Break Through Workout Barriers

There is no fitness program or workout plan that will achieve results if we are unable to follow through consistently. It has to be something we can implement in our daily lives. When working with clients I have seen several barriers that can derail our best fitness efforts. I always like to focus on the positive. However, sometimes we just need to identify the obstacle, so that we can create and personally own realistic solutions.  Here are 5 of the main barriers I have come across in my own life and in the experiences I have had working with clients over the years.

  1. Time: I hear this quite a bit. People are so busy with work, school, and family. They are torn in several different directions at once. I have days where I feel like I am literally living in my car…moving from one appointment or obligation to another. I have found a few things that are critical for success. I plan the exact time of day when I will do my workouts and treat that time like I would an important appointment. I enter the gym with a specific but adaptable plan on the types of exercises I will do. I know exactly how many sets, reps, and how much time I will devote to cardio. On days that are extremely busy I streamline the plan if necessary. So I may still work chest, shoulders, and triceps but I use dumbbells instead of machines and set it up like a circuit where I move through 3 solid sets without resting. This saves time because you are not wandering around the gym trying to get on a specific piece of equipment.
  2. Exhaustion. I can really identify with this one. I have autoimmune disease and have found that mornings and evenings are the absolute hardest. If I am having a flare up, it is common for me to awake fatigued as if I have the flu. My joints are stiffer and more swollen in the early hours as well.  Just getting started is a battle. If I am having a flare up the evenings can be hard, because I have been challenging swollen joints all day and am physically drained. However, I have found that movement helps me feel better and raises my energy level. Your exhaustion may not be physical but is more emotional. You have had to deal with problems all day and have no energy to work out in the early hours or at night after a hard day of work. But, consider that exercise literally creates more energy in your body. I am going to get scientific for just a moment. It all happens on the cellular level, where natural energy production begins with tiny organs called mitochondria. They are located in our cells and act like tiny power plants to produce energy. The number of mitochondria you have is affected by daily activity. The body produces more of these power plants to respond to your energy demands.
  3. Boredom. This is a big one! Many people are bored with the type of exercise they have selected or their workout routines become mundane and stale. It has happened to me! This is a perfect time to determine what makes you tick. What motivates you? Is it group classes, circuit training, or having a specific goal to work toward. This is also a good time to introduce different training techniques to spice up the same old exercises. Let’s face it…at some point, a lat pull down is a lat pull down! A bicep curl is a bicep curl! Right? It’s just not very exciting. But what if you change the intensity in some small way with supersets, drop sets, or circuit training. The old can become very new again.
  4. Plateaus. These occur when someone has been training for awhile. Initially they saw great results and were motivated by the changes in their body. However, over time the body becomes accustomed to doing the same things over and over. It adapts and fails to respond in a significant way. This is a point where they are seeing little to no results from their time at the gym. Again, this is something I have experienced myself and try to help my clients overcome. Changing the order of the exercises, the intensity, and how muscle groups are combined can break right through those plateaus.
  5. Failing to start at all because of lack of motivation. I have talked a lot about this subject in prior blogs, newsletters, and my social media posts. In order to experience motivation, we must begin to act. This doesn’t mean we try to do everything at once, get discouraged, and give up. It is a process of taking small daily steps toward being fit and active.

When it comes to exercise, food, motivation, and mindset, we all face barriers or obstacles of one type or another. Identifying the challenges is only a first step. However, if we state the problem as fact and never search for a viable answer, we leave ourselves powerless. On the other hand, finding and owning the solutions to our problems is very powerful and allows us to create the type of fitness plan that is sustainable for life.

Becky’s 3 Part Plan to a Lifetime of Fitness


Because of my background in running, cycling, and bodybuilding, I am often asked if I only coach fitness competitors or competitive athletes. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although I have worked with competitors and athletes, the majority of my business is women who want to look better, be active, and improve their overall health. Together we design a lifelong approach to fitness.

Over the past several weeks I have been asking women about their number one struggle with fitness, how they feel about exercise and food, and their main health goals. One of my clients, Becky Thompson, came to me last summer wanting to increase muscle conditioning and improve her overall eating habits. She has come a long way in a short period of time, and I wanted to get her unique perspective on living a fit lifestyle. As Becky and I were talking, three things came immediately to the surface.

  1. First, her spiritual faith plays a primary role in her health. She approaches everything through a heart of gratitude.
  2. Secondly, Becky emphasized the need for accountability. Whether you workout with a trainer, Skype with a coach, or head to the gym with a workout buddy, be accountable.
  3. Third, she explained the specific traits that she wanted in a fitness coach or trainer. They are different than what you might be envisioning.

Becky is a 61 years old retired occupational therapist, married 37 years, with 2 adult children, and 1 grandchild. The first thing that I noticed about Becky was her kind heart and strong faith in God. She grew up in a Christian family where both parents encouraged physical activity as a path to protecting and preserving the life that God has given. Becky combines her spiritual beliefs with her fitness journey and sees eating well and exercising as a way to live in gratitude for this precious gift of life.

Although Becky exercised some through her twenties, it was not until her thirties that she received a big wake up call to the importance of fitness. She was a busy mom caring for her young son, when she was suddenly struck down with a severe illness similar to hepatitis that lasted for several months. She became so sick, that her husband had to drive her and their young son to her parent’s home in Texas. Thankfully they were only living two hours away at the time. Her parents were then able to help care for Becky and her son during this difficult time. Over time her health was restored, and Becky embarked on a more serious lifelong path to staying fit. Rather than being bitter over her illness, Becky looked on this time with gratitude and saw it as an opportunity to move forward in faith. 

Because Becky was an occupational therapist, she had a keen understanding of muscles and anatomy which helped her when she went to the gym. However, she pointed out to me that everything fitness related (from workout clothing to exercise) has changed for women. Years ago there really wasn’t much for women to choose from, and it was primarily all cardio or aerobic based. There were some running tracks at local schools, Jazzercise classes, and Richard Simmons. Women were not really lifting weights, and if they did pick up dumbbells, the weight was extremely light. No one was talking about women gaining muscle or eating for fat loss. Rather everything was based around the scale and weight loss.

When Becky reached her 60s she realized that she wanted more accountability and to make some changes. This was the point where we met. I asked her why she chose me to be her coach, and she gave me some important insights. The truth is there are lots of trainers who can write meal plans or give exercise prescriptions. However, coaching someone to achieve a healthier lifestyle or to meet their fitness goals is an entirely different process. 

Becky said her biggest struggles with fitness were nutrition, breaking a sugar addiction, and pushing herself to achieve her best. She told me that was the very point where I came into the picture. So, I asked her what were the specific things she wanted from a fitness coach/trainer. Becky gave me 3 solid qualities:

  1. Someone who understands the effects of aging on the body.
  2. A trainer who safely works within physical limitations to achieve real results.
  3. A coach who would encourage her and show her change is a very real possibility at any age.

I loved this! If I were to write out qualities to look for in a trainer, I would most likely have listed some more general, common traits. This was a bit of a wake up call for me and made me realize the importance of asking your client what they want from a trainer. Through that process you can learn if that coach is in line with your expectations. So I would add one simple quality to Becky’s list. Choose someone who asks you the important questions and who has traits that are in harmony with your goals.

Each time I write these blogs featuring women, I am continually blessed, pleasantly surprised, and gain new insights that I can take with me and apply to my own life.