Jump-Start Your Fitness Plan

Having trouble finding the time — or the will — to exercise? We asked three former couch potatoes how they got off their sofas and into shape.
Published June 25, 2017

It's no wonder we frequently skip exercising. By the time we get home and plop on the couch, even simple tasks like flossing can seem too time consuming. But exercise should be a vital part of your daily routine. "People must make room for exercise in their lives," says Jay Blumenstein, a certified personal trainer based in Montreal. "After learning how to eat properly, the next step is learning how to exercise properly."

Blumenstein says that the most common mistake people make when starting a fitness program is setting unrealistic expectations for themselves. "It can be frustrating for a beginner. A healthy way to view exercise is as an ongoing process; it takes time to see results," he says. "Just keep reminding yourself that exercise will work for you as long as you continue to do it."

Once you've started, Blumenstein says, it's easier to sustain your motivation if you try some of the following strategies:

  • Keep a journal/monitor your improvement.
  • Find a workout partner, preferably someone who has exercised before.
  • Choose exercises that you enjoy.
  • Seek the support of family and friends.
  • Hire a personal trainer.

But the best inspiration comes from those who understand how difficult it is to become an exercise convert. Consider the stories of these former couch potatoes, and use their real-life success stories to get you moving.

Susan: Creating a personal program
Susan hated exercise, but when she reached her weight goal, she knew she needed to become more active in order to maintain her weight loss. She decided to hire a personal trainer to create a home program. "When she asked me my goal, I told her that I wanted to be able to eat a lot and not gain weight!" Susan admits.

But, she says, she instantly fell in love with lifting weights and even surprised herself by joining a gym. She also began searching for a cardio program she liked. She tried step, dance aerobics, a treadmill and a NordicTrack machine, but says she disliked them all. Finally she tried spinning, and enjoyed the challenge. "I'm still motivated by the fact that I can ease up on my food restriction and not gain weight," Silverman says. "But the real benefit is my increased energy and mental well-being."

Jessica: Finding the time to get started
A layoff offered Jessica the opportunity she needed to begin exercising. "I had been meaning to exercise for quite some time," she admits. She set up a weekly walking date at the park, and that inspired her to add solo walks and bike rides to her routine. When she started a new job, she worried that it might zap her time for exercise, but she has sustained her activity level.

"I manage to fit in smaller walks everywhere — to the train, around town, even up and down the stairs in my building," she says. "And I still keep my walking and biking dates on the weekend."

Bobbi: Working up to a workout
Bobbi was prompted to start an exercise program by "the fact that [she] was only 26 years old and couldn't walk a block without [her] back beginning to hurt." Bobbi decided to take some time for herself and her health and began an exercise program. Her advice is to take it slow and do what you can.

"In no time, you'll feel like you can increase the intensity and the duration of the activity, and from there you'll start to feel great," she says. Now, Bobbi notices how much better she feels on the days she exercises. "Some sort of physical activity every day is so important — not only physically but mentally. Even if it's only twenty minutes."