She Hated Exercise

I took on a new personal training client earlier in the summer, and she point blank told me that she “hated exercise, and everything to do with it!”

David Castillo Dominici

She said she had slogged away in the gym for years, up to 90 minutes, three times a week and hated every minute of it, and seeing very little by the way of results.

(She was about to sign up to one of my 6 month coaching programmes, so was very relieved when I told her that exercise is the smallest component of the programme and we would be doing just  60 minutes per week. Find out how she got on below)

Hating exercise is very common. (The thought of exercise when you’re already really tired is one of the most intimidating things mentally if you ask me)

The fact of the matter is that most people (including me) dread their exercise sessions. It’s easy to see why too, it’s hard; it makes you feel very uncomfortable and takes lots of willpower and discipline to stick to a routine.

This is a big contributing factor as to why so many people are sedentary these days – they are not mentally tough OR they are tired and weak.

?Did You Know? When you are tired that your willpower is at its lowest, and you are mentally weakest.


Willpower and discipline are things which seem to be vanishing from our society with very few people able to delay gratification at all.

I’m interested in this area of willpower and discipline because “modern man” doesn’t seem to posses much of it.

Just a few generations ago people waited for everything they wanted.

If there was a big new purchase they would save up and THEN buy it.  Nowadays it’s have it now pay later.

Have you ever heard of the marshmallow test? It’s a test psychologists have done with children for decades, to predict future success.

A child is given a marshmallow and told they can either eat the marshmallow straight away, or if they can wait for 15 minutes they will receive a second marshmallow.

The test basically demonstrates that a child who can wait for 15 minutes to get the second marshmallow (and delay gratification with willpower) will do much better in their life and career, because the ability to delay gratification is related to success. (And the inability to wait was related to failure.)

Watch this video here [3min 28sec] it’s SO funny, see the kids faces! (Watch until the end for the funniest bit)

Even with a TV series, there is no waiting for the next episode, people now watch two or three or more episodes at a time with a box set. I remember the painful wait for the next episode of Batman when I was a kid, now they were cliffhangers!

This has an effect on many of us over time, we become mentally weaker, not able to wait or delay gratification – ZERO willpower.

What does this have to do with us exercising?

Well for all those people who hate exercising and dread the thought of going to do a session, the good news is, you don’t have to have as much willpower to do shorter sessions, which we will talk about today.


A recent study has added to the growing body of evidence that shorter exercise sessions are actually more beneficial than longer ones, who’d of thunk it eh! 😉 (I know my regular readers are up on this)

There has been a strong degree of movement towards shorter exercise sessions in the exercise world over the past few years. More and more people are starting to cut down their training time without sacrificing their progress or results.

I have done it myself with my personal training sessions, most of my sessions will now last 30 minutes. You will also notice that with the exercise videos I post of my sessions, they are all short sessions.

Based on what we have said with us ALL lacking in willpower, surely the thought of a 30 minute session is far less daunting than that 60 or 90 minute workout you may be doing?

How can less exercise be better than more?

The research generally agrees that the main benefits of exercise are had in the first 30 minutes of a session, with studies showing no additional weight loss or results for the “second half” of the standard 60 minute session most people do.

Exercising for 20-30 minutes 3-5 times a week is much better than going once a week for 2 hours! It’s also a piece of cake to do these sorts of workouts at home – saving even more time. (I will soon be launching an online training programme full of these short routines for over 40’s and 50’s).

Although these sessions are “high intensity” they do not have to be high IMPACT.  My sessions are all high intensity LOW IMPACT to avoid injury and stress on the joints.

I still advise clients to use slow continuous cardio training more for general health reasons and as a bit of a stress buster, nothing like a nice long walk or bike ride, somewhere scenic.

Research to back it up


Heard of Tabata?  That’s a form of training named after a Japanese scientist who found that short bursts of high intensity exercise followed by rest, he basically found that this type of training gets you FITTER FASTER compared to moderate intensity exercise.

Thanks to Dr Briffa for bringing this one to my attention, it’s a cracker.

A study was carried out in Demark (Gram et al, 2013), over a period of 12 weeks, moderately overweight males were instructed to expend 300 or 600 calories a day, which is out about 30 or 60 min of running, (don’t sweat if like me you don’t believe some of the calorie calculations out there, as this is not an important point).

In the study, both groups were found to lose weight, but the interesting thing was the group which did 60 minutes did not lose any more weight than the 30 minute group (in fact it was slightly less).


  • The males who exercised for an hour mentioned they felt tired and said it was very time consuming.
  • The males who exercised for half of the time had a very positive attitude towards exercise and didn’t find it a burden.

(IMPORTANT POINT) In the first point above, these are feelings and mental perceptions of the pressure to exercise.

Do you feel under pressure to train, but too exhausted to do so?

If you do it could be affecting your results, I would say don’t be afraid to blow off your sessions if the thought of it is overly stressing you out.

It happens to my wife, she over trains and under eats and puts weight on, then she rests and hardly trains at all and eats healthily, and loses more weight. Crazy but true, our body’s respond to what it needs not what you think it should have. REST is so important, and alongside clean (and tasty!) eating should form the main part of your journey to reclaim your health, and ultimately get your results from your efforts.


Have you stopped seeing results in the gym? If so things need to change, you may need to do less exercise and have more rest to actually see better results. That should be great news to some of you who are dragging your arse about, struggling with energy, but still not able to sleep properly (I get this a lot with clients).

A study carried out at a University in Canada testing the effect of bouts of high intensity exercise lasting less than 10 minutes. The results found that the participant’s muscles had improved as much as they would have in longer endurance training.

One of the chief researchers, Professor Martin Gibala said the study proved that it is possible to ‘get more by doing less’.

This study tested a group of male’s fitness levels over 10 weeks after completing 3 x 4 minute runs at 90% effort per week. The subject’s endurance capacities improved by 10%. Endurance athletes take note – it’s about increasing your VO2 not increasing mileage all the time.

As I’ve said in the past I know it’s not all about exercise there are many things which make you healthy but regular exercise helps to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and new research shows it “”switches ON” lots of positive genes which protect us from things like cancer.

Clearly the less daunting exercise sessions are the more you will adhere.

If I knew I had to run on a treadmill at the same pace for an hour tonight I wouldn’t be looking forward to it at all. On the other hand if I knew I only had to spend 20-30 minutes doing a mixed routine, then I would feel much better about it.

This applies to your cardio and your resistance training.

I have recommended shorter sessions from two different angles in this article:

  1. Better physical results
  2. Improved attitude and adherence towards exercise

Reduce your session time and bump up the intensity a bit and get better results, less mental stress about exercise and much more time on your hands!

Thanks for reading,


PS – It’s three months on and the “I hate exercise” lady has been enjoying, two thirty minute sessions per week, and lost over 18lbs, the results helped change her attitude, and although I cant say she loves her sessions, I can say she doesn’t dread them and let it spoil her day anymore.


1. Gram AS, et al. Compliance with physical exercise: Using a multidisciplinary approach within a dose-dependent exercise study of moderately overweight men. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health epub ahead of print 16 September 2013


8 thoughts on “She Hated Exercise”

  1. Rich I don’t know about length but I do know that exercise is my drug of chose. If I don’t do something active for more than a couple of days I become lethargic and cranky.

    1. Hi Chris, i guess its a bit better than drugs or alcohol! If i dont train for a few days im the same. Whats your next goal?

      Nice to hear from you, take care, Rich x

  2. Exercise is very important, to keep your baby our mind clam and healthy. I can’t image my life with out exercise.

  3. Hi Richard, just need a little advice about muscle build! I only weigh 7st so obviously don’t need to loose weight! I don’t look anorexic or anything like that, my body suits my bone structure, however I would like to tone up, therefore building muscle tone weight! My target is to define my arms, legs (mainly calves)+ stomach (even though my stomach is flat)!! I used to train in Karate + Kick boxing but since having children I no longer train, I guess what I am asking for is tips on how to look as toned as I used to during my training days, without going out of the house, as I have suffered with agoraphobia for some time now!

    Kind Regards

    1. Hi Vicki, sorry to hear you are having a challenging time of it. Keep your eyes out for some shorter workouts which require little or no equipment.

      Press ups,squats and sit ups will give you a good start and all can be done in the living room! there are literally hundreds of exercises, go on you tube and you wont be short of ideas.

      (If you get a copy of my cookbook you get free access to a beginners exercise programme on a private group on facebook.)

      Invest in a set of dumbbells and you will have a lot more options.

      If you really want to build muscle/tone up you will need to eat well too obviously.

      Good luck,

      Rich x

  4. Thank’s for your reply Rich. I do eat well, lots of pasta, chicken, rice, potatoes, veg etc! However I am undergoing test to find out why I am unable to put weight on 🙁 I love sit ups, squats, press ups + obviously through my training experiences I do know quite a lot of stretches to warm up + cool down! So from today I am going to start getting motivated + take your advice!
    Thank you, I will let you know in about a month on my progress 🙂

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