Why Is It So Hard To Work Out?

Why is it hard to work out? (And how to fix it)

As a coach, my job is to help someone get results and transform their body and life. Knowing what to do is an important part of getting results. But another equally important thing is knowing how to then put that information into action. So, we know we need to work out, but it can be hard to show up to your workouts. Why?

In my quest to become a better coach, I’ve probably read 30+ published papers on improving success rates with workouts, diets, body transformations, etc. Researchers found out that the top 5 reasons that make it hard for someone to work out.

Reason #1—Lack of Time & Working Out

The biggest barrier stopping someone from working out is a lack of time.

The more hours you work, the less active you become.

So for many people, getting the body they want is not really a problem of money. Many people would easily pay $25,000+ to instantly get the body they want at the snap of their fingers. (And many people do try and game the system with plastic surgery—which doesn’t actually solve the root problem they have of not feeling good.)

So to get results, the first problem we need to deal with is a lack of time.

People put their best selves into work and commuting. Then at the end of the day, after trying to pull together an unplanned dinner, cleaning up, and giving the last bits of themselves to their family…

After all that stress, all they want to do is decompress.

So the problem with a lack of time—is that working out, meal prepping, sleeping more—all of those things directly rob the tiny little bit of leisure time they have left.

Most people would rather grab a bowl of chips and watch their favourite show.

It’s a tough situation.

One of my childhood friends is the president of a company with a dozen employees. He’s married and has kids and works long hours to make sure that his clients are happy.

He finally found a way to make his workouts fit into his time-starved life—when he built a full-out home gym to save time from commuting and getting changed. Then he shortened his workouts into five sessions across the week and did twenty-minute workouts first thing in the morning. By giving his workouts priority, he was now working out consistently while still finding the energy to accomplish everything else he had to do.

Over time, he found that the workouts were even rewarding him. He noticed that on the days he missed his workouts, he was a bit moodier and more stressed. Working out was giving him more energy and a better and steadier mood. This meant he was able to serve his clients better and be more present with his family.

That doesn’t mean it suddenly became easy. Things like vacations, getting sick, or a temporary few weeks of crunch time at work can throw a wrench into a solid workout routine.

But there are ways to make things work if you really want it. If you feel that your biggest issue is a time problem, I’ve found that most times, there are simple little tweaks that will help you discover the time you need.

Most times in life, we make things out to be harder than they ought to be, just because we haven’t been shown a good model of how to actually do it.

Action Plan To Free Up Time

  • Work out in the morning when you’ve got energy
  • Build a home gym to save time
  • Shorten your workouts and then work out more often
  • Pay someone else to do your tasks (taxes, house cleaning, meal prep, etc.)
  • Get healthier through diet/lifestyle/environment to free up time spent lazing around

Reason #2—Dislike Of Exercise

When I look back twelve years ago, it seems odd to see myself today as a strength and fitness coach.

This is because I was an underweight skinny computer nerd.

My day consisted of drinking Coca-Cola while making websites for clients with my business partner Shane. For lunch breaks, we’d watch Youtube of other people playing video games for strategy tips and then play NBA 2K on Xbox together after work.

Do these video game nerds look like they’d like lifting weights?

Broad Shouldered vs Narrow Shouldered

That’s me, the skinny guy on the right before I gained 21 pounds in a single month. I put 5.5″ onto my shoulders in just a couple of months.

Building Muscle Made Me Healthier

And I haven’t stopped lifting weights since.

Just like learning to love coffee, alcohol, or some cheeses—you need repetitive exposure to feel the benefits first, to learn to love it.

It’s called an acquired taste.

You too can learn how to love exercise—but only once you’re getting benefits from it.

Here are the most annoying parts about lifting weights:

  • Timesuck. You need to watch videos about how to do the exercises, how to read the workout sheets, and then you lose your tiny bit of leisure time as you work out, etc.
  • Your form is sloppy. You know in your head how your body should be moving, but it just won’t do it. You feel clunky, awkward, and embarrassed.
  • The weight burns. Once you get under that weight and you start doing the exercise, your muscles start burning. It’s not exactly a pleasant feeling.
  • By the time your workout is finished—you’re toast. You’re exhausted, and all you want to do is lay down. Depending on your responsibilities, that may or may not be possible. (There’s nothing worse than attempting a personal record on the deadlift and then needing to play with your kids after.)
  • You might get a night of bad sleep. If you exercise too close to bedtime, you might be super hot the entire night, making for an awful sleep.
  • The next morning you’re too sore to even sit properly. You might groan as you crawl out of bed, and even sitting down at the table becomes a momentous task.

Why would you possibly *like* exercising with all of those downsides?

You’d have to be nuts, right?

But over time, after repeated exposure, you start looking and feeling good.

You start getting benefits.

For me, my chronic tendonitis went away, I felt energetic and strong, and I was no longer in pain. Doing active things like going for a hike or snowboarding wasn’t hard anymore—it was fun and easy. I suddenly became an active person because it was easy.

Action Plan To Like Working Out

  • Timesuck => time investment. You learned everything you need to know. Now all you need to do is carve out 2-3 hours a week. Instead of this time being a drag, you start craving it as a stress relief.
  • Sloppy form => effortless form. Your form becomes perfect as your brain rewires as you sleep at night. Your mobility is improved, and you start walking tall naturally. When you want to squat—you squat properly without trying—no frustration anymore.
  • Weight burns => mindset shift. The weights still hurt, but you start to see it from an outside perspective. It’s now a catalyst to transform yourself. Just like responsibility in life brings meaning, the burning weights bring strength and fortitude.
  • Tired after lifting => invigorated after lifting. Your body adapts, and you no longer get anywhere near as tired after lifting. And if you do the style of workouts we use in our programs, you ought to finish the workout feeling better than when you started.
  • Bad sleep => wonderful sleep. People who exercise have better quality sleep than those who don’t. You just need to give it a bit of time to adapt. (You can also shift your workouts to before work if heat is still an issue.)
  • Soreness => resilience. Now that your body has adapted to be tougher, daily life doesn’t make you sore anymore. Not only that, but as long as you lift consistently, you really shouldn’t experience muscle soreness anymore.

So the trick to turn HATING exercise into LIKING exercise is all about exposure over time. You’ll adapt and get used to it as you develop your lifting skills.

The hardest part is following through, to get enough repeated exposure when you’re tired, sore, and would much rather be doing anything else.

For me, all it took was 30 days of accountability to get through that tough “launch” mode, after which the benefits of lifting naturally made me keep exercising.

Reason #3—Too Tired To Workout

After a long day of work, most people are too exhausted to make a home-cooked meal—let alone picking up some heavy dumbbells.

This week we’ll be looking at “feeling too tired to work out.”

If you think about “feeling too tired” as money in a bank account, the account is empty and is being overdrawn. On the flip side, feeling energetic is when your bank account is growing.

Let’s say it costs $250 in energy money to do a workout.

This week you’ve got $1000 being deposited, but you’ve already got $1500 in expenses through commuting, long work hours, family stress, etc.

There’s simply no “money” left to spend on working out.

So, we’ve got three things we can play with to become energetic again.

We can:

a) Increase the deposit of new energy
b) Decrease the spending of energy
c) Keep the total energy balance the same, but change your priorities of what you spend it on (like a budget)

Action Plan To Get More Energy To Work Out

Some of the simplest ways to “deposit” more energy into your account are:

  • adding in nourishing foods that fix deficiencies
  • sleeping a minimum of 8 hours a night (9.5 hours is optimal)
  • getting more sunshine
  • walking more
  • improving your overall lifestyle/environment, etc.
  • catching up with friends/family and developing relationships
  • taking creatine monohydrate as a supplement (look into if this is a good idea for you, it’s a natural compound found in meat/fish)

Some of the simplest ways to decrease the “spending” of energy are:

  • avoiding fake foods, especially white flour with added iron and high-fructose corn syrup
  • avoiding 99% of supplements (and also many common drugs—talk to your medical professional for a gameplan to fix the root cause)
  • simplifying your commute (if possible)
  • systematizing your life to make fewer decisions (such as through weekly meal prep, habit building, etc.)
  • getting hired help (housecleaner, meal delivery, grocery delivery, someone to do your taxes, etc.)
  • working fewer hours
  • avoiding fake light as much as possible before bed
  • avoiding fake things in general (chlorinated/fluoridated water, plastic clothes, etc.)

Some ways to play with the “budget” to free up some energy:

  • Move your workout to the first thing in the morning, when there’s still energy to spend on it
  • Make a bet (Odysseus-style), and the fear of losing money to your buddy (and the shame) will force you to spend your last few bucks of “energy money” on working out
  • Get a coach. Paying for a coach with cash emotionally tells your body that working out is a priority for you. The fact that someone will be checking in automatically makes you stop slacking as you know someone will be following up with you.

Working out costs you energy in the short-term, but begins to reward you with more energy later as you get used to it. It’s sort of like buying stocks where you lose some buying power today but gain more in the future through compounding gains.

Because of this effect, I am a big fan of using coffee (caffeine) to help make it easier to start working out.

When you’re tired, a coffee before a workout will wake you up, give you instant energy, and even temporarily increase your testosterone—allowing you to crush those weights.

The downsides of coffee are pretty minimal in the short term. Even in the long-term, while coffee has some downsides, it also has some pro-health effects in studies.

In terms of the bank account analogy, coffee is sort of like borrowing cash at an absurd 1% lending rate and then using that to invest in something with a guaranteed payoff of 20%. It becomes a no-brainer.

To wrap up, using coffee, improving your diet, and fixing your sleep are some easy ways to get your body the energy it needs to work out. Then you’ll begin feeling and looking better.

Reason #4—Working Out Is Lonely

I was a bit surprised when I saw loneliness as one of the main reasons that people don’t work out.

And that was a blind spot, to be honest.

Because I had worked out with my friend and business partner Shane Duquette for nine years straight, I had no idea that exercising alone was a real roadblock for people trying to get started.

Working Out As Roommates In A Tiny Apartment

Shane and I started lifting together as roommates, and we kept up our lifting habit after I got married to my wife Michelle. Shane would walk 45 minutes from Roncesvalles down to Queen Street West in Toronto to meet me at the local gym.

And on special occasions, when we’d meet up with my other business partner Marco Walker-Ng, we’d all lift together as something fun to do before going out for dinner. (Then we’d lift the next day again but with the camera rolling to film some new exercise demonstration videos.)

Lifting wasn’t just lifting heavy things. In between sets, it was also bantering, debates about politics and cultural issues, and new bands that had found. (We even had other gym members interject with their say in our more controversial conversations.)

As my wife and I had more kids, we felt smushed in our under-700-foot condo and moved out to suburbia. I built a badass home gym with Rogue equipment just a few months before the covid restrictions hit.

I was very thankful to have my home gym as I avoided all the gym closures over the past two years, the ridiculous mandates, and being required to wear masks while exerting yourself (which makes little sense.)

My home gym was better than any other gym I’ve ever trained at in terms of quality, cleanliness, style, music, and the fact that I never needed to wait for equipment.

But lifting at home was also my first time experiencing that feeling of “a lack of company” during exercise.

When I built my gym, because I had already lifted for nine years straight, that feeling of exercising by yourself didn’t stop me.

But now, I could totally see how it might be a problem for those who are trying to get into the habit of lifting.

It’s easier to get to your home gym—for sure.

But there’s no one there waiting for you.

When you’re feeling tired, you can easily cut your workouts short, or you could even skip them. No one else will notice.

So what can we do about loneliness and lifting weights?

This is by no means a full list—if you have any insights of your own and what works for you, I’d love to hear them, just hit reply.

Action Play To Make Working Out Less Lonely

Ways to make working out more social:

  • Get a lifting buddy. Meet your friend at the gym, invite your neighbour or friend to join you, lift with your spouse after the kids are sleeping, etc.
  • Lift at a public gym. Even if you don’t know anybody, just being in a social space with other people around can help. Our body subconsciously sees other people doing hard work, and it makes us pick up the slack. It’s been said that no champions train alone at home, and that seems true to me. If you’re single, I would say you almost certainly need to be lifting at a public gym and spend as little time alone as possible.
  • Join a class or CrossFit. Classes are more social to begin. You get to know people over time. I believe one of the reasons CrossFit has taken off is because of the camaraderie and not because of the programming. (Injuries are sky-high in CrossFit, and it’s hard to make progress, but it certainly doesn’t have the loneliness factor.)
  • Get an in-person coach. It’s not that you need someone to count your reps or tell you to keep pushing yourself, etc.—but a coach brings the human element to something that might feel lonely.

But sometimes you’ll live far away from a gym, you’re married and have kids, and it’s hard to get out of the house, or you’re ultra-short on time, etc.

What can you do then?

Ways to make working out alone feel less lonely:

  • Get your social needs elsewhere. It’ll be easier to work out alone if you don’t feel lonely elsewhere in your life. Go to church, go out for a couple of brews with your buddies occasionally, play local sports, etc. Then lifting weights alone doesn’t have such a big burden placed on it to also fulfill the social aspect of your life.
  • Join an online community of other lifters and post updates on your goals. Shane, Marco and I still chat on Slack, and we are keeping up to date with each other’s lifting goals. Recently Shane has been sending me videos every couple of days as he works towards his current goal of deadlifting 500 pounds. I also get to check in with how other guys are doing inside the Outlive community that you get access to with the programs. Online communities are so important for many people that studies have actually shown that joining a community helps people reach their goals more predictably.
  • Fill the void with music or a podcast. Tim Ferriss once wrote about feeling lonely as he wrote in the dark, late at night. He would put on the same movie and let it loop (He watched the same movie over and over again, so it wasn’t distracting but still served the purpose of noise and hearing people’s voices.) Because you’re not writing but doing some physical, you could totally put on something interesting like a podcast. Or you could just pump loud music. I’ve noticed that when I forget to put something on, either music/Youtube/podcast, I do feel an inside drive to cut the workout short.
  • Exercise outside. A few studies have found that exercising outside made exercise feel easier, more enjoyable, and the time passed more quickly. Sunshine boosts the serotonin hormone, which also plays a role in social interactions—perhaps there’s some overlap there? One trainer I like posted great advice once that you should buy a cheap power rack and rings and leave it outside and let it rust over the next five years—it’ll pay itself off by how much you use it. Lifting outdoors doesn’t work so great for barbells, but you could totally do all your pull-ups, push-ups, ab work, and some fun callisthenics work, and then maybe have two kettlebells nearby (light and heavy) for some arm and leg work.

Reason #5—Working Out Is Expensive

It’s easy for people to look at working out and to just see $$$ signs.

  • Workout clothes
  • Gym membership
  • Gym classes
  • Personal trainer
  • Supplements
  • Personal gear (weight scale, step counter, heart rate monitor, etc.)
  • Higher food expenses

There are two underlying problems I see when people say that working out costs too much money.

  • they overestimate how much it could cost get started
  • they fail to see the opportunity costs of inaction

Let’s take a quick look at both.

#1—Overestimating the costs to start working out

If a loved one came to me and they were dead broke (I’ve been broke before), and they said they wanted to get into working out?

Well, I wouldn’t start by giving them a blueprint to build a USA-made Rogue home-gym, or that they should buy 100% local organic foods, or to buy Reigning Champ gym clothing and high-end Garmin gear to track their heart rate, and all these supplements which provide a 1% improvement to their results.

No. First, I’d ask them what their goals were and then come up with a simple game plan that they could start with today.

It’s all about taking action right now. Get in motion, then figure it out as you go.

I’ve had clients surprised by how quickly they got results just by going for a daily walk (with their current shoes), hitting 10K steps a day, and doing a bodyweight workout a few times a week. (When covid restrictions kept gyms closed.)

People on a budget might be surprised that they can start getting results by changing *when* they eat and how long they sleep—both of which cost nothing.

They might be surprised that their food bills could actually go down—by temporarily dropping pre-cooked foods. They could shift those dollars over to improving food quality with bigger portions of meat and seafood, as I often recommend, but they could even just pocket the savings.

I remember hanging out with one of my close friends, and he was telling me how much money he and his wife were saving once they cut out booze and chips.

Lastly, one of the best things you can do when you don’t have a lot of money is to spend money to save money by learning from other people’s mistakes.

When Marco, Shane, and I were developing our Bony to Beastly project in 2011, there was only really ONE program (now defunct) meant for skinny guys as far as we could see, and it didn’t solve all our problems. (To give you an idea of how long ago this was, Youtube had just started allowing high-definition videos, and there wasn’t a lot of content in high-res with good audio when we posted our lean-to-mean experiment videos, which detailed our results.)

Because there were few to learn from, that meant I made a ton of costly mistakes—in time, but also in money. One time I quickly tallied it up, and I easily spent well over $10,000 on stupid supplements.

People can easily save their hard-earned cash (and time) by making good judgements and purchasing a few programs that detail exactly how to solve their problems.

Coaches condense 10-20 years of experience into a heavily refined program that only costs $100-$200, which is an insane deal. Even if you get burned with a crummy program (hey, we’ve bought a handful of them, especially in the business world, over the years), some programs are so high value that it’ll make up for all the awful programs and then some. You will still end up years ahead of where you’d be doing the DIY route, along with more cash in your pocket (and fewer injuries to heal from.)

So if I had to quickly sum up the cheapest way to get started today for a broke family member:

  • Go for daily walks outside in the sunshine
  • Replaced boxed and pre-cooked foods with ones that you cooked yourself at home with real ingredients
  • Shift money from vices to food that nourishes you
  • Do a bodyweight workout (push-ups, pull-ups (or towel-door rows, bodyweight squats, some ab work, etc.)
  • Eat less energy on “rest” days, and eat more energy right after your workout
  • If you’ve got cash for supplements, buy just this one—$20 for creatine monohydrate.
  • Buy a couple of programs that fit the exact problem that you’re trying to solve to save time and money by learning from someone else’s mistakes.

Now onto the second problem with money and working out…

#2—Not understanding opportunity costs

I remember my mind was blown as a young entrepreneur when I first learned this concept. Opportunity costs are defined as:

“the forgone benefit that would have been derived from an option not chosen. To properly evaluate opportunity costs, the costs and benefits of every option available must be considered and weighed against the others.”

Or maybe more simply:

Opportunity cost refers to what you have to give up to buy what you want in terms of other goods or services.”

Apparently, the average yearly amount in the USA that someone spends on booze is $565 and $1200 for fast food.

That’s $1765 for the average person to work with—even if they cite money as a problem.

That is money that could have been used to spend to buy a couple of adjustable dumbbells and a pull-up bar. That’s money that could be used to make a couple of smart swaps in their diet to erase the belly. That’s money that could be spent on a program that teaches all the secrets learned by experience and some accountability through an online coaching forum, etc.

The crazier thing about opportunity costs is looking at them as time keeps on ticking.

In just five years of delaying a change, that’s now $8825 of wasted opportunity. In ten years, it’s now $17,650 of money burned up into the air.

Here’s the worst part.

Most people are feeling slightly worse, year after year. They chalk it up to “getting a little bit older now.”

Over ten years of making excuses haven’t just cost them big bucks in cash…

Now it’s costing them the inability to fall asleep, waking up groggy and with a sore back, and the frustration of an ever-growing belly and not understanding why.

I covered this in an email a few months ago, but research shows that being healthier led to making more money too.

If you’re healthy, you take less time off of work for appointments and sick days, and you don’t have medical bills and prescriptions to pay for. You also retain the sharpness of your mental health while gaining wisdom from experience over time.

When you figure out what to eat (and what not to eat) and the game plan of how to structure your lifestyle to simplify things—you finally start getting results.

The belly flattens out, your arms and shoulders level up, and you find yourself standing taller without trying. Everything in your life starts working better—the way you control your anger, the way you negotiate, the way you act with your loved ones.

I’m not saying to cut out beer and pizza forever. Catching up with my buddies is always a great time. But I’m also in a position of strength and health where I can actually enjoy it.

In terms of shifting more money towards food, you can choose how much your food bill increases (or not.) But as far as I can see, spending more money on improving your food quality is not only delicious, but it’s as close to buying time as you can get. (And that’s high-quality pain-free time, I might add.)

Anyways, most people I know that scoff at the prices of things have plenty of money. They have:

  • New clothes each season
  • Nice car on lease
  • Nice laptop/tablet/phone
  • Expensive data plans
  • Eat out and do order-in often
  • Have cable/HBO/Netflix/Disney/etc.
  • Have a nice selection of alcohol at home
  • Bought a nice house/condo with big monthly payments

As I see it, it’s not really a lack of money—but really a lack of prioritization of money towards becoming strong, fit, and healthy.

We don’t wake up with bonus time or bonus money—we need to carve out space for it.

Even when people do get inheritances or win the lottery, they don’t suddenly invest that money into strength and health.

It seems to me that it normally goes into a car, a boat, a cruise, a vacation, or a renovation.

A lack of money and a lack of prioritization are two totally separate problems.

And who owns the consequences of those decisions?

Burn Stubborn Fat, Gain Muscle

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *