(TNS) BRADENTON, Fla. — What's your excuse?

For not exercising, that is.

Nearly everybody can come up with an excuse for not working out at home, outdoors or in the gym.

People say they're too tired, too busy or too out of shape to exercise.

Or they just can't fit it in.

They're on spring break. Or it's tax time. They have to go home and eat, sleep, relax, etc., etc.

"I've heard every excuse in the book," said Jana Dunson-Martin, fitness director for the Lakewood Ranch YMCA in Bradenton, Fla.

"People will use any excuse they can get their hands on — like it's Thursday and it's raining," she said. "Excuses usually have to do with lack of time, but you have to have a goal and you can't let the excuses get in the way."

Exercise-excuse makers can take heart.

Fitness experts and the American Council on Exercise have some ideas to get you off the couch and keep you motivated.

ACE, a national fitness advocacy organization based in San Diego, Calif., has the following tips for workout procrastinators or people who might be shy about starting a fitness program:

  • Head to the gym when there may not be as many people around. For example, go early in the morning or at lunch.
  • Consider taking your fitness routine outside by running, walking or bike riding.
  • For strength training at home, use household items like soup cans or your own body weight to work major muscle groups.
  • Try working out to an exercise video or CD.

ACE polled more than 1,500 visitors to its Web site, www.acefitness.org, and asked, "What keeps you from going to the gym?"

The organization found that 46 percent of its Web site visitors said they didn't go to the gym because it was too crowded; 21 percent said they didn't go because they don't know what they're doing; 19 percent said they felt they would be the only one who isn't "buff" or in really good shape; 11 percent said rude gym etiquette (people not wiping sweat off machines or not letting others work on a machine) keeps them from going to the gym; and 3 percent said they're afraid to ask questions.

But, Oneilo Perez, a personal trainer with Gold's Gym Super Center in Bradenton, Fla., said procrastination is the greatest obstacle for most people to overcome in getting and staying motivated to work out.

"Procrastination is the biggest thing that drives people away," he said. "They put it off for a day and a day becomes a couple of weeks and a couple of weeks turns into months and then years."

Perez said some newcomers to a gym might feel intimidated or discouraged when they see unfamiliar exercise machines or fit people working out at a gym.

"Some people do feel lost," he said. "But, when they see someone else who is really fit, they can use that as motivation."

Perez tells his clients that fitness need not be intimidating, that it is a step-by-step process of proper diet and regular exercise.

There aren't any gimmicks or tricks involved in overcoming procrastination, Perez said.

"It's self-motivation," he said. "If you are willing and capable of making yourself healthier, you can do it."

For people who are too busy or too tired in the evening, Perez recommended working out first thing in the morning.

"Get up in the morning and get it over with," he said.

Dunson-Martin of the Lakewood Ranch, Fla., YMCA agreed. Exercisers usually stick with their programs and remain more consistent if they work out first thing in the morning, she said.

"It's a time of day that other commitments aren't likely to interfere with," she said.

She also recommended that beginners set realistic goals.

"Set goals that are achievable so you can see progress," she said. "It took a long time for a person to get out of shape, so it's going to take a long time to get back into shape."

Goals with emotional or familial attachments are also good motivators, Dunson-Martin said, such as running or walking in a 10K race or in a marathon, especially if it's a fund-raiser for a cause, such as breast cancer awareness or medical research.

It can be as simple a goal as wanting to get fit to go for long bike rides with family members, she said.

Eric Wilds, owner of Spotted Dog Fitness Center in Bradenton, said time and scheduling are the most frequent excuses he hears from people for not exercising.

"Some people will just come out and openly admit that they are just not motivated," he said. "They don't realize that exercise will give them the energy they need to do more things."

Some people are embarrassed to start working out in a gym because they haven't exercised in years and they are out of shape and embarrassed about their appearance.

Getting a thorough fitness assessment from an expert often wakes people up, he added.

"You realize that you need to do something," he said.

Joining an exercise class is a great motivator, Wilds said, because an exerciser starts to feel like he or she is part of a team.

"You feel responsible and accountable to the class," he said. "Visualization is a strong motivating factor, too. You need to visualize where you want to be in terms of results."

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(c) 2005, Bradenton Herald (Bradenton, Fla.).

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