The road to movement: Overcoming exercise obstacles

by | Jul 28, 2023

Originally published on July 11, 2023 on the Los Altos Town Crier.

How often does the thought of “I should be exercising more” show up for you? Movement, whether it’s officially “exercise” or not, is good for you. It stimulates happy hormones, increases blood flow and circulation in your body and has innumerable benefits for both physical and mental health. It’s safe to say that most people know this, but it doesn’t make prioritizing it any easier. 


Exercise is often put on the back burner because life, and all its stressors, stands in the way. Summer can be a particularly challenging time, as schedules often change significantly with the introduction of vacation travel, kids home from school and increased social engagements such as weddings, family reunions and backyard barbecues. While we wouldn’t miss out on an event, we tend to skip out on exercise. As a result, we miss out on the benefits it provides. The good news is that a little goes a long way, and gentle consistency pays off.


If you’re having a hard time fitting it all in, try these tips.


• Put it in your calendar. If you’re anything like me, nothing happens if it’s not on your to-do list or in your calendar. Either I’m very busy and must make time to get everything done efficiently, or I have no structure to my day and therefore nothing gets done. In either case, the best way to manage my time is to schedule the things that are most important and do those first. Think of the top three or four things you want to prioritize each day – for example, work meetings or appointments, meals and movement. If it doesn’t make the list of priorities and doesn’t make it into your calendar, chances are it won’t happen. Treat your self-care time as you would an important doctor appointment. If you wouldn’t skip that, don’t skip out on yourself.


• Find an accountability buddy. Exercise is more fun with a friend. It’s the reason why the transition from team sports as a youth to exercise as an adult is so challenging. The built-in accountability disappears, and we are left to self-schedule and self-motivate. If you have a hard time prioritizing yourself, add a friend into the mix. Sadly, we prioritize showing up for others more than we do ourselves. However, you can flip this human phenomenon on its head and make a date with someone else, and, by default, make a date with yourself. Whether in-person or virtually, agree to meet at a specific time and location. Check in and offer support by holding one another accountable. A tennis clinic, a running or walking group and a group fitness class are all great ways to inspire more connection,  camaraderie and accountability.


• Change the channel. Is it hard for you to carve out time in your own space? Do you have time to honor your self-care when you are right there and available to answer family members’ questions and respond to their every need? I know how you feel. The struggle is real. One option is to change locations. Go for a walk, take your streaming workout and yoga mat to the park, meet up with a friend at their house. If what you are doing isn’t working, change the channel to increase inspiration and decrease distractions.


• Take advantage of the season. Summer schedules present challenges when it comes to fitting it all in. The advantage is that the days are longer and generally the weather is nicer. Get up early and enjoy the sunlight. Sunlight first thing in the morning has a host of health benefits, such as boosting serotonin, which increases energy and focus and helps keep you calm. Not a morning person? Go for a walk  after dinner. This will not only help you digest your meal, but if you are a dessert person or late-night snacker, it can help change the channel on that as well.


• Make it fun. I learned this one from my role as mother. My kids don’t love to exercise. In fact, when I refer to a family hike or a walk downtown as “exercise,” they resist by complaining nonstop. Instead, we make walks and hikes about something else, such as an outing for the dog, a way to spend time with friends or a means to acquire something. That could be anything from grabbing something from the grocery store to earning screen time. Everyone has their currency, and identifying it, including your own, makes movement fun versus feeling like punishment.


• Give yourself grace. More is not more when it comes to exercise, especially if the guilt from “not doing enough” leaves you feeling stressed. Doing something, even a trip to the mailbox or a 10-minute walk around the block, is better than nothing. Resist the temptation to set goals that are too lofty, as you will get discouraged if you can’t meet them and may end up doing even less. When you do something, celebrate it. Giving yourself credit for the small stuff will lead you to an upward spiral. More on that in next month’s column.


Erin Paruszewski is founder and CEO of Alkalign, a functional online studio. She is a certified wellness coach and the author of “It Doesn’t Have to Hurt to Work.” For more information, email



It Doesn't Have to Hurt to Work

A NEW, 2-week FREE program we are offering to any and all who want to get off the hamster wheel and try something that 1) works and 2) you will enjoy in the process. No more beating yourself up and spiraling the shame drain thinking you have to do more and be more. We embrace a philosophy that it doesn’t have to hurt to work. The extremes aren’t sustainable. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to your body. Slow, steady and sane wins the race of life. And we are here to help you along the way.

Hi! I’m Erin and my passion in life is helping others feel better by helping them get out of their own head. So much of our relationship to food and fitness is a reflection of deeply rooted beliefs that were imprinted on us at a very early age. These beliefs drive all sorts of behaviors, many of which are not good for our physical or mental health. I know this first-hand. As a former calorie-counting cardio queen I played right into all the toxic messages about what it meant to be “healthy”. That all changed when I hit rock bottom. Since leaving my corporate career in 2009 I have been fully committed to shifting the narrative and helping people experience better physical health by unpacking unhealthy beliefs. My biggest inspiration are my two young daughters, who I hope to raise in a household that openly illuminates and addresses the misinformation instead of adopting it.