How To Exercise Without Making Yourself Crazy

Until really recently, I had a strict “no joining gyms” policy. This policy was based upon good solid reason and logic – in the past, I would join a gym, go religiously for a few months, get sick and not go for about a week, and then never go back again. Ever. Plus, I wouldn’t even work out at home because it would remind me of how guilty I felt about not getting to the gym.

I know, it’s crazy. But I know from friends and clients that I’m not the only one who does this.

Once I learned about Health At Every Size and took the pressure off myself about losing weight, not joining a gym was really great for me. I would take long walks, do aerobics or yoga DVD’s, and I would do it pretty regularly.

But lately, I started feeling the pull to join my local Y. They have a pool, daily water aerobics, new weight and cardio machines, and a generally pleasant, laid back vibe. I took a tour with a friend and we both loved it. And since joining, I’ve been going about five times a week, mostly to do water aerobics but also to use the elliptical. I absolutely love it, and I feel really good.

So how did I get to this peaceful, happy place with working out and exercising?

beth ditto bra weight lifter
After Beth Ditto is done holding her boobs, she's totally going to lift weights.

Well, there are methods to my madness. So if you’re feeling kind of stuck when it comes to fitness or not sure how to do it without over-exercising/guilting yourself/obsessing about weight loss, et cetera, I’d like to give you a couple of tips on how to do it in an emotionally healthy way.

So here are my top five tips on how to exercise without making yourself crazy.

1. Do What You Find Fun. Just because your best friend swears by hot yoga, it doesn’t mean that you have to do it. It doesn’t have to be difficult or unpleasant to be really good for you.

Why? Because if you like it, you’ll want to do it, and if you don’t like it, you won’t want to do it. It’s really that simple. It’s not like phys. ed. class in school, where you had to do whatever the class is doing. If you like dancing around your apartment — fantastic. Great. Do that. If you like water aerobics, find a place that has it and do it. It is worth the money if you like it and it makes you feel good. When you exercise in a way that you actually enjoy, you still get tons of benefits, and it’s SO MUCH EASIER to do because you actually want to do it!

2. Be Open Minded and Try Different Things. Experiment with different kinds of exercise and see what appeals to you. Be willing to try something new and revise your opinions.

Why? Because when you’re open minded, you may find that what was once true for you isn’t true anymore. For example, even if you always thought you had two left feet, you might really enjoy a dance class. Or, even if you always found the weight room intimidating in high school, you may not feel that way now as an adult. If you’re checking out gyms, try to get a free week or day at different gyms and see where you feel most comfortable. You don’t have to make a decision right away, and you may be surprised by which place you like the most. (I also really recommend YMCA’s and YMHA’s because they’re usually less “hard selling” than commercial gyms.)

3. Don’t Keep Statistics. I mean it. Don’t track anything about the way you exercise. Don’t track how many minutes of cardio, calories burned, or your weight or your measurements.

Why? You don’t need it, and it can make you crazy. You know when you’ve been working out regularly and when you haven’t. Your body tells you. You notice when your endurance has gotten better when you get less tired walking to the train. You notice when your muscles have gotten stronger when you lift a bag of groceries with less effort. The point of exercise is not to constantly compare (and judge yourself) against a standard from last week or last year or 20 years ago. The point is noticing how your body feels. And if today your body feels tired and you only do a little, that is fantastic too because it means you’re listening.

4. Schedule Your Workouts. Block out time in your schedule for classes you want to take or working out at home. Make that time as sacred as possible by not scheduling anything else during that time. Be realistic about the time you need, including time to stretch, shower, etc.

Why? Exercising really is “me time.” It’s time that you are putting aside, just for you, to make you feel good. Putting your favorite classes or home workouts in your schedule is a signal to yourself that your health, well-being, and personal time is really important. I put my water aerobics class (and travel time and shower time) into my schedule and don’t schedule clients during that time. I know that no matter how crazy my day is, I have that time blocked out just for me and I can look forward to it.

5. Invest in Workout Clothes and Sneakers That are Right for You, Fit You and Make You Feel Good. When you have sneakers and clothing that fits, exercising is so much easier and more enjoyable.

Why? It’s really hard to concentrate on exercising when you’re worried that your bathing suit is too tight or your sneakers are worn out. Wear clothes that make you feel good – even put on some makeup if it helps. Truly, it’s better to wear one outfit that you like over and over again, than wear really old clothes that make you feel embarrassed. I notice when I have things that support my workout, (like these prescription goggles that I bought recently) that I’m more likely to workout and really enjoy it.

I hope this helps!  Let me know if you try any of these tips in the comments section below!

Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight. Go to to get your free download – Golda’s Top Ten Tips For Divine Dining!

4 replies on “How To Exercise Without Making Yourself Crazy”

Yes! Yes to all of it! I love this! I recently began working out, trying a few different programs at home, and found that – by listening to my body – I could modify some of the exercises that were uncomfortable to still build strength and have fun. I also found that playing a Ke$ha station so that I couldn’t hear Jillian Gag-Me Michaels’ voice while I did her workouts made it a LOT more fun. And lo and behold: I am enjoying doing jumping jacks! And chest-flies! And I even laughed doing lunges this morning?

This is not the person I thought I was; I thought the person I was hated exercise. But I like it. Endorphin release is awesome! I have more energy throughout the day, more endurance for hard work, sleep more soundly. It makes it so disappointing that so much about exercise is phrased as though its only “benefit” is weight loss, when really, it just makes you feel really damn good and is fun to do!

I’m obviously still running on this morning’s high.

All of this really speaks to me. I have a problem with wanting to do everything perfectly — I’m a perfectionist in every aspect of my life. So, I want to exercise perfectly too — I want the perfect 30 minutes of cardio with the perfect amount of strength training to work my muscles, and I want to eat the perfectly balanced diet that is good for me… well, it takes an awful lot of time to be perfect at something, and I have this thought process that if it isn’t done perfectly, or if I don’t have time to do it perfectly, I shouldn’t do it at all. Which is a really shitty attitude.

I really need to let go of some of this perfectionism and just DO something instead of spending all this time harping on HOW I should be doing it.

I think you just wrote my biography. I am a total perfectionist, and earlier this summer I realized that a lot of it has to do with please OTHER people rather than myself. I want to appear cool, calm and collected to impress people. So I’m trying to just do things because I want to do them or just try them, even if I suck. It’s a terribly hard mentality to get past though. It takes reorganizing my thoughts every day.

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