Having witnessed close family and friends attempt to get in shape and adopt a healthy lifestyle, I have noticed two barriers that pop up for most people. The first is running; the second is diet. This week, I'll talk about running.
For many Americans the first and only instruction they receive in how to maintain a healthy body type comes from physical education (PE) classes and school sports. From my own experiences as a child, and from what I have witnessed while working in the school systems, children are taught that fitness comes down to three exercises: running, pushups, and situps. In many sports coaches will use distance running and sprints as a way to exhaust their players. From school sports and PE many of us learn that to feel pain is to become strong. This is reinforced by says such as "Pain is weakness leaving the body."
Because of what they were taught in school, it is not surprising that many out of shape adults will opt to run in order to get back in shape. They usually aren't capable of doing more than 5-15 pushups or situps with proper form. They will, however, push themselves to run for twenty minutes or so. They choose running because it is painful, during and after the exercise, and they view it as a way to lose weight. After all, they have been taught that pain = strength. This then leads to an intense force of will being applied in order for the person to make themselves workout. They can keep this up for one to two weeks, then their workouts taper off and they are back to not exercising at all. It is my belief that, unless you are already in good shape, running is an extremely stressful exercise, both on your body and your mind. It is easy to quit doing it in the winter, or in very hot weather. If you are starting a workout routine, and you are using running as your main exercise, you're at a high risk of burning out.
I suggest anyone who has a desire to become fit, but has no training in how to accomplish that goal, pay for a few sessions with a reputable personal trainer. Have them create a weekly workout routine for you that includes mostly low impact exercises. One mental attitude that I would like to eradicate from the fitness world is that pain = strength. Of course there is some muscular pain involved with getting into good shape, but it must be done intelligently and deliberately, or you run the risk of going through a lot of pain, and making small, or no gains. It is easy to make an athlete feel pain, but it's hard to make them strong.