How to convince yourself to finally exercise

How much physical activity do you get in a day and how do you feel about it? I am just getting back on my exercise routine after being sidelined by eczema for two months – two whole months of eating a cold salad of steroids, antibiotics, and antihistamines every day!

I really enjoy exercising. In fact, three years ago, I trained with the force of my entire life, until I was forced out of it when I tore my MCL before my first pro muay thai fight in Phuket.

After my extended rest, now I have started to pick it up again with equal parts enthusiasm and humility. The first day back, I thought I would die. Only joking, I really died. For anyone out there who is thinking about exercising or starting again, I would like to share these tips below to finally convince yourself to get on with it. You will never regret it. Let us do this together!

1. It is more mental than physical. The hardest part of exercising is getting started. Once you are on the mat or in the gym, you will find that you can go on forever. Your body is capable of so much – it is just the mind that needs convincing. Tell yourself that you want to exercise, that you choose to do it, and commit to it every day. Challenge yourself to be true to your word.

2. Find a purpose. Why do you want to exercise? The next time you are looking at your exercise equipment, ask yourself: “Do I want to be healthier?” “Do I want to lose weight?” Do I want to clear my head?” “Do I want to look better?” If the answer is yes to any of these, you know what to do! Often, it is easy to say no to exercise, but when you remind yourself of what it represents, the motivation returns.

3. Show some curiosity. How far can your body take you? How strong can you be? Can you be faster, slimmer, lighter, healthier, more flexible? I have done so many things I thought were impossible for me. But instead of saying “I cannot do it“, I wondered if I could, and gave it a try!

4. Choose an exercise that you like. If you asked me to go running, I will never exercise. I just don’t like it. I will do HIIT, muay thai, dragon boat paddling, and yoga any day. In fact, I did it all in one day, every day, when I lived in Boracay and met Markus three years ago.

Fun fact: this is our first photo together.

The point is not just to exercise but to connect with it. You will do the activity more if you enjoy it. It does not mean that one exercise is better than the other, just that we have different preferences and must choose what works for us.

5. Put the time in perspective. A 10-minute abs exercise takes only 10 minutes of your life. You probably spend a longer time sat on the toilet staring at your phone. Even better, just focus on the first 30 seconds of exercise in front of you and keep going until you are done. Is it worth it to only do a 10-minute routine? Get on a plank position, stay there for 60 seconds, and tell me what you think.

6. Focus on quality of movement. One pull-up done using the correct muscles is infinitely better for the body than 10 poor ones. Sure, you may feel bad because the YouTuber you are following makes 35 reps look so easy, but this person has been doing this for five years non-stop and you are a beginner. There is no comparison. Slow and controlled is the best way to go.

7. Modify the exercises. What is stopping you from doing a push-up on your knees or bending your legs in downward dog to lengthen your back? These modifications are important to allow your body to use the right muscles. It looks different but the internal action is the same. Also, modifying now will give you the foundation to do the full expression of the pose or exercise eventually.

8. Meet your body where it is at. If you have not exercised in a while, low impact exercises are your best start, as well as simple exercises. You are likely to perform the movements with integrity and still give your muscles serious work. These kinds of exercises have the added benefit of helping you stay consistent because you do not need four days of recovery. Remember that building strength, flexibility, endurance, and cardio takes time. Never underestimate simple exercises. If you force your body, you will end up with an injury or rage quit due to frustration.

9. Take as many pauses as you want. Yes, there is an optimum time in between exercises, but you need to build endurance to achieve this. At the start, go ahead and take as many pauses as you need to finish your exercise routine. Who cares if the 10-minute exercise becomes 20 minutes? What matters is you completed it. The more you exercise, the shorter the breaks that you will need.

Bali, 6am: Time for Yoga.

10. Get on with it as early as possible. As the day goes, the pile of excuses grows larger. Maybe you just ate and are still digesting, maybe you need to pick up the groceries, maybe you got swallowed by social media – suddenly, there is no time. But if you exercise first thing in the morning or as early as possible, you make sure that it happens that day.

11. Get your friends on board. When I finished my yoga teacher training course, I wanted to practice yoga with everyone – it is just more fun! Depending on how you feel, you can ask your friends or siblings to exercise with you, maybe at the same time or simply to do the same routine and exchange thoughts after. Mutual support helps a lot and you are accountable for each other’s progress. Also, you will look killer together when the results of your exercising finally show up!

12. Eat better, not less. Unfortunately, you cannot out-exercise a bad diet. The good news is you only need to eat better, not less. I focus on eating whole food with plenty of fiber. They lasts longer on the belly and I am fuller longer. Of course, I still eat dessert but I am mindful of my daily consumption in general. Some days I win, on others I renew my commitment to do better!

13. Dedicate time for rest. Rest days are just as important as active days. You want to give your body the space to recover and consolidate gains. I find that I am more eager to work out after a good rest. It is refreshing and the easiest cure for burnout.

14. Expect that it will be hard. You have to be ready to put in the work – that is why it is called working out! Take the ego out of it, listen to your body, challenge yourself, and stay consistent. Some days will be harder than others, but always choose to show up.

You get more out of these days because you overcame mental blocks. When I feel weak, I still show up because I am curious if my body will perform – it always does – and I am grateful that I decided to keep going. As mentioned in the beginning, it is a mental practice, but once we convince ourselves to exercise, it is always worth it.

104 thoughts on “How to convince yourself to finally exercise

      1. when i was younger i soooo wanted to build one… i love them, especially the ones that have an old house style to them with shabby chic linens and such 🙂

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                  1. i need a good couch for it, it’s got a two seater hide a bed in it, and i don’t like it, it’s uncomfortable… if you have any suggestions on super comfy couches, i would love to hear… fibromyalgia means you need comfort!

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  1. Excellent post with great advice!

    I’m a big believer in getting my primary exercise (in my case, running) done first thing in the morning, before life intervenes. Whatever the choice of exercise is, making it a priority and a habit turns it from chore to joy, something that makes you feel better every day. It must be at the top of your daily/weekly to do list. Oh, and moderation, to avoid injuries. As hard as it was to accept, slowing my pace and reducing my expectations as I aged has allowed me to keep running consistently for 45 years now. Take the long view; you won’t regret it.

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    1. I bow to you – running for 45 years. I cannot run for 10 minutes! And I cannot agree with you more. We must make it easy on ourselves to get it done. Your moderation tip is also critical. Getting the ego out of it is a big step to progress. I am the same with you. I can do a regular push-up or chaturanga but modifying with knees down is better for my wrist tendonitis. Took awhile before I accepted that I just cannot do some exercises! But you are right, of course. I love the concept of the long view – I need to be humble about this so I can keep moving and experience the joy in it. Oh, thank you for your thoughts. It inspired me a lot.

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  2. Hello Micah, thank you for dropping by blog. I love the kind of life you both have chosen for yourselves.
    Exercising and eating right are essentially about mindfulness and I enjoyed reading your post about inculcating them. I am a big fan of pushing the body because the reward is instantaneous. I do my best to show up, as you say. Cheers. x

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    1. Happy to know that you share the same thoughts! Yes, a lot of it is about mindfulness and the more we practice it, the more natural it becomes. Let us keep showing up, shall we? Thank you for visiting us, too,

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  3. I have a friend who always reiterate about 4,8 & 9. She often tells me, “strong is the new sexy…”
    Growing up with sisters, I think I have the practiced the basics of Muay Thai at some point 😀

    Seriously Micah, these are so inspiring, I can’t wait for the time that I’d be sharing with you my “getting healthier” journey. We have started with the outfit… We are determined to do this (hubby and I).

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    1. How wonderful! I am so happy that you and your husband are doing this together. And yes to the outfits! Do whatever it takes to get inspired. What exercise are you starting? Looking forward to reading about your wellness journey. And omg, I laughed so hard with practicing the basics of muay thai with your sisters.

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      1. I spin and he has his regular weights and sit ups (with keto) but we agreed on trying yoga. He has trigeminal neuralgia and I did research that pain is less on people who do yoga. So I guess that’s what enticed him to say yes.

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        1. Ah yes, you told me about spinning. I need to look this up! All the best with yoga – maybe start with restoratives and gentle classes to ease into it? And I agree, pain is definitely lessened. When we meet, I will teach a class for you two.

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          1. Definitely starting with the gentle ones because we are beginners. I have tried sporadically in the past, but husband is a total first timer. I really hope to meet you and see your place. Both me and husband are amazed… he was not raised in Pinas so he couldn’t imagine the province life at its finest but he looks at your IG and I can see how curious he is. He is also amazed at your muay thai prowess. I specifically tell him about those stuff about you because he is such a UFC fan. He said, she looks so petite but obviously strong.

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            1. Where are you taking classes? If online, I recommend Yoga With Tim or Cat Meefan on YouTube. We will definitely meet once the world opens again. It will be fun to show your husband what slow living looks like in practice – I can imagine it is far from what he thinks it is. Oh I am also a big UFC fan! Can you ask who is his favorite fighter? My fighting weight is 45 kg – the tiniest. Haha!

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              1. We use Sarah Beth Yoga but with how rarely we do it, we just end up repeating one video over and over. But now that we are thinking about doing it regularly because of his TN, we will probably follow a basic program… I will subscribe to their channels…

                He hasn’t answered me yet about UFC, I think he is mentally calculating at the moment as to who 😀 (I know his usual people but I’ll see what he’d want me to tell you hahaha)

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                1. I like repeating videos, too. Some just hit the spot for certain days. I think it helps if you make a ritual out of it, like it is something you do together at this time every day. Okay, please tell him my all-time favorite fighter is GSP. Haha!

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                  1. Hahaha. His favorite according to him is Conor McGregor but his all time favorite is Chuck Liddell.. I will see him in a few… will see how he reacts to yours 😀

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                    1. He said he likes GSP too but had some explanations (that I couldn’t remember much) as to why he didn’t choose him… He was shocked to know your fighting weight haha. He said, he’s met me when I was so tiny, but never pegged me to ever weigh like that… LOL.

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                    2. Haha! Of course, that is not my walking weight. I am usually 47-48 kg give or take when I am healthy. Also, I am short. If I fight 50 kg, the girls will have at least three inches height advantage and that is already a lot. 45kg is ideal as we are likely to be the same height. And Markus and I also talk about our blog friends, like they are people we know, and are fascinated by different aspects of their lives. It is fun!

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                    3. I always wonder about that. Non-fighters have this notion that we can take i.e. Manny Pacquiao (just an example) with our “skills” but we don’t really know how it goes. I’m curious.

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                    4. Take Pacquiao? I would not dream of it. Haha! I suppose with a lot of fighters, their body type is unassuming, they do not really look strong or capable, especially wearing normal clothes. I remember asking this Chinese girl to spar with me, ends up she is the reigning boxing champion of WBC, I think. Haha!

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                    5. Last night, my husband has shown me some of GSP’s clips. He’s savage! LOL. The fights were so short!

                      That’s true. Manny can knock me out by flicking me. BUT I always wonder about Manny… how strong is he really?! 😀

                      Sparring with a Chinese Boxing Champ? What happened next?

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                    6. GSP also wears short shorts. In the UFC gym, they have tools to measure punching power of athletes and other sciency stuff. What happened was I got schooled on how to box, fortunately it was short, and we were training muay thai.

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                    7. I see, does one’s punching power determine one’s fighting level too?
                      And yes, it’s hard not to notice the short shorts…

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                    8. It only determines punching power. There is so much that goes into fighting that one strength is not enough. Even if you have many strengths, it still falls down on how you use it and how you react to the opponent. You make me miss training, Janis. It has been a while since I had a conversation about it. Thank you.

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                    9. You make the conversation interesting… I have been surrounded by people who practice MMA even when it wasn’t that popular yet… I met my first mma “person” in 2001 but never did we discuss about these things because they make it look exclusive… you speak like it’s something you want to share… I hope you can get back to being able to train…

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                    10. Haha. I agree. Some circles can be quite ‘culty’. Thank you, I am sure I will get back into it ince the world allows. For now, I am trying to get back into it – just finished my first two-week program today! How about you? Has the yoga started?

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                    11. Just me, and only once… 😬 there’s still so much going on so he is unable to be quiet with me..

                      Yes, they were especially at that time when it was not so popular. I met that guy from a reality tv dating show shooting live from the bar from which we were drinking that night… there’s a celebrity vibe from that… plus + the elite “culty” feels, so it was kind of as if I was listening to a pre-recorded tutorial vs. being in a convo… makes you feel uninterested to listen… vs. how you make it feel…

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                    12. Sorry to hear about that. I am glad it did not completely turn you off fighters and think they are all the same. I hope you are able to have yoga with your husband. It is quite fun, and unexpected.

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  4. I needed these so much! Sometimes I skip working out because I don’t feel like it and regret in the end! I learned so much from this post and I agree with no. 1, it definitely is more mental than physical! I try my best to do it in early mornings too! Thanks for sharing.

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  5. Thanks for sharing these tips Micah, they were really helpful and empowering for me!

    I’m fairly inactive due to chronic pain but I know that I need to exercise more in the hope that weight loss will relieve some of my symptoms or at least make them slightly more bearable. Still I find myself constantly getting stuck at point #1. So from now on I’m going to focus on the why, find some low intensity activities that I enjoy and just do my best! Thanks again.

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    1. Thank you, Hayley. Reading this makes me happy. It is possible – modify and find what works for you. If you need help with adjustments or some cheering, just write us! For years, I had really bad period cramps – ones that sent me to the hospital. As I became more active, the pain disappeared. Moving has serious positive benefits to the body and I cannot wait for you to enjoy them, too. Remember that if you do your best, it is enough. Just showing up for yourself is an achievement and it feels good, doesn’t it? I will be very happy once you get that first workout in. Cheering for you!

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  6. Great tips on here. I’m having a hard time when it comes to consistence in my workout partly because I am busy. But you’re right – no one is too busy to do a workout. Thank you for this!

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    1. Hello and thank you for visiting us! Yes, it helps with put it in perspective. We can have a good sweat in only 10 minutes – in just one hour we have six times that opportunity if we only choose it. What kind of exercise do you usually do?

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  7. Thanks a ton for these tips! I honestly didn’t exercise one bit in lockdown 😬😬 Usually I play basketball, table tennis, tennis, football, badminton or some other sport everyday with my friends! But since lockdown has come into place, I haven’t done any exercise! Thanks a lot again for these great tips!

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    1. You are one active person! I love the social aspect of it. I also really enjoy training muay thai in the gym. So unfortunate the pandemic has put all these into a halt. I wonder how bad can it be to do sports with face masks outside? It could be okay if on opposite courts or what do you think?

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      1. Yup! I love being outdoors! Camping is amazing 😍 woah that’s really cool!! Actually, it might interest you to know that it’s very difficult to play with face masks! It’s really hard to breathe after, especially if you play some running game!

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        1. Oh, Markus loves to camp, too. What is your go-to camping place? Yes, I can imagine it may be hard. I suppose if there is no community transmission at your place you should be fine. Sigh. This pandemic is really a challenge to our well-being!

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          1. That’s so cool!! Probably a camping ground or something? I’m only 15 so I haven’t exactly gone on many camping trips.. Exactly!! No exercise, no school, no fun trips 😟 But alteast were getting more time with our pets and family!! What do you think?

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            1. Only 15, so much of the world to explore! Does that thought excite you? Yes, the stay-at-home orders have positive sides, as you mentioned, but it is important we balance it, or it will make us insane otherwise. Oh, no school for you? Not even homeschooling?

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              1. Yup!! Definitely! I love travelling 😍 Yes I agree… Sometimes it feels really boring! Yeah no school but online school has started… It’s alright, not as much fun as normal school where we meet friends.. but something’s better than nothing!

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                1. I agree, online school keeps things going, gives you someting to do. Wishing you all the best with that. I imagine it comes with new challenges. But the good side is maybe more students will want to go to school next semester because they really miss it.

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  8. I absolutely love exercise but haven’t really been active for a month now. Thinking about this, I think joining group sports really does help with motivation, so for me, not being able to go to CrossFit has been a bit challenging.

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    1. I am with you, Shelly. Two months sidelined makes it hard to start again but we have to keep trying. How else are we going to eat dessert? Haha! And I hope you find an online crossfit community to get back at it or maybe do it with the husband or some friends?

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      1. so true! we have some biscuits called “brutti ma buoni”, that literally translates “ugly but tasty” – they dont look appetising at all, but believe me they are incredible! you just gave me an idea for one of my next posts!

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        1. Looking forward to reading it. I think this is a common experience for Asian food, and Filipino food to be more specific. Our local food is brown or sludge but it is tasty. Or at least I know it to be tastu before I switched diets. Have you tried Filipino food?

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            1. Aha, a whole new world to discover for you. Most of everyday Filipino food have meat so we make a pass on them. What I still really like is tortang talong, a grilled then fried preparation of eggplant with egg. Really humble but I enjoy it a lot. What is your favorite Italian dish?

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      1. Just the fact that evolution has placed energy conservation high on the list of survival traits lol Over tens of thousands of years we needed to conserve our energy for hunting or days without food, the tendency to sit on the sofa is hardwired! So a hard thing to overwrite.. Luckily building a habit around exercise can get around this

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        1. Cannot agree with you more. Same with overloading in sugar. Hard wired. But habits and discipline will help us. Also, it is about what we want. Do we want to sit in the couch overweight and be at risk for diseases or do we want to invest 30 minutes every day into becoming healthier? This is what I find fascinating about exercise – a little goes a long way.

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          1. Yes, exactly the same with sugar. These combined are a deadly combo! lol
            Habits are definitely the way through. Rationalising the risk of a sedentary life etc never works for long as our relationship with our future self about the same as with a stranger!

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            1. I love the way you think. Definitely agree. It is the meaning that we put into our actions, the purpose they serve that will determine our progress. Of course, it will be up and down l, but as long as the trajectory is up, we should be okay. I say this mainly to myself because I still overeat as I get back into my workout routine. It is improving but I could do better. Haha! How is it going with your exercise and diet?

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              1. Upward trajectory is all you can ask for! Great work. Exercise for me is a regular three times a week workout and maybe a run. Diet at the moment is super low carb as I’m waiting to get a tooth fixed. There’s a dental diet which almost resembles keto that I’m following and it’s working. I’ll keep with it until the third coronavirus wave passes and I can get to the dentist! What do you guys eat>?

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                1. What is your regular workout? Lifting or bodyweight? This is the first time I heard of dental diet, how interesting. I hope you survive until visiting the doctor is possible. We have a plant-based diet, sometimes pescetarian. You are in HK, right? And third wave already? How is that looking?

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                  1. Workout is just arsing around with a skipping rope and some weights, kettle bells for an hour while listening to audio books. Better than nothing!
                    Re diet, plant-based is a good choice.

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  9. After reading this post, I’m so glad I have already started a new exercise routine. My daughter came to visit last month, and she inspired me to do more than just walk. She lost 130 pounds and is intent on keeping the weight off. Your suggestions are great.

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    1. Wow, 130 lbs! Congratulations to your daughter. That must have taken serious commitment. What kind of exercise did she do? And well done on starting a new exercise routine. What did you add to the usual walk?

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      1. Daughter Lise was doing all sorts of exercises, because the gyms were closed in Denmark where she lives. She shared some stretches and resistance band moves with me. I also use free weights. Y’all certainly keep fit and active!

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            1. It is always lovely when we feel the results of our work, no? Yes, I switch routines every two or three weeks. Mainly I do HIIT and yoga every day. I need the cardio because I love dessert. Haha!

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