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.



We are coming into our third week of 2017, and January is already flying by. I thought this would be a good time to talk about the fitness lifestyle, self acceptance, and breaking the guilt and shame cycle.

I know what this time of year can be like. We start the new year excited with plans to eat better and workout regularly. Life gets hectic and we start to slip a little on our nutrition goals or miss a few workouts. This is often where the guilt creeps into our thoughts and leads to an “all or nothing attitude.” Rather than guilt spurring us to be more consistent, it erodes our motivation by telling us we are not strong enough. This leads to more skipped workouts, less consistency with our eating habits, and even giving up entirely.

I had a client once tell me “Carol, I just need to be stronger and stop making excuses! I tell myself that I am going to do better but am just not motivated and I can’t seem to get my act together. But I need to do it!” As she was saying those words, I could see a look of shame and distress cross her face. The look was saying, “I am not good enough or confident enough to make changes.”

Fitness is a lifestyle, and one you are good enough to achieve! Fitness is not a single 8, 10, or 12 week program. It is not the diet in the latest best selling book. It is not just one transformation program. All of those things have a place, and I use those methods to help women learn lasting nutrition and workout habits. But, fitness really begins with our attitude and how we feel about ourselves. We have to break the cycle of shame and the “all or nothing” mindset. Shame will never create the type of body you desire. Guilt will never create confidence. It simply breeds more guilt. Working out is a process where we learn our bodies, become increasingly comfortable with who we are, and build confidence. We don’t need to achieve a total transformation to begin this process. We can start today changing how we see ourselves.

Here are my three ways to begin a fitness lifestyle that is joyful and shame free.

Practice being judgement free – If you skip a day of working out, don’t judge yourself. If you had less than a perfect meal or day with your eating plan, don’t dwell on it. You can always get back on track tomorrow.

Focus on one simple nutrition or workout habit at a time rather than trying to tackle all the changes at once -Try choosing just one action you can consistently do, such as having a healthy breakfast or working out 3 days per week for 20 to 30 minutes. Then stay consistent with that one thing. Keep it as simple as possible in the beginning. You can always build on the positive routine you have set.

Journal for fitness – I recently wrote a newsletter on this subject that I encourage you to read. It is a practice I started last year and am finding to be beneficial for me with my fitness, business, and personal goals. When you write down your thoughts without judgement, it helps you to be fully present in the moment rather than stressing out about what needs to be done next. It also give you insight into deeper feelings that may be interfering with your fitness path. I like to start with a prompt such as “today I feel…” or “today I have a big idea…” I always include a section for gratitude, because living in gratitude helps me be joyful and content. I then write my schedule for the day using the insights I gained from journaling.

This year let’s focus on a different type of transformation – one that occurs from the inside out. 


Last July I was three weeks out from my first national figure competition. Diet was on point. Workouts were intense. My body and muscle conditioning was at its best. It was about that time that I began to experience a profound fatigue unlike anything I had ever felt during contest prep. It was like having the flu times ten. My doctor ordered blood tests and discovered markers in my blood for inflammation and rheumatoid arthritis. I was referred to a rheumatologist who confirmed the diagnosis through x-rays and more extensive blood tests. RA is an autoimmune disorder where the body attacks its own healthy joint tissue. It can cause ligaments and tendons to weaken to such a degree that they can no longer hold joints in shape and can result in joints being totally destroyed.

I managed to make it to the stage and to place top 3 nationally despite being in the middle of a major rheumatoid flare up. Everything hurt and the fatigue left me feeling like I had been hit by a train. When I returned home I began treatment for the symptoms and continued to hit the weights hard in the hopes of returning to the stage for nationals in 2017.

All this came to a screeching halt in early September. I had just completed an upper body workout and felt great. My husband and I took a 30 minute sauna and I headed for the shower. Suddenly I had an excruciating pain radiating from my lower back down my left leg. I knew something was terribly wrong. The pain continued to grow worse over the next few days and by the fourth day I was unable to walk without collapsing in pain. That night I was in the hospital.

The next 10 days were a living nightmare spent in bed with nerve pain that did not respond to pain killers. The MRI showed stenosis and a bulging disc. I had an epidural and began numerous physical therapy sessions. However, I attribute the progress I have made thus far to the nerve decompression treatments I have had with Gabe at 3H Fitness. It was really the only therapy that was helping me with the pain.

Two months later I am on the road to recovery. Although I am so much better, I am not able to endure intense training sessions or lifting heavy weights. “Beast mode” is on hold. My body needs time to fully heal. At this point I am uncertain what my training or goals will be like going forward into the future. I can tell you that I am determined to be the healthiest I can be at each stage of life.

So, what can you do when an injury derails your training? Here are 5 things that have helped me:

1. Focus on what you *CAN* do. If you begin each day thinking about all the things you cannot do, you will find yourself feeling defeated. This was and still is the most difficult step for me. I have had days where I can’t walk the dog. On other days I find myself staring at someone at the gym who is doing all the activities I used to do. When I fall into that trap, negativity sets in, and I feel lost. So I start creating a list in my mind of every activity I was able to accomplish that day-wash the dishes, walk to the mailbox, drive the car, ride the recumbent bike, take a yoga class, go to church.

2. Seek alternative exercises. Find the exercises you are able to do without pain. For me, I have found that some very light dumbbell exercises or certain machines are safe for me to do. Something that helped me was to journal my activities and note which ones were causing me back pain either in the moment or hours later. As a result, I am far more precise and creative with my workouts than before.

3. Create a support network. Talk to friends and family. If you have a chronic illness such as RA, do research and search for resources and groups in your community. Seek out other people who have encountered the same problems and have overcome them. It helps to learn that you are not alone in your challenges.

4. Plan to the best of your ability. It’s important to still set goals, even small ones. This week you ride the recumbent bike for 10 minutes and next week aim for 15. You were able to do 3 sets of 10 reps with 4 lb weights and next week you try for 12 reps or 4 sets. Slow progress is still progress, and perfection is overrated.

5. Remember to be kind to yourself. Set goals as best you can, but be flexible and forgiving. When you are recovering from an injury or dealing with a chronic condition, you will have days that are difficult. You may need to rest or lighten your activity. When you have been an active person, it is hard to take days off. I have found myself actually feeling guilty for not going to the gym even though I was experiencing pain. Look at the rest time as an opportunity to be stronger the next day and in the coming weeks.