How To Start Working Out If You Hate It (Or Just Bored Too)

Joe Holder
8 min readJan 10


Joe Holder provides an 8 step process to help you deal with improving your fitness if just the thought of working out makes you want to run the other way.

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New Year energy, same old dance trying to figure out how to stay active. For those that activity comes naturally to, great. But for many of us, including myself at times, the gym or the constant nag to “workout” is wildly annoying. Former athletes often struggle with this, just like the lay population. What’s the point of working out if I’m not training for anything specific? Well you are, cause life is our sport. It’s fine, you can hit me with an eye roll, but life is a sport, and you should take care of yourself. But if you don’t like to workout but want to start or stay active, I’m going to lay out a simple 8 step thought process to help you get focused. Concise. To the point. And you can apply all this immediately! There are some hard truths in there but believe me it works. It’s all about mental framing and designing it in your day.

  1. Stop Complaining and Make The Decision To Act

Hard truth right from the jump. One thing about humans is that we are good negotiators, especially when it comes to ourselves. We can chronically convince ourselves that tomorrow will be the day everything changes. And perhaps it will! But why not let that be right now? Tomorrow eventually becomes “today” anyway. So you’re either going to do it or you aren’t. Let’s just be honest with that point and not complain. There will be hardships, and sure sometimes you need to vent, but unless you’re doing it to problem solve then what’s the point? You’re about to start to look after yourself, so if anything give yourself credit! Don’t think there isn’t enough time (there is), or that working out is too hard (it doesn’t have to be), or is “boring” (keep reading I have something for that!). Once you break the negative feedback loop of pointless complaining, your whole life can change, fitness habits included.

2. Accept Your Limitations

Mannn even for what I’m still able to do I know I’m not that same high school kid that could just play basketball for hours on end. We age, some injuries might pop-up, we have less time, work is an adult reality, and perhaps you now have a family. And that is totally fine! Many of those are blessings. Some hurdles you won’t get over. That’s cool. Just take a different route. Reframe your “issues” really just as the current situation. It is what it is. Focus on the advantages instead. Yes, we got busy jobs but now perhaps you have a discretionary income to try new activities in the past you couldn’t. Yes, your newborn (the light of your life!) is causing you to get less sleep but now you have a REAL reason to stay healthy besides just “health.” Accept circumstances that at times might be inconvenient really just as the parameters and guardrails you have present to place a workout plan that works for you.

3. Determine success in as multiple ways as possible.

It doesn’t just have to be going to the gym. It could be better sleep. Less time on phone. Spent time with a loved on. If you hate to workout, or are getting in shape again, working out is going to be hard. You’re probably going to miss some sessions. Don’t let that deter you. So add in some additional components that can make you feel “successful”, even if they come easy to you. Make a checklist. Cross off how many “positive” activities you get done during the day and be proud of that even if you mess up on a few. 7/10 is much better than 0/1. This will allow you to not get discouraged and the more that we can take a holistic view on our health and that workouts are just one part of that, maybe we can get the jolt of energy we need from the other beneficial activities to power through our workouts and keep improving.

4. Block It Out

Create blocks in your schedule that are distinctly for taking care of yourself. If we evaluate our day, there are usually times that are more under our control. Here we place what I call “hard time.” Blocks in the cal that cannot be changed and are usually free from the chaos of the day. This is where we schedule our workouts or other “self-care” activities. I suggest when you are just starting out, find 3 slots of 30–60 minutes in your cal that you can schedule a workout. Yes, 30 minutes is still fine, especially if you are just getting active again. This allows you to get into groove again without getting so tired and overwhelmed it messes with the rest of your life. After a few weeks you can increase.

If you already are active but don’t want to lose ground when responsibilities pile up, is 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes of activity in the evening to bookend our day. This is very easily done in the home. Make the early morning workout a little bit more intense (if that is your thing) so you get a bit of a caloric burn and wake up without it disrupting your sleep at night. Make the evening session more of a wind down (light stretch, yoga, etc) to help you get calm again especially if you had a stressful day.

5. Follow a plan that is actually for your skill level

Not too hard, not too easy. The overstressed and simultaneously overlooked goldilocks zone. People make the mistake of finding a plan that is too easy so they get bored or too hard so they get frustrated. The same can be said about workout classes or online programs etc. Make sure you find something that you know you will stick with and gives you the best of both worlds–doable yet a little bit of a push.

But find something! If you don’t like working out the absolute worst thing to do is come up with workouts yourself. There are so many resources now, and free, that will give you a decent plan to help you kickstart your fitness.

6. Make it well-rounded so you actually find something you like.

Don’t get so specific when it comes to your workouts initially. Go wide first. Cast a net so you actually find activities you enjoy. Silo’ing activities because you are trying to fit within a specific bucket can prohibit you from exploring so many different options that fitness has to offer. I know it is easy to get caught up in the “personalities” of the fitness world. That’s why so many people get turned off! I’ve done tap dance. I’ve done boxing. I’ve done ballet. I’ve done treadmill classes. Yoga classes. You name it. It helps keep it fresh and as long as you are working the three key biomotor areas (Endurance, Strength, Mobility) feel more than free to embrace variety.

7. Make it Specific Enough So You Work Towards a Goal.

Promise this point isn’t a contradiction from the last, even if it seems paradoxical. Let’s think of having a well-rounded workout plan as stocking our kitchen. Provides novelty. Looks great. Keeps us ENGAGED. If we aren’t well-stocked we have limited ingredients. If we have the same ingredients over and over, we are going to get bored. But you still need a goal. You need a recipe that produces a result. If you fall in love too much with constant variety, you will inhibit your progress and the final “dish” likely won’t be delicious. A smoothie and pizza might taste good on their own but you surely don’t want to mix them. I see this a lot in clients that I have train. They are trying everything but getting nothing.

Allow yourself to have 3–4 week blocks in which you know you’re moving towards a specific desire even if you use multiple tools to get there. Be specific so you work towards a goal. That recipe. But remember, the recipe can have many ingredients.

To make this concrete, say you have a goal of being a better runner but don’t really want to train for a race or anything performance focused. You also get bored just only running. You never finish the 4 week run block. So instead of running 6 days a week you can do a spin class, yoga class, a HIIT or strength session, run 2x a week and sprinkle in recovery/mobility sessions. At the end of 4 weeks your running will likely have improved. Would it have improved more if you only did running sessions? Probably. But you wouldn’t have finished the plan so what does it matter! This is how we can combine variety with specificity and make the decision later to hone in on specificity more once you find an activity you’re absolutely in love with.

8. Community Builds Immunity!

Look, this one doesn’t need to drawn out. Find your tribe. Bring in a family member. Join an online group. The more individuals you can be accountable to and that KNOW you want to get a bit healthier, the easier it will be. Research backs this up 10x. This is a mix of both motivation and guilt because you don’t want to let anyone down. And in this age of social currency, our reputation and health might be the most valuable things out.

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Joe Holder

Founder of The Ocho System™, Plant Based Gang, and Exercise Snacks. Writer for @GQ. Consultant for various, primarily @nike @hyperice @dyson. Views my own