7 Secrets to Persevering In Exercise

I’m not an exercise enthusiast–by far. I don’t spend my days longing for the time of day when I get to start lifting weights or running or doing some sort of fast-paced cardio workout. 

I’m more likely to let out a sigh and mumble, “Errrr… let’s get it done.” Or, I’ll just wake up and work out so early in the morning that by the time I’m half-way through, I’m finally waking up and realizing that I’m actually in the middle of a workout.

So why am I the one writing on something like persevering in exercise? It’s simple. I do it. I hate it. Don’t like it. Grumble my way through it (or fight the grumbling thoughts). Offer it up. Yet, I still get it done regularly.

The raw truth is that I don’t like to feel my lungs burning. And when my muscles start to ache at the beginning of a cardio workout where they’re just waking up, I honestly want to cry. I sooo hate that feeling. 

If you’re thinking I’m a wimp by now, I can’t say I blame you. In fact, I’d probably say you’re absolutely right.

When it comes to doing an actual workout, it’s a constant mental battle for me. That being said, if I hate it so much, why do I do it?

I do it for me. I do it for my family. 

I exercise for the mom who felt lost, who was constantly tired and getting out of breath as she walked up the stairs and lacked energy. 

I do it for the woman who looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize herself anymore after having had five babies, who struggled with ever feeling beautiful or strong. 

I do it for her. 

Eight years ago, having struggled with self-image issues and an eating disorder on and off for years, I decided enough was enough. I didn’t want my insecurities to pass on to my four daughters, so I found a program and dug in.

I’ll never forget the first morning I woke up at 5 am and went down the stairs to work out. I was terrified inside of what was about to happen, but at the same time, I was tired of feeling weak and tired. I was tired of the struggle…so I did my first workout that morning.

In the first few weeks, my body was a hot mess. I hurt everywhere–my legs, my arms, back–so many aching muscles. It took several months of dedication, but through exercising and changing my eating habits, I lost weight and gained a strength I had never found before.

I still hated working out, but experiencing the newfound strength and seeing my body take on a new shape was enough to keep me coming back to just get it done.

Eight years later, I still work out consistently. Sometimes it’s six times in a week, and others I might get it done three or four, but I haven’t quit, and I’m not about to give up.

Through this article, my hope for you is that I’m able to pass on some of the lessons I’ve learned over the past eight years. Because even though I’ve struggled through it at times, I’ve continued to make the decision to show up. And I know you can too.

Here are my words of advice.

1.  Just Decide to Do It

Perhaps one of the biggest obstacles to consistency in exercise is that we haven’t made a clear decision to make it part of our daily routine.

I once heard a talk by Darren Hardy, where he said, “You are where you choose to be.” When I first heard that, I was like–what???  I thought he was crazy because I knew plenty of people living in situations they definitely wouldn’t have chosen.

But he went on to say that all of the little decisions we make in life bring us to the very place where we are now, and I realized he was right. 

When we find ourselves overweight or lacking strength, unless it’s due to an illness or condition that we can’t control, we are only there because of all the little decisions we have made to overeat or eat unhealthy foods or not exercise. And all of those little decisions add up to one big result.

So I ask you this–where do you choose to be? Are you at a place where you’re ready to decide to do something different and to change the course of your life?

It truly takes just one decision…and then another decision…and so on and so forth. But it starts here. Are you ready?

2. Know WHY You Want to Do It

Once we make a decision to exercise on a regular basis, we really have to know why we want it. On the days when life is overwhelming, or we’re tired, and the easier thing to do would be to just skip the workout, to push through that struggle, we need to have a strong why. 

Not sure what your why is? Start asking yourself some questions and keep digging deeper. Ask yourself:

Why do I want to be consistent with exercise? Why is it important to me?

Then take the answer you give to yourself and ask yourself, “why?” For instance, if your answer is, “I want to exercise consistently because I want to be stronger,” why?

“Because I want to be able to be active and healthy with my family. We have parents on both sides with diabetes and heart disease due to poor nutrition and exercise habits.”

Why is this important to you?

“Because I still have little children and want to be able to be as active with them as I was with the older kiddos. I don’t want my children to worry about me the way we worry about our parents.”

So BOOM! That’s it. In this scenario, what is my why? To continue to be healthy and strong as my kiddos grow. To hopefully avoid another generation of diabetes and heart disease. To continue to make memories as the years go by.

On weeks where I’d just rather not show up, this is what I’d tap into. I’d remind myself that 30 years from now, I want to be strong, and I’ll only be strong if I keep making that decision to show up.

3. Choose a Workout That You’ll Actually Keep Showing up For

If you struggle with exercising and you absolutely hate the workout program or gym or specific exercise you’re doing regularly, showing up will be even more difficult.

Make it easier for yourself. Choose something that’s doable. 

If you thrive on hard cardio workouts, find something that’s got a lot of good cardio in it. If you can’t handle the impact, find a workout that’s low impact. Need to lift those weights? Go the gym or find a workout that includes a good amount of weight lifting.

I’ve done it all, and in this day and age, everything is pretty much readily available. From Crossfit gyms to spinning to at-home workout programs to the new Peloton phenomena, we pretty much have a feast of options laid out before us.

Because of my schedule, I’ll generally choose an at-home workout program. I recently started a new program, got a week into it, and decided that the trainer annoyed me, the tools drove me crazy, and I really hated doing the entire workout.

Instead of pushing through the program, I quit. I chose another program that looked good and have stuck with it. My daughters and I are currently doing a barre workout program together. Even though I’ve done some TOUGH programs in the past, this one is seriously kicking my bootie.

I’ve lifted 10- and 20-pound weights regularly during my other workouts. This barre program has us doing things with 2-pound weights that make me want to cry. And Heaven KNOWS the number of times I’ve let a cuss word or two fly from my mouth that I’ve later had to apologize for.

But our goals are flexibility and lean strength, so I keep coming back, and I keep pushing play.

What kind of exercise do you prefer? Do you want to go on a run several times a week and add in some pushups and arm exercises for strength? Are you more of a Crossfit type of person? Or do you just need to get it done at home?

There are plenty of places to get programs to follow. Just do a simple Google search. My sister is currently doing a yoga program she found on YouTube that includes stretch, strength, and HIIT. A world of options is literally at our fingertips, my friend. We just have to look.

4. Get Some Workout Partners or an Accountability Partner to Help Keep You on Track

It’s hard to stick to it when you’re alone. In the Bible, the animals entered the ark two by two,  the apostles went out two by two, and Genesis even says…we are not meant to be alone.

There have been times where I’ve been so ready for change that I’ve been able to stick with it on my own for short periods of time, but what has helped me keep showing up over the years has often been friends’ encouragement or family members joining in.

Right now, my two oldest daughters and my husband have recommitted to exercising on a regular basis, so they are a huge encouragement. I also have a few friends online who are about the same age and have also been struggling, so we formed a group and encourage each other. We all do different things to reach our goal, but we know we can lean on each other when times get tough, and that’s so helpful.

If you’re struggling with working out or showing up, I highly encourage you to get someone in your household to commit with you or reach out to a friend. That extra encouragement will do you a lot of good when the days come where you just don’t feel like showing up.

5. Keep Your Focus on Progress, Not Perfection

Any fellow perfectionists in the room (as I quickly raise my hand)? I have long struggled with perfectionism. Or rather, I am a recovering perfectionist. For years, with me, it was all or nothing. I’d go, go, go, until I dropped…and then I’d quit.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the years is that this journey is not about being perfect. It’s about keeping our focus on the progress we’re making.

When we’re struggling, we need to ask ourselves…

Do I feel stronger?

Am I seeing any changes that might not be reflected on the scale?

Am I able to endure longer?

What changes am I actually seeing–both interior and exterior?

There were times when I’d get frustrated because I couldn’t keep up with the people in the video, and I’d feel like I was failing. This is when I’d have to remind myself to just do my best. 

I’d tell myself, “Try to do one more pushup or one more squat. Try to go 30 more seconds before taking a quick break to breathe and grab a sip of water.”

And then, as I began to feel stronger over time, I also gained confidence in the fact that I could do hard things. I could push myself, not be perfect, and still see results.

So when you’re struggling with not keeping up or having to modify where others are pushing hard, just remind yourself – keep your focus on the progress being made. Push yourself just a little harder next time.

This is your journey.

I promise you, if you keep this attitude, you WILL get stronger. And over time… you WILL see results. We just have to be patient with ourselves and learn to enjoy the journey.

6. Offer It Up

Remember at the beginning of this blog when I talked about how much I hate working out? On days where I really don’t want to show up, and all I want to do is grumble and complain my way through a workout, I try to remember to keep my mouth shut instead and offer it up.

Sometimes I’ll pray for someone I know who is suffering, or someone I saw on Facebook or Instagram that is going through something hard. 

Sometimes I’ll offer it up for someone from whom I experienced hurt in the past. 

Often, because I have so many people floating around in my head who need prayer and I’m not always quite sure who to allocate it to, I’ll just give it to Mama Mary. I’ve consecrated my life to Jesus through her and have given her everything anyway. I know she’ll make sure it gets distributed in the best way possible.

Regardless, I find that when I intentionally offer up my exercise, it helps me get through the 30 or so minutes that it takes to get it done. And in the end, instead of feeling like I need to hit the confession line because of my potty mouth, I actually feel like I’ve done something good. Make sense?

So, I challenge you as well–just OIU. Offer It Up!

7. Never Ever, Ever Give Up

My final encouragement to you on persevering in exercise is just this. Never, ever, ever, EVER give up. It’s all about perseverance, my friend. 

There are a million other things I’d rather do than exercise. And while I have friends that thrive at the gym or while running, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this.

So the BEST thing to do is to keep showing up. Even if you fall short or fail in your own eyes, keep getting back up and back at it.

If perseverance were easy, then there wouldn’t be so many scriptures focused on running the race and not giving up. Perseverance often leads to patience, which is key to charity and obedience, and a whole list of other virtues.  Besides that, perseverance is united with prayer. It can 100% draw us closer to the heart of Christ.

So yes, in effect, when united with prayer, exercise can be instrumental on our journey towards Heaven.

When we’re struggling to show up and just feel like quitting, remember that even though this is not an easy journey, as we keep showing up and make the decision to unite our exercise with prayer and perseverance, we will–as a result–grow closer to God. 

My friend, as I wrap this all up, I want to encourage you in exercising and taking care of your body. If you’re struggling with this, know you’re not alone. 

St. Pope John Paul the Great and St. Edith Stein both have spoken and written on the genius of women. Two of the attributes of our genius, what make us unique as women, are our natural ability to be generous and our natural maternity or nurturing spirit. 

We often find ourselves giving and doing for others, taking care of them, whether it be our children, our employees, our co-workers, our friends. And then when we stop to do something for ourselves, we can find ourselves feeling guilty about it.

When we’re sitting at a desk all day, or not moving around at  home, our bodies lose strength over time. We need to remember that we, too, are called to take care of our body, the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Michelle hillaert

I absolutely love that God has given us these beautiful gifts–our genius. We need to remember that with those gifts, he also mandated us to love our neighbors as ourselves. When we’re sitting at a desk all day, or not moving around at  home, our bodies lose strength over time. We need to remember that we, too, are called to take care of our body, the temple of the Holy Spirit.

And as we take care of ourselves, we will have more energy to help take care of others. There is a beautiful balance there.

So, if you’re struggling with taking some time for yourself, perhaps commit to getting up a half-hour earlier or going to bed a half-hour later, if possible. If you have kiddos who take a nap time, do it during nap time.

As St. Ignatius said, “Remember that bodily exercise, when it is well ordered, as I have said, is also prayer by means of which you can please God our Lord.”

I want to encourage you to pray about it and then make a commitment to yourself for 20 minutes to a half-hour a day to just move around. Whether it’s through a workout program, a trip to the gym, a brisk walk, or a run. 

You’ll get your blood moving. You’ll get your energy up. And when united with prayer, you’ll grow closer to God.

And overall? I promise…you’ll simply feel better, my friend. You’ve got this!


Jesu ufam tobie. “Jesus, I trust in you.”

About Author

Michelle Hillaert brings more than 25 years of experience in roles relating to technology and communications to GIVEN. With an undergraduate degree in Communication Arts from Franciscan University of Steubenville, her portfolio includes emergency management, web, application and graphic design, marketing and social media management, podcasting, and online consulting. In her previous employment, Michelle played a major role in the development and improvement of internal systems as well as the development and expansion of the Quality Management System. She also managed processes and communication with stakeholders in major application builds of state-run programs. In addition to this work, Michelle has dedicated herself to helping women live their full potential as a doula, life and fitness coach, motivational speaker and author. Having four daughters, nine sisters, and having journeyed with many women over the years, Michelle has experienced first-hand how as women, we often hesitate to respond with our gifts because we don’t recognize that we are uniquely gifted and that the world – especially those we encounter on a daily basis – needs us to share these gifts. In light of this, she has a passion and proven capacity for flourishing young women in the Church through mentoring and leadership development. Michelle has found that transformation often happens in those quiet moments of prayer and reading the works of the saints, such as the “Dialogue” by St. Catherine of Siena and makes daily reading and continual growth an essential part of her day. Outside of work, Michelle has been married for over 23 years to her husband, Trent. They reside in Front Royal, Virginia and together have six children, 2 in college and four still at home, along with three dogs, a cat and 27 chickens. She is a soccer mom and singer who loves leading praise and worship. “It’s only when we truly know how unspeakably much we are loved by our Father and how He is constantly pursuing us – even in those moments when we’re running in the opposite direction – that we can come to understand that our identity lies in His love. With this knowledge, we are able to step out in confidence and as inspired by St. Pope John Paul II, live fearlessly.”

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