Why does Exercise feel Bad and How can I Incorporate it into my Life?

If you are reading this article, I assume you started a ketogenic diet and know that exercising will be a good addition to your ketogenic lifestyle -

... but you are struggling to get going.

You may be asking yourself:

Why does exercise feel bad and how can I incorporate it into my life?

Firstly, take time to adjust to your new keto life. If you don't feel ready to exercise yet, then don't and read this article about keto and exercise.

Here we discuss the reasons why exercise feels bad.

Then we have a look at how to successfully add it to your life and we consider a few easy exercise routines that you can start with today.

This post contains affiliate links. I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases made through these links. This is at no additional cost to you and helps me create this content.

Why does exercise feel bad?

This resistance to exercise is not all in your head. 

Even though a lot of people will tell you that exercise will feel really good, your previous experience may tell you differently.

And even though eventually you may feel really good after exercise, you can't expect that from day one.

When you first start trying to exercise on a regular basis it is far from fun.

Sure, there might be some "runners high" effect, but most of us have never lasted long enough to encounter it.

Instead, we get the feeling of sickness, the "burn", muscle cramp and more.

Why does this happen?

The Burn

Let’s look at the "burn" sensation first.

You will often hear bodybuilders talking about this sensation as though it were magical and highly desirable.

Some even go as far as to say it’s highly pleasurable. Whether or not this is true is somewhat debatable but where exactly does it come from?

The burn is caused by the build-up of metabolites in the muscles. This is partly the result of blood and oxygen being pumped into the muscles to provide fuel and nutrients. The more you use your muscle, the more this build-up occurs. Simultaneously, the contraction of the muscle also traps blood in that area, causing it to pool.

Meanwhile, by-products are created as a result of the glycogen lactic acid system. All this can eventually result in a painful sensation that some people believe is a key indicator that you have done enough to trigger growth.

Feeling Sick

It often happens that when you start with cardio workouts (especially with HIIT) you may feel somewhat sick. When I try to start an intense exercise routine or haven't trained for a while, this always happens to me. 🙁

This again is the result of the build-up of metabolites and lactate, but this time in the bloodstream.

It is thought that the body responds to this increased lactate by feeling sick and that this might even be a signal that the body uses to force you to reduce the intensity of your workouts.

Lactate is only really created during very intensive training sessions, so it is most likely to occur when you push yourself.

Eventually this leads to the "lactate inflection point" which is the most lactate you can manage in your bloodstream. When this happens, you’re ready to slow down.

Get up and exercise

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is the pain you feel the day after intense training.

There is some debate over what precisely causes DOMS, but the general view is that it is the result of micro tears in the muscles.

These small tears in the muscle fibers trigger subsequent repair and thus growth and cause delayed muscle discomfort.

Regular Old Pain…

And of course workouts can also just hurt.

When you’re curling weights, you’ll find that you rub the skin on your hands painfully.

When you’re jogging, you’ll jolt your joints and also your feet inside your shoes. And as we get older, we have more pains and aches. Our hips and knees hurt.

In fact training hurts when you start out… But the more you do it, the less it will hurt!

So, I suppose the question is where to from here? How do we get through the hurt and into a regular exercise routine?

To lose weight on keto you don't have to exercise, but exercise is an important component to be healthy.

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How can I Incorporate Exercise into my Life?

Let's start exercising today

​It is easy to say that we should exercise.

For those of us, who have become sedentary over time or were never that much into exercise to begin with, this is tough.

Whilst looking ​for motivation on how to start, I came across an article at BuzzFeed where they asked their community what motivated them to exercise regularly.

The first person said that she only washes her hair on the days that she exercises. So she uses ridicule to motivate herself. That won't work for me, but we are all different.

So, let's look at some ideas and then you need to figure out what will work best for you.

Steps to help you get started

These steps should get you started. If you have any suggestions or advise for our readers please share it in the comments below.

Step 1 - Assess your Fitness

You need to take stock of where you are right now.

You need to know exactly where you are so that you can set realistic goals and create a doable plan.

You want to set yourself up for success, not failure.

  • How much do you currently exercise, if any?
  • When last did you exercise and what type of exercise did you do. Did you like it?
  • How overweight are you? The more overweight you are, the slower you should start.
  • Do you have any health conditions that you should consider before embarking on an exercise regimen?

Don't judge yourself, your only objective here is to find your starting point so that you can give yourself the best possible chance at success.

Obviously it goes without saying that when you make major changes in your life, like materially changing your diet or exercise regime that you should consult with your doctor.

Take stock of your fitness level, set realistic goals and create a doable plan.

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  • Be realistic, we can't get somewhere we want to be without knowing where we are starting from.
  • Action 1 - Make some time, sit down somewhere quiet and get clear on your starting point.

Step 2 - Raise your Standards

Tony Robbins says that we don't get what we want, we get our standards.

So if you believe obesity is just in your genes, you are just big boned or exercise is just not what people in your family do, then you will not succeed.

Our beliefs about ourselves will always win out as will power can only take us that far. So, for lasting change we have to change our subconscious believes about ourselves.

Ultimately we always follow through with who we believe we are. The strongest force is the need to stay consistent with how we define ourselves.

We live who we believe we are.

To change your life, you have to change your inner game. When you start to shift your identity everything start to shift.

To incorporate exercise into your daily life, you need to move it from a WANT to a MUST.

Evan Carmichael has a video channel where he puts together his take on the top ten rules of success from all kinds of people.

These videos include people like Oprah, Tony Robbins, sport stars like Michael Jordan and business and thought leaders.

The first ten minutes of this video is all about raising your standards. Once something "clicks" for you, it is so much easier to make the changes we need to live a healthy and fulfilled life.

Watch now and please share your comments below...

  • Recognize that years of conditioning has brought us where we are. To change, you need to create a voice inside of yourself that says you can do it, rather than listening to the one that says you can't.
  • Action 2 - Watch the first ten minutes of the video a few times. Then work out what your inner game is and how you can change it, so that you can get what you want.

Step 3 - Get clear on your WHY

Hand in hand with raising your standards, is getting clear on your WHY.

It is the "big picture" that is going to keep you going when you don't necessarily feel like getting up.

Sometimes we give up on our dreams in the daily grind of life. Reconnect to your higher self and your purpose in life.

Be very clear what you want, to say I want to exercise because I want to lose 20 pounds is not very effective. What is the big picture? Why do you want to get fit or lose weight?

It is your WHY, that is going to help you to keep moving when you don't really feel like it.

When your WHY is Clear the How is easy
  • Think big here, move beyond the limits your current body has placed on you.
  • Action 3 - Take the time to figure out and write down exactly what it is that you want and feel how having it will make you feel. 

Step 4 - Set your Goals

Decide exactly what you want to achieve and by when.

Set your main goal and smaller milestone goals along the way so that you can measure them.

Something that many people find a good motivator is to choose a date to run a 5k or 10k race and to book it.

Or maybe there is a charity fitness event in your area, in which you can partake. This gives you a very specific date and target to achieve.

  • Set specific goals. Be realistic, but also set goals that will challenge you. 
  • Action 4 - Write down your main and milestone goals - Exactly what you will achieve by when.

Step 5 - Create the Habit

This step is in many ways more important than setting your goal.

If you set a goal without setting up the system or process for achieving it, you are most likely going to fail.

There was always the believe that it takes 21 days to change a habit, but research shows that this is more like 66 days and this is different for each person.

Assume that it will take you at least 2 months to create a new habit, but that it is not an all or nothing process.

If you miss the odd day, it does not negate the process of building a new habit.

Start creating your plan with these three questions in mind.


What activities do you like? Or maybe the question is what did you like to do when you were still active?

Be open minded, exercise have changed and short interval training bursts may just be what you need.

Consider your available time every day. So consider short interval training sessions 2 or 3 time per week and a longer hike or jog on weekends.


For many people first thing in the morning is the best time. It sets them up for the rest of the day.

But don't set yourself up for failure. If you know that you are not a morning person and just won't get up early to exercise, then find time during your lunch break or early evening.

Another benefit of exercising in the mornings is off that it is done and you have the benefit of heightened endorphins all day.


Outside is best. We need to get outdoors more. Not only is it good for the soul, but we also need the vitamin D and running or walking outdoors is way more interesting than walking on a treadmill.

However, being outside is not always possible. It may be too cold or rainy or not safe. So try to create a routine where you train outside, but it that is not always possible also have an indoor plan.

  • Get excited! You are building your future here.
  • Action 5 - Set up your plan for the next three months and then just go for it!

Step 6 - Set yourself up for Success

Start slow, but deliberate and build up your fitness over time.

It may be easier to train with a friend. If that is not possible, find an accountability partner. 

Measure your results. Get a fitbit and connect it to your phone or journal your results and compare your progress over time.

Or if you prefer to write things down, get an exercise journal and log your daily activities.

Keep it simple. When we start to complicate our exercise routines, it becomes harder to stick to it.

Enjoy what you are doing. If you really don't enjoy what you are doing. Find a different form of exercise.

Change things up, if you get bored with one type of exercise try another.

Find the most time efficient way to exercise. Something like HIIT that you can easily fit into your routine and therefore have a better chance to stick with it.

  • Keep Motivated
  • Action 6 - Measure your results and celebrate your successes.

Easy Exercise Routines to start Today

The easiest and best way to start an exercise routine is to start with short interval training sessions. Today we know long cardio sessions are not the best form of exercise.

If you are very unfit, but want to start with interval training then check out our article on how to get started with interval training.

I like interval training because it takes anywhere from 4 to 20 minutes for a really good workout. Just make sure that you warm up and down before and after your intense workout.

It is also easy to do at home and there are some amazing videos to follow on Youtube. No equipment is needed and it is a great way to see for yourself whether this type of training is something that you want to get into.

High intensity interval training (HIIT) is tough. I find it very effective, but not necessarily easy to get into. In this beginner set, Lindsay Brin takes you through a 10 minute routine.

These routines are great, because you are in complete control on how hard you push yourself.

If you are really unfit, just follow along at your own pace, you may be surprised at how invigorated you feel afterwards.

Here is another great starter HIIT video.

It is 20 minutes to follow along with. The 20 minutes are broken down into 4, five minute sections.

When you start out just follow along with the first 5 minutes and then as you get fitter build up to following along for the full 20 minutes.

With both of these training videos make sure to warm up and down.

This is a great way to get started with a new exercise routine.

You'll be finished before you get bored and when you are ready for new ideas, you can find videos to follow along where you can train with weights or work your upper or lower body.

Where to from here?

As we said before, you don't have to exercise to lose weight on a ketogenic diet, but in the big scheme of things you want to.

Most of us don't have a lot of extra time, so finding a way to get the maximum from exercise in the shortest possible time is the way to go.


Noline is a therapeutic reflexologist who converted to the keto lifestyle after losing 55 pounds without counting calories or starving herself. She is a Professor Tim Noakes and the Nutrition Network student and feels compelled to share the low-carb lifestyle with as many people as possible. She does this at Essential Keto, where she shares resources, recipes, and experiences while working on losing that last 10 pounds.