Prepare to succeed | Tips for overcoming your inner saboteur

When it comes to starting and sticking with a new exercise program, nobody undermines our efforts better than we, ourselves, do.

The most common stumbling block to developing new fitness habits isn’t time or money or access to a gym or clean workout clothes (don’t laugh, I’ve heard this one more than a few times).

It’s that little voice in our head that tells us “it’s okay to miss a workout” because we’re “tired” or “don’t have time to fuel properly” or “already exercised enough this week” or “can’t find any other time to have coffee with Sally”.

No matter how excited you are to get started with a new program, it’s inevitable that you’ll eventually tire of it and start to look for excuses not to exercise. It’s human nature. We love things when they’re shiny and novel. Not so much once the bloom is off the rose.

The difference between people who successfully push through the excuses and under-mining self-talk and those who don’t?

They expect the excuses to happen and plan for how they’ll deal with it when their inner saboteur inevitably shows up.

Tips for overcoming your inner saboteur:
  • bullet-proof your excuses. Know yourself well enough to draw up a list of the excuses you’ll be most likely to use. Draft a response for each excuse. Remind yourself of your ‘why’; the reason you started down this path in the first place. (Not sure what your ‘why’ is? Scroll down to the bottom of this post and grab a copy of my free e-book “5 Steps to Exercise Happiness”. The first step is finding your ‘why’.)
  • adopt a ‘just 10-minutes’ attitude. Tell yourself that when it comes to exercise, something is always better than nothing. Commit to 10 minutes. If, at the end of that time, you really are too tired to continue (or Sally texts you wondering why you’re late for coffee…), finish up and commend yourself for what you did, rather than berating yourself for what you didn’t. Oh, and if that 10 minutes was exactly what you needed to get  jazzed about working out, continue on. Sometimes all you need is a little movement to overcome that activation threshold.
  • create rules around exercise. Decide what your ‘bare minimum’ exercise week looks like. Create rules to maintain this routine. My two exercise rules? “Always work out on Monday” (for me, missing a Monday paves the way for a less-than-stellar workout week) and “Never take more than 2 days in a row off” (I find it incredibly difficult to come back to the gym after 3 days off).
  • enlist an accountability partner. Have a friend or family member who’d be happy to give you a swift kick in the pants from time to time? I know I do ;-). Enlist their help by giving them your workout schedule for the week and asking them to send you a quick text or email when you’re supposed to be heading out the door. Even better? Get them to commit to exercising with you. Promise to support and encourage each other to follow through with the plan, even on days when one of you isn’t feeling it.
  • hire a personal trainer. In addition to teaching you proper exercise form, creating a program that’s individualized for you and progressing that program at appropriate intervals, your trainer won’t allow you to succumb to your inner saboteur. Just knowing that she’s waiting for you at the gym is often enough to overcome the excuses in your head. (And if they’re still hanging around when you arrive for your workout, she’ll be happy to assign a few burpees to help banish them…)

tips to overcome your Inner Saboteur




  1. It’s so true about the 2-3 day thing. 2 days rest is sometimes what my body needs… but if I ever take three days it seems like FOREVER when I get back to my box. Crazy. I love the Monday attitude, to start the week with a workout and writing down responses to excuses we all have.
    Chris recently posted…Fitbit And No Rips with w.o.d.welder (Giveaway!)My Profile

    • I think it’s because we’re used to having 2 day weekends? I know that when Monday is a holiday, I have a tough time going back to work on Tuesday too! Thanks for commenting!

  2. This was a timely post me. I didn’t sleep well last night so I took the extra hour of sleep this morning that I usually workout in. However, I will not do a workout during lunch to replace. No excuses for the lose of the morning or the incoming rain!
    Stephanie Robbins recently posted…Affiliate Disclosure Samples and AdviceMy Profile

    • You guys must be so happy to finally see rain! Why not go for a run in it? Something completely different!

  3. The gym and my daily workouts are such a part of my schedule I feel off balance without them. I love the endorphine release and it’s often the only “me” time I get in the day. However, I remember when this was not the case and I would have to drag my butt to the gym. I always kept my sneakers and workout gear in the car and would purposly drive home so I had to pass the gym. I would do exactly what you suggested – just 10 minutes. Most days I was happy to stay and finish my workout once I got moving! That’s an awesome tip 🙂
    Sam @ PancakeWarriors recently posted…Zen Active Cork Yoga Block Giveaway and WorkoutMy Profile

    • Sam, I call that ‘coming over to the dark side’ 😉
      I love it when my clients shift from dreading their workouts to being impatient for them. Congrats!

  4. Great tips Tamara!!! Course I have been at it so long BUT I always went in even when I wanted to talk myself out of it.. told myself if it still felt wrong, I could go home.. 99% of time I stayed & workout was great! 🙂 Got to make it part of your life…
    Jody – Fit at 56 recently posted…Gratitude Monday & Balance in LifeMy Profile

  5. When I first started exercising, I was thwarted by a lack of clean socks! 😉 These are great tips. I always feel out of sorts when I miss a workout — sometimes my work travel schedule makes that inevitable but I try to make up for it later.
    Coco recently posted…Celebrate Giving Tuesday With CUCBMy Profile

  6. So smart and helpful! I had never thought about #3 — rules. I will now make at least 2 rules for strength training as I am really consistent with cardio already. This post belongs in your instant classics collection
    KymberlyFunFit recently posted…Nepal Adventure Travel: The Ups, Downs, Highs and LowsMy Profile

  7. Fantastic advice– tell that persistent negative voice in your head to shut up, and proceed with the regime you’ve planned.

  8. This is such a great post and some really solid advice. I love that you are sharing this now as people begin to think about their goals for 2015. Research shows that by February most people abandon their “resolutions,” so thinking about what people really want to accomplish in this way is powerful. Love it. Happy holidays! xo
    Jesica @rUnladylike recently posted…Running LostMy Profile

  9. I never talk myself out of doing my workouts…if I am feeling “yuck” or tired I give myself at LEAST 10 min. to get “into” it. guess what…99.9% of the time I DO and I feel awesome after I get going, and even more awesome when I am done!


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