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Barriers to Exercise (and how to overcome them!)

As a fitness professional in the industry, it’s not unusual for clients and group members to need to cancel sessions or classes occasionally. Understandably, we can’t always help that problems may arise, but it should be important for both the client and trainer to understand potential barriers to exercise when starting training - especially those barriers that may continuously sneak into conversation!

So, what exactly do I mean by “barriers” to exercise? A barrier is seen as anything that may stop anyone from exercising. This can then be broken into two categories; intrinsic and extrinsic barriers. Intrinsic barriers are those that are perceived to stop someone from exercising or creating a healthy lifestyle – but may be easily overcome, whilst extrinsic barriers are actual reasons that may stop someone from accessing exercise and a balanced lifestyle.

To look further into this, let’s first take extrinsic barriers; reasons that may literally mean someone cannot workout. Injuries simply can mean someone can't perform certain exercises, work schedules may stop us from attending certain classes at the gym, a lack of equipment (or access to equipment) may mean we can’t perform certain types of training, certain towns and schools may not have facilities to offer particular sports to their community, or for some (especially during lockdown!) there may be a lack of access to technology to help us train in certain ways. Although a lot of these things are out of our hands, there are still ways to work round this. It may mean that we make more use of bodyweight workouts, getting outside to walk or run for example, or even that we just have to keep searching for workout classes that can fit within our personal schedules and within the space that we have available. Injuries don't always mean that we have to stop exercising completely, as there's some movements that could just be adapted until we have recovered from the injury.

In comparison, some barriers are seen as intrinsic; those that are perhaps more in the mind or may not be seen as barriers by other people. Cancelling a session because you don’t have time, not joining a session due to lack of energy, not wanting to try something new for fear of failure, or not prioritising your own health because it can feel like too much effort or that its the last thing on today's to-do list. In these cases, it is really important to stay mindful and respectful of reasons that clients may have, but it can be useful to remind them that with a trainers help, they may soon be able to enjoy exercise sessions – even if only for a short session covering basic exercises!

It’s fair to say that starting a new exercise regime can be daunting at the best of times, as is walking into a new gym and wondering how on earth to use half of the machines! Often clients come to me to start training due to their lack of self-esteem; we can easily start to overcome this by offering a support group with other like-minded clients or encouraging them to talk to family and friends who may be on a similar health journey and they may not even realise! There is often a lack of understanding when it comes to healthy eating; as a trainer I try to offer out as much advice as possible, suggesting certain web pages to look at for information or even encouraging my clients to get help from a professional dietician should they require specific diet plans. A perceived lack of space or equipment can sometimes be a reason that people might want not want to start training programmes from home – unfortunately at the moment, there isn’t much choice for heading to the gym, but there’s SO much that can be done at home or at the park with no equipment at all – the job of a trainer is to be able to show you variety with whatever you have available!

The hardest thing as a trainer is helping clients and group members to understand which barriers they may be facing when starting training, recognising potential barriers that may arise, and finding individual ways to overcome them without losing momentum. The first step to overcoming any barrier (in life, or in exercise) is to recognise the problem. It’s not a way of showing that you’re weak, but instead a way of showing your strength when you find ways to work around the problem. Whilst some barriers may be fixed quickly, some take longer to work out. The most important thing for clients to remember is that sometimes they must put themselves and their health first. As with most things in life, in order to make progress, consistency is key!

Get in touch to discuss your potential personal training sessions today… barriers or not, we’ll work out the best way to a healthy new lifestyle for you! AJR x

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