Fitness Corner: How to make exercise (mostly) effortless

There’s always effort involved in starting and maintaining a consistent exercise routine. Although it’s possible to fall into it, like I did when a boyfriend started dragging me to the gym several afternoons a week to lift weights, most of us aren’t so lucky. It takes conscious desire, effort and work to begin and continue an exercise program. Nor it is a guarantee. Indeed, despite fierce motivation at times, I have found that exercise has fallen on and off my agenda as my circumstances in my life have changed over the years. This is normal.

Today I totally blew off my planned walk for a not-very-good-excuse (the weather) and I really don’t feel like doing anything else. More than anything, this morning, I just want to sit here. So although I’m glad for this writing inspiration, I’m more thankful these days are rare, as I value and prioritize my exercise time. Anyone can get to this point. Here’s how I recommend making exercise as effortless as possible:

You won’t feel like doing it but do it anyway:
You won’t feel like exercising every single time, but you must do it anyway. How you feel and you taking action are not related, unless you allow them to be. If you expect “I don’t feel like it” to crop up, the feeling won’t derail you as often. This gets easier as it becomes a part of your routine, but there will always be times when you won’t feel like doing it. Did I mention you must do it anyway?

Plan it:
Put it on your calendar. Set a timer. Schedule a time. Gather your outfit the night before. Remind yourself in advance that you will be exercising tomorrow to prepare yourself mentally. I’ve heard of people sleeping in their exercise clothes, hey, whatever works. Make your scheduled exercise time “life-proof” so that regardless of whatever comes up you will still meet your commitment.

Make yourself accountable:
Get a trainer or a coach. Sign up and pay for workout sessions or classes in advance. Subscribe to an online program. Partner up with a workout buddy or join a Facebook group. It’s not a failure when we can’t hold ourselves accountable, sometimes that extra boost is crucial to our success. Recognizing and meeting that need for yourself sends a powerful message that you are worth it.

Create a habit:
Repetition is your friend. Once you have created a habit with your exercise, it is so much easier to stay consistent. Creating a habit can be challenging, but it’s worth it. Find a time, set a plan, make it happen. It will take about two weeks for it to feel semi-normal, and about a month to feel kind of comfortable. The longer you do it, the more of a no-brainer it will be. Years and years, like me? It’s just something I do.

Change up your activity:
Sometimes you just really won’t feel like doing anything, and that’s okay every once in a while. But what if instead of taking the day off, you switched it out? If Tuesday is your running day, and you just aren’t feeling it, then consider doing a few yoga poses, or a quick walk, or some stretches, or 50 pushups instead. You will still maintain your routine and you’ll feel a lot better than if you did nothing. If you can schedule it later in the week, great, but otherwise you’re back on track with running the following Tuesday.

Well, I think I’ve succeeded in reminding myself that I have no good excuse for blowing off my planned walk this morning. Can I find time later to do something? Yes. Do I feel like doing anything? Still, no. Is there some form of exercise in my near future? Sigh, yes!

Wishing you much consistency and as little effort as possible in your life-long exercise routine!

PS I bundled up and went on a shorter walk than I had originally planned, but I met my commitment to myself and it was absolutely worth it.

— By Pritam Potts

Coach Pritam Potts is a writer and strength coach. After 16+ years of training athletes and clients of all ages as co-owner of Edmonds-based Advanced Athlete LLC, she now lives in Dallas, Texas. She writes about health & fitness, grief & loss, love & life at


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