We know incorporating movement into our lives is important — but sometimes, increasing how much we exercise actually starts with letting go of a habit or belief that’s been holding us back. For example, if you think you absolutely have to complete an hour-long gym class to get an effective workout, you could be preventing yourself from prioritizing small bursts of movement throughout the day, like walking your dog for a few minutes more than normal, or taking the stairs at work.

We asked our Thrive community to share the things they’ve let go of to get closer to their exercise and movement goals. Which of these will you try giving up?

Unhealthy sleep habits

“To encourage myself to move more, I gave up a lot of my old sleep habits: snoozing my alarm, sleeping late, thinking that I needed to be in bed with my husband from 5:30 to 6:30 a.m., and believing that the sleep in the morning was more important than getting out of bed to use that time more effectively. I also gave up mindlessly watching TV at night and instead started going to sleep earlier so that I could get up and establish a healthy morning routine. Now, I go to sleep by 9:30 pm and get out of bed no later than 5:30 a.m for a great morning of movement.”

—Andrea Lambert, life coach, San Diego, CA

A strict workout schedule

“I used to beat myself up when I did not adhere to my exact weekly workout goals. Now, I simply and deliberately move my body every day. This could mean a walk with the dog one day, a Pilates class the next, and a stretching session the day after that. It’s never exactly the same. Allowing myself the freedom to decide day by day has not only eased my mind, but has allowed me to explore movement potential on a deeper level.”

—Tricia Whitlock, Pilates studio owner, Dallas, TX

The need to reach exhaustion 

“My fitness journey has changed dramatically in the last year due to gut-related issues. I had to give up the belief that in order to have a good workout, I needed to physically move my body to exhaustion. In order to fully embrace this new change in my body, I’ve had to adapt to other forms of exercise, like heated yoga and reformer Pilates in order to build my strength physically and mentally. I’ve never felt stronger.”

—Hannah Nieves, marketing and brand consultant, New York, NY

Driving to work

“Giving up my car was exactly what I needed. I know this isn’t practical for everyone, but for me, it was a necessity. I bought a bike at a pawn shop, and I now ride it to and from work. Not only does it keep me in shape, but it brings me back to what I used to enjoy as a kid. I like having enjoyable activities that are a natural part of my day, and my bike fits the bill. The physical and mental exercise I get has helped me tremendously in burning off extra energy and stress, allowing me to rest when I am home. It’s also helped me get in better shape than I’ve been in years.”

—Jenna Tidd, writer and proofreader, Denver, CO

Pre-workout self-doubt

“I used to find myself driving to a new workout class in a fretful state. I was worried about how hard it was going to be and whether I’d be able to do it. By the time I got to the gym, I would be stressed out and anxious. One morning, I gently reminded myself that I was already halfway there, and that I had committed to going. I decided to turn up the stereo in the car and just enjoy the ride. It was a little shift, but it made a profound difference in my attitude toward working out.”

—Elizabeth Bishop, educator and consultant, Vancouver, BC, Canada

The “I’ll do it later” mindset

“The most effective way I’ve been able to get closer to my exercise goal has been by going straight to a group fitness class after work. I used to tell myself I would go to the gym in my building after dinner, but I would never end up going because I was too tired or had to do something else. Now, I go directly after work and make sure to fit it into my day before getting home.”

—Laura V., marketing manager, Toronto, ON, Canada

The pressure to hit a minimum

“I decided that there is no movement minimum. My workout might be a one-minute plank, forty sit-ups, or a short walk in the fresh air to get lunch. Before I realized it, I was doing a little something every day. An action became a habit, and that fueled both my physical and mental well-being.”

—Siobhan Kukolic, author, speaker, and life coach, Toronto, ON, Canada

Working without breaks

“I’ve stopped working constantly throughout the day without taking small active breaks. Now, I’ll break up my day with regular walks, some kettlebell swings, or a 15-minute mobility routine every hour or two.”

—Joel Runyon, entrepreneur, Austin, TX

Fixating on the scale

“About five years ago, I threw out my scale. Within a year, I started placing in my age group at local triathlons. Separating movement and exercise from a number on the scale actually improved my mental and physical capacity! The mental energy I used to spend was redirected towards relationships in my life, pursuing interests, and eventually starting my own business. Before, the number on the scale was always in the back of my mind. Today, all I’m concerned with is how my body is feeling in the movement. When the measure of success became the movement itself, my body was able to teach me how it works most efficiently.”

—Aubrie Fennecken, nonprofit consultant, Brooklyn, NY

The “harder is better” mentality

“We are constantly bombarded by images of people struggling, sometimes killing themselves, to achieve new levels of exercise. And these people are celebrated. I bought into this notion for a long time, sacrificing my health, my sleep, and my peace of mind to push myself past my limits. I finally gave up the belief that harder exercise equals better. I’ve learned that keeping moving, and enjoying the process, is much more respectful to our bodies and our health.”

—Deirdre Maloney, organizational trainer and facilitator, San Diego, CA

The idea that workouts should be an hour

“I shifted my thinking that I needed to work out for an hour at least four times a week. This mindset always prevented me from even starting. Instead, I do 30-minute at-home workouts whenever I want, using a mobile fitness app that connects me with a personal trainer for live workouts. This has been a game-changer for me.”

—My Le Goel, founder and CEO, Seattle, WA

Trying to control the numbers

“I used to keep track of how many minutes I exercised, how many carbs I ate, and so much more. I spent so much time and energy on these numbers, and I finally gave up all of it. Now, my mantra is simply ‘move every day.’ By giving up the heavy focus on the little details of exercise and food, I can focus on other things. I now look at my health and fitness as a baseline so I can do everything else I put my focus on. I’m now happier, healthier, and more fit.” 

—Francine Tone, attorney, business strategist, and leadership trainer, Truckee, CA

Comparing yourself to others

“I gave up comparing myself to others, and instead focused on an exercise I love. It took some time, but I eventually found that I love running. I started with short runs a couple times per week, and eventually moved up to longer, more frequent runs. For me, setting specific goals has helped keep me engaged in fitness, so I sign up for races a few times per year. Races keep me focused on the horizon and give me the opportunity to challenge myself with goals around distance or time. I learned that you never know what you can accomplish until you take the first step.”

—Tim Tobin, hospitality executive, Washington, D.C.

Waiting for the finish line

“Recovering from two unexpected spinal surgeries in one year, I spent 147 days in bed rest. Some days I could only move my hands or my feet. And some days I could only take one full step. But my goal every day was the same: mobility. In order to achieve this, I let go of one thing — a finish line. I had to realize that fulfillment and happiness don’t just exist at the finish line. They exist in every single stride.”

—Mandy Antoniacci, author and founder of upps, New York, NY

What have you given up to increase your movement and exercise? Let us know in the comments!

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  • Marina Khidekel

    Chief Content Officer at Thrive

    Marina leads strategy, ideation and execution of Thrive's content company-wide, including cross-platform brand partnership and content marketing campaigns, curricula, and the voice of the Thrive platform. She's the author of Thrive's first book, Your Time to Thrive. In her role, Marina brings Thrive's audience actionable, science-backed tips for reducing stress and improving their physical and mental well-being, and shares those insights on panels and in national outlets like NBC's TODAY. Previously, Marina held senior editorial roles at Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour, where she edited award-winning health and mental health features and spearheaded the campaigns and partnerships around them.