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EPISODE 12 Hate Exercise? 5 Psychological Tips to Turn Your Mind Around!

By March 7, 2017March 15th, 2019Free Videos

In this Thursday Therapy episode, Glenn Mackintosh helps you understand you have a relationship with physical activity, shares his top principles for learning to LOVE movement, and gives some great tips on how to MOTIVATE yourself to exercise.

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Link to our Australian Fitness Network Course – Foundations For Success:
Link to Thursday Therapy #10:
Link to Thursday Therapy #11:
Link to Problem Solving Worksheet:


  • Viewer question on how to start enjoying exercise again. [01:04]
  • You have a relationship with exercise. [02:13]
  • How to develop a positive relationship with exercise. [03:25]
  • The five “E’s” of movement. [04:10]
  • Enjoyment of physical activity. [05:14]
  • Physical activity self-efficacy. [05:47]
  • Physical activity enthusiasm. [08:04]
  • Empowerment over embarrassment. [09:13]
  • Empathic problem-solving – addressing barriers with empathy. [11:20]
  • Problem-solving worksheet. [12:28]
  • Making the 5 E’s work for you. [12:48]
  • How do I talk myself into it? [14:12]
  • About the Australian Fitness Network. [16:55]

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Exercise? Isn’t that when they walk to the fridge to get more chocolate? Welcome to Thursday Therapy. I’m Glenn Mackintosh, the weight psych, and the question we’re answering today is, “How do I learn to like exercise?” Welcome to Thursday Therapy, thank you for all of your exercise questions. I asked for one and got a whole bunch and just to let you know I’m going to work my way through them, so if this isn’t yours, it could be on the way.

The question today comes from Angela. Angela asks, “I have an exercise question for you. Pre-kids, I used to be so active, now between time, motivation and not liking it as much as I used to, I just struggled to get movement in. From a fitness perspective, how do I like exercise again?” Excellent question and this one mimics so many of my clients’ experiences. The difficulties with having kids, the difficulties with time and making you a priority, which were covered in a couple of our previous Thursday Therapies, so we’ll provide a link to them here and it’s just a really wonderful question.

I see a lot of people who want to rediscover a love of exercise, I see a lot of people who have never had it, so I want to find out what that’s like. I could give you some tips on how to get yourself out and exercising and I will do that but before we do, I want to talk about your relationship with exercise and give you my five top principles for how you create a real love affair with moving your body.

The first thing that I want you to think about is that you have a relationship with physical activity. I often see people that say, Glenn I can’t make the time or it’s that the last thing on my list and the first thing to drop off and often my first thought is what’s this person’s relationship with physical activity. You think about it like your relationship with a person, say if your favourite person in the world said let’s catch up and have a coffee, you would probably make any excuse to go and do that, let’s say your most annoying relative said, hey let’s catch up and have a coffee, you would probably make any excuse not to and the same holds for exercise. So, what I want us to do is rather than trying to use too many mental skills or willpower to try and push yourself into something you don’t have a great relationship with, I want you to actually spend the time, the effort, the energy, the money on developing a really positive relationship with physical activity because once you do that, you’ll want to move.

Now how do you develop a positive relationship with physical activity? If you think to your favourite person, your best friend, your favourite family member, your favourite work colleague, why do you like them so much? Because you’ve had continuous repetitive positive experiences with them and if you don’t have a positive relationship with physical activity it’s likely that the converse is true. Every time that you’ve seen them it’s been painful or embarrassing or uncomfortable, so that’s where I want us to start in developing a positive relationship with physical activity and I’m going to give you my five main principles on how you create a love affair with moving your body.

So, let me talk you through the five E’s of physical activity, our five favourite principles are creating a love affair with movement. It’s funny to me because at weight management psychology, we have some great personal trainers and our attention rate is over 90 percent. It’s about three times the industry average and often people are asking us what is your secret and it’s kind of funny to me because the secret the is just that we focus on exercise that people enjoy and we follow these five principles and because people enjoy the movement they keep coming back and they get fitter, that way we actually prioritize these E’s over the physical gains that you make, the psychology we make more important than the physical gains because if you develop a good relationship with movement and you keep doing it then that’s ten times better than an exercise plan that’s absolutely perfect for you that you don’t continue. So, let me talk you through the five E’s; the first day is enjoyment.

Now this is a psychology no-brainer, we’re not good at sustaining things that we don’t like doing but often when you set an exercise plan the enjoyment is the first thing that gets ignored, so my advice to you would be, for a second, forget about what you should do and just look to those things that you enjoy. If you can’t find anything that you enjoy, which might be the case for you, find something that you dislike the least and start there.

The second E is efficacy. So, what is efficacy? Efficacy is for self-efficacy and it’s a psychological term that’s about your specific confidence at being able to do a particular thing, so for example, my ‘doing psychology’ efficacy is pretty high. I think I can do psychology pretty well and get pretty good results for the people, hopefully that’s why you’re watching this video. My cooking dinner for a group of eight people efficacy is very low, so what do I choose to spend my time on, I love doing psychology with people and part of that is based on this sense of efficacy. I know that I can do it and get good results with people, why don’t I really like the idea or actually like tremble with fear at the idea of cooking for eight people, because I have a low efficacy. I don’t believe that I could do that and get a great result, so the important thing here is not actually what you can do and what you can’t do, it’s what you believe you can do. So, start with exercise that you believe you can do.

My favourite tip to build your sense of efficacy is just to start really small, so for you, if it’s really tough for you to walk 100 meters, just plan to start put your shoes on, walk ten meters, walk back, you should 90% of the time be feeling like yeah I’m quite comfortable to do this, I can do this pretty well and then you’ll find as your body gets fitter and healthier you’ll start to actually get a little bit bored and you can start to do more from there but we follow a 90/10 rule or weight management psychology, about 90% of the time you should feel a sense of efficacy when you’re moving. A sense of, yeah, I can do this, I’m kind of in control and it’s very cool over the last couple of years with our personal trainers following this approach, we’ve been able to test people’s fitness and show that even feeling comfortable, most of the time people do get fitter, stronger and healthier. So, my advice there would be focus on stuff that you feel you can do and build it really slowly.

The third E is for ‘enthusiasm’. So, what I want you to do is, for a second, just imagine that you knew you were going to reach the goal, all of your fears and your insecurities and your doubts are just taken away, even suspend your judgments for a second and imagine that I could do this exercise for you, what would you really want to be able to do. Is it a fun run? or is it a mini triathlon? or would you like to walk a certain distance without stopping? Think about what would really get you excited. Often there is a lot of fear and insecurity and doubt around those things but there’s also a lot of motivation there, if I think of myself, for example, what gets me really excited and enthusiastic is doing martial arts training. I will, even at the end of a long day or at the start of a long day, I’ll really look forward to doing it, so I don’t use a lot of mental skills to get me out there, I want you to think about anything that really gets that fire in your belly.

The fourth E is ‘empowerment.’ I want you to feel empowered to move your body at any shape or size at any age, any gender and any level of fitness. So, when we say empowerment, what we really mean is reducing any embarrassment. We’re just saying empowerment because it’s a positive word, I’d much rather you work to empower yourself to move rather than work at reducing embarrassment. I think it’s always better to have a positive focus if we can and to do that I want you to start to explore your own body image and improving your body image. I want you to google terms like positive body image health at every size and size diversity and see that we’re at the start of a reframing of what bodies mean and you can be a part of this part of a movement that helps you to embrace your own shape, age, size and fitness level.

I want you to also reflect on opinions, everybody has opinions and some people might have really positive opinions about you getting out there and moving, some people might have really negative ones and a lot of people won’t really care at all, they’re just too busy living their own lives but I want you to reflect on what opinions mean to you and whether you may be placing weight on others opinions or opinions that you think they may have knowing that everybody has a right to move their body. Also, at the start it might be useful for you to start to think about low embarrassment activity, so, for example, if you don’t like going to a gym, is there some stuff that you can do inside if you don’t want to go to a class, can you get a DVD. I’ve had a lot of success with people starting off with stuff that they can do by themselves with no embarrassment and as they get fitter and healthier and stronger, then branching out into new types of movement.

The fifth E is ‘empathic problem-solving’. So, what does that mean? Too often there are barriers stopping us from exercising that we don’t address properly. We’re told to not be lazy or to suck it up or to get over ourselves and sometimes to an extent we need to do that but often we need to listen to ourselves and from a place of empathy; really understand that there is a problem to be solved, for example, say if you plan to exercise in the morning and you think, look I just got to get up and do it but even saying that to yourself for three months and it doesn’t happen there’s obviously some problem to be solved and I don’t know what the answer is, maybe you need to change your sleep routine so you can get to sleep earlier and that can take quite a bit of time because there’s a lot around that or maybe we need to look at a different time of moving for you, maybe at lunchtime or later on in the day and it’s not like there aren’t problems associated with that, I don’t know exactly what the answer is but what I’m going to do is provide a link to a problem solving worksheet that will help you to problem-solve your exercise barriers but from a place of self-compassion and empathy.

Then you’re not going to be working so much against yourself because you’ve resolved the problem and it’s going to be a lot easier for you to get out the door. So, they’re the 5 E’s of physical activity. What I’d encourage you to do is reflect on your physical activity. If you’re not doing anything, start something with these five E’s in mind. If you are, look at how you can increase the five E’s for more enjoyment, more sustainability and better results over time, think about what could I do more of, less of differently, start doing or stop doing to improve the 5 E’s and create a better relationship with movement. A couple of notes on this, guys, we have a whole online course dedicated to this and there is we do a ten minute video on each of the five ease so there’s a lot of detail in this and I know that some of these E’s won’t be useful for you but what I want you to do is I want you to just hold on to and have a play with some of those that are and this will be just a good little way to shake up your movement, if you get one little benefit out of it fantastic, we know that everything is not going to work for you.

The other thing I want you to do is try, you know you’re never really going to know whether you can do something, whether you like it, whether you don’t like it until you try, so you might have to make room for a bit of discomfort in there but I guarantee you it will be worth it, so of course, even if you have a great relationship with movement, sometimes you’ll need to talk yourself into it and how do you do that, well some simple ways is you can create a reminder, something visual or something written that’s there when you’re making the choice, you can also say an affirmation, so think of a way of thinking about movement that you want to train yourself into and practice thinking that thought. Our thoughts are just like our actions, we can create habits in your thoughts so you can train yourself towards a positive way of thinking about moving. One technique that I’m going to take you through now we call ‘Exponential time forwarding’.

Psychologist just love these big words but it’s just daydreaming. So, once you’ve got the movement that is right for you, the right type of movement that you enjoy, sometimes we still have those negative associations in our head, so what I want you to do is to help you to understand and experience that movement is all right for you when you’re thinking about going or not going, just take a few breaths close your eyes and think about when you’re out there and doing the movement. If you’ve got the movement right and you’re actually enjoying it, it will help you get out of your head and out of those judgments that you have about the movement and you can just close your eyes, think about yourself doing it.

The empowered positive feelings that come from that, realize that it’s not the end of the world, everything else is getting done and it’s probably actually quite pleasant and that feeling will help you get up get out there and do the movement that’s right for you. So, guys, I want you to give it to me, this is all about support, it’s all about developing a sense of community where we help each other, so I want you to comment below and let me know what do you do to make your physical activity work better for you. You might find that that’s an affirmation for you but that information really helps someone else as their information might help you too, so I really want you to comment below and of course, everybody, almost, could do with a better attitude to physical activity in some sense.

I do these workshops sometimes with PT’s and they benefit from and they’re fitness professionals, so please share this far and wide. We also know that movement issues extend way beyond weight management, so anybody of any shape and size that you feel this could benefit from please share the video with them and before we finish up I want to give a massive shout out to the Australian Fitness Network; they are the premium providers of online professional development for fitness professionals and they’re just a wonderful progressive organization. I’m personally very thankful that they’re beginning to include psychology in their suite of online courses and I’m really thankful that they’ve chosen us to deliver a series of those courses. We’ve already got one of those available online, the foundations for success program and we’re going to have a series of them as we continue throughout the year. So, that is absolutely fantastic.

I personally find that PT’s and fitness professionals and gym owners among my most open clients. I feel like I can do one or two hours even in a big group with 80 or 100 PT’s and feel like those PT’s can go back into their sessions and really benefit people straightaway. So, I think that psychologists and fitness professionals need to become great mates in the weight management space and I think AFN is helping us do that, so thank you very much for them.

Now guys I want you to have a play around with your movement, talk with each other, exercise doesn’t have be a punishment for being too fat, it doesn’t have to be something that is a chore and something you have to you know add on to the rest of your life. I want you to see it as a celebration of moving your body and start to create a relationship where you want it to be part of your life. Until next Thursday Therapy, take great care and I will see you soon. I walk all the time at work so I really have to be more, I can’t be bothered getting up in the morning, there’s no time at lunchtime either, I’m too tired at night to exercise.