creating” time and working with the time you have.


So what if you can’t exercise for 30 minutes or an hour on a certain day. Then exercise for 10 minutes. Research clearly shows even 10 minutes of exercise has health benefits, especially if you work hard during that 10 minutes.

If you’re an all or none person, you’re trying too hard to be perfect. Forget perfectionism. Just do what you can with the time you have. Any movement is better than nothing. 

Putting It Off Until the End of the Day

Here’s a secret – you’re more likely to get that workout done if you do it first thing in the morning, at least that’s our experience. The longer you wait, the easier it is to find excuses not to do it.

“I feel tired.”
“I have too many things to do today.”
“It’s too late. I’ll get back on track tomorrow.”
“I wasn’t expecting to get home so late from the office.”
“I just ate and shouldn’t exercise on a full stomach.”

The list goes on and on. Set the alarm a little early, lay your workout clothes by the bed, and put them on as soon as you wake up, before you have time to replay that list of reasons why you can’t.

Yes, we hear you – you’re not a morning person. Neither are we, but once you get started it’ll wake you up and make the rest of your day better because you did it.


If you can’t work out first thing in the morning, at least schedule a block of time in your calendar so it’s part of your daily routine.

Not Choosing an Exercise Plan That Fits Your Lifestyle

Yoga, Cross-fit, boot camp workouts, swimming, running – so many ways to work out because not every workout suits everyone. For example, Dr. A hates to run, partially because it makes his feet hurt. (He has plantar fasciitis). I like running and enjoy boot camp workouts but hate dance workouts and Pilates. If Pilates was the only way to workout, I’d probably be a couch potato.

What about you? Try a variety of workouts until you find something that resonates with you. Take advantage of the many YouTube videos out there. You can find a video guiding you through almost any type of workout.

Variety is important too. As much as you love a certain workout, don’t let your go-to workout become stale. Switch things up. The best workout is the one you’ll do because you enjoy it.

Being Inpatient

When you start an exercise program, you want to see immediate results. Who doesn’t love immediate gratification? When you work out you ARE getting instant gratification, you’re pumping more blood to all the organs in your body, boosting your metabolism, and getting the anti-stress benefits working out offers.

Did you know some research shows a single exercise session sharpens focus and enhances creativity? A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed exercise helped people come up with creative solutions to problems.


Plus, aerobic exercise relaxes the walls of your arteries, helping to reduce pressure on them. You may notice your blood pressure is lower after a workout.

Exercise also increases insulin sensitivity, meaning your cells can take up glucose easier without forcing your pancreas to pump out more insulin. That’s good for your metabolic health!

You may have to wait a little longer to see changes in body composition but behind the scenes there are lots of healthy things going on. Good things are on the way if you stick with it!

The Bottom Line

With cooler weather coming now’s the perfect time to introduce more movement into your life. Reframe how you think about exercise. Envision it as “me” time, time to do something positive for yourself, clear your mind, and relieve stress. If you need extra motivation, wear a fitness tracking device

It’s not about fitting into a certain size clothing or looking like someone on the cover of a magazine – it’s about preserving your health and about feeling better every day because you’re better conditioned.

Now, take another step. Head over to the Healthy Lifestyle Docs Facebook page and like it. We’re going to post motivational stuff to help you stay on track. Feel free to come there to ask questions or share your experiences. We want you to be the best you can be!


National Cancer Institute “NIH study finds leisure-time physical activity extends life expectancy as much as 4.5 years”
The British Journal of Sports Medicine (3):240-245. (1997)
New York Daily News. “A single exercise session can boost creativity: study” (2013)

Kristie Leong M.D.

Dr. Kristie Leong and Dr. Apollo Leong are physicians helping you to lead a healthy lifestyle by sharing nutrition and fitness tips and keeping you abreast of the latest health news.

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