Things That Mess Up Your Exercise Goals (and How to Stop Them)

How much exercise do you get? If you’re like many Americans, the answer is “too little.” Experts recommend that the typical adult should exercise for 75 to 150 minutes each week. Those are pretty attainable figures, but many of us aren’t making the grade.

And it doesn’t take a scientist to recognize a cycle: as we sit around, it only gets harder to stick to our exercise goals. Every year, millions of us make New Year’s resolutions and join gyms, but every year, we start failing early and often.

Why do we keep failing? Why is it so hard to reach our exercise goals? Here are a few possibilities, along with advice for doing better in your next attempt to change your ways.

Unrealistic goals

It’s easy to get fed up with your lifestyle, your weight, or your athletic prowess, and declare war on these things. It’s scorched-earth stuff: you decide you’re going to quit eating this or that completely, start running this much every single day, start lifting weights, etc.

But the tougher the prescription that we write for ourselves, the more likely we are to fail. Making a sudden and massive change like this can be miserable. Messing up a little can be easy, and once we’ve failed in some small way, we feel as if we should give up entirely.

And since all of this is new to us, even the most successful of these dramatic changes tend to be abandoned as soon as we reach our weight or exercise goals for a brief period — and then our old lifestyle returns soon afterward.

Here’s a better plan: make incremental changes and focus on building habits, not on shattering your whole routine for any set period of time.

Joyless exercise routines

One dimension of unrealistic expectations is the idea that we should do exercises we hate. It’s not easy to jog every morning, you groan, but you must do it!

But no, you don’t have to do it. You could swim instead. Or you could dance, suggest experts at a dance center in Gaithersburg, MD. Or you could try riding a bicycle, lifting weights, playing in a recreational sports league, or just walking around your neighborhood.

Stop setting goals that involve exercises you hate, and focus instead on forms of exercise that feel more like hobbies. Those are the ones that will become habits.


Once you nail your exercise routine, you’ll be in the zone. You’ll be running on habits — those largely unconscious “choices” that have such power to regulate our lives. What a relief it will be when your exercise is second nature!

But habits are tied to your routines and environments, which means that it’s much easier for you to mess up your exercise routine when you’re traveling. That’s why you should be proactive about planning vacation activities that get you moving.

Watersports are a great way to stay active on vacation, according to experts who offer kayak rentals near West Palm Beach. And getting exercise out in the sun can be particularly healthy. Just remember to use sun protection while you’re out on the sparkling water and under the hot sun.

Your work life and other habits

Even after exercise becomes a habit, it will have to compete against other habits and other obligations. If you work too late, you’ll miss after-work workouts and may be too tired to jog in the morning.

You may also eat poorly or skip lunch, and that hurts your exercise goals, too. You need to fuel your body with the right stuff if you’re going to reach your goals. There’s a virtuous cycle in play here, too: studies show that getting regular exercise will help you manage your work-life balance.

That’s why we have one last piece of advice for you: examine your lifestyle and your habits. Are you too quick to say yes to friends and obligations? Are you working too hard? What about your life is making exercise so challenging?

If you’re honest, you’ll find things that take up your time and wear you out. Make sensible changes, and you’ll be on your way to a more effective workout plan.