Working Out Sucks! (And Why It Doesn't Have To)

The Only 21-Day Kick-Start Plan for Total Health and Fitness You'll Ever Need


By Chuck Runyon

With Brian Zehetner

With Rebecca A. Derossett

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Tired of diet books that promise to change your life in five minutes? Tired of trying to get healthy and fit&#151and really getting nowhere? Chuck Runyon, Brian Zehetner, and Rebecca DeRossett are here to confirm what you already know: Working out sucks. The good news? With the new approaches in this book, that is about to change.

Working Out Sucks! deprograms those of us who have long been brainwashed by unhealthy habits, destructive attitudes, and misinformation about health, and offers a no-nonsense way to get back on track. Because, while working out may suck, the alternatives—from heart disease to premature aging and shortened lifespan–are a lot worse. As he does in his 1,700 Anytime Fitness clubs (with more than one million members worldwide–and growing), Runyon emphasizes user-friendliness and utility in this get-real, get-healthy message, complete with Zehetner's 21-day kick-start plan and DeRossett's tips for mental health.


"I get it. Working out is hard. But here's another truth: exercise is the only way to improve your health, elevate your mood, increase your energy, prevent illness and injuries, and enhance the overall quality of your life. That's no BS, and neither is Working Out Sucks!–so grab a copy and get on track to getting healthy."
–Tony Horton, creator of P90X workout program and author of Bring It!
"With its full-prescription 21-day plan, Working Out Sucks! presents a 'kick in the pants' approach to unlocking your potential—a longer, healthier ever after."
–Andrea Metcalf, fitness trainer and author of Naked Fitness
"Working Out Sucks! provides great tips for helping you get on a path towards healthier living. Take the first step and pick up this book—the time to change your future is NOW!"
–Tara Costa, season 7 finalist on The Biggest Loser, and founder of Inspire Change Foundation
"This is an important book. It is the first fitness book I know of that is written for those of us who don't enjoy exercising. As such, it's the first, and perhaps the only, fitness book that accepts the fact that most people, most of the time believe that 'working out sucks.' Read on!"
–John McCarthy, Executive Director of the International Health
Sports Racquet Club Association (IHRSA) from 1981–2006

To anyone who struggles with motivation to improve their life, don't give up.
*You're worth every bead of sweat.
And to all those who bleed purple—we have inspired many, but our work is not done.
*To find out more, visit

(But We're Giving Them Away)
I hope this book inspires you in new and unexpected ways. And I'd like you to know that as part of our motivation in writing it, we've decided to give away 100 percent of the net proceeds to an incredibly inspiring organization called Limbs for Life.
Limbs for Life is a global nonprofit organization that provides fully functional prosthetic care for individuals who can't otherwise afford it. After twenty years of listening to flimsy excuses from able-bodied people, it's refreshing to meet individuals who, despite everyday struggles consider it a privilege (rather than an annoyance) to be physically active.
Yes, working out sucks . . . but you shouldn't have to lose a limb to appreciate the ones you have. Take a lesson from the people who work at Limbs for Life, and the amputees they serve: They don't just aspire to walk again; they want to run!
To learn more, visit
Chuck Runyon, September 2011


Working out sucks. There, I said it. I'm the CEO and cofounder of the largest co-ed fitness franchise on the planet, and I'm looking you straight in the eye and telling you: Working out sucks.
Why would I say something that might hurt my business? Because I'm tired of seeing marketing images of lean, glistening, uber-muscled "exertrons" flashing their bleachy white smiles as they work their asses into chiseled granite. You and I know the truth: For the average bear, working out is a chore whose popularity ranks somewhere behind window washing, gutter cleaning and dog poop scooping.
Actually, when it comes to health and wellness, we live in a unique, best-of-times/worst-of-times era. If you're a committed fitness enthusiast, you're well served by over thirty thousand commercial fitness centers in the United States—including YMCAs; women-only clubs; amenity-rich multipurpose centers; niche operations that focus on Pilates, yoga, or personal training; cheap clubs; expensive clubs; single-gender clubs; and 24/7 clubs. If you include the offerings in hotels, apartment buildings, high schools, and colleges, as well as employer-based facilities, home gyms, children's fitness franchises, stroller fitness for stay-at-home moms, businesses that focus on weight loss and nutrition, smartphone apps, infomercial products, and the tens of thousands of certified personal trainers—there's definitely an affordable fitness option to suit everyone.
But for most people who want to be healthy, these are the worst of times. Health-club options abound, but a tater tot is still way more accessible than a treadmill. A simple stop at the gas station is a full-court sensory assault of fresh bakery smells wafting amid aisles of candy bars and chips. Within minutes of work or home, dozens of fast-food brands offer cheap meals loaded with hundreds (if not thousands) of calories wrapped in overdoses of sodium and sugar. Restaurants compete in a portion-size nuclear arms race. And thanks to smartphone technology, you can now order a movie, get a large pizza with cheese-jammed crust, download a newspaper, walk your avatar dog, and talk to your friends and family without exercising anything more than your thumbs. Plus, we're just busier now. Texts, instant messaging, and social media have crept into every waking hour. And when you add the pressures of raising kids in a sports-obsessed, parents-need-to-be-involved-in-everything culture, we have little time or energy left for exercise.
Technology gives us the illusion of accomplishing more by allowing us to physically accomplish virtually nothing.
That's the genesis of this book: to help the busy ones who hate working out. This is for the people who join a club and go only during the New Year's resolution crunch. The people who get an elliptical machine for Christmas and use it to hang their clothes. The people who get winded walking up a flight of stairs. Anyone who's scared, intimidated, uneducated, unmotivated, or just plain lazy. Or who lacks the genetic blessings to be lean, fit, or coordinated. (I'll be the first to sympathize with those of you born with the "fat gene." I don't care what those meathead trainers say; many people are born with almost no chance to be a hard body with single-digit body fat and six-pack abs.)
But this book isn't about fitting into a teeny bikini or having a tree-trunk neck. It's about living an outrageously fun and fully engaged life—to be in a position where your physical condition makes your life better, instead of limiting it. In short, it's about being as good as your body was born to be.
What makes me an expert? Am I an experienced fitness trainer? Do I hold a doctorate degree in nutrition? No. But I've been a personal witness to human discipline, motivation, and procrastination in the fitness industry in every region of the country. At the age of twenty, I started my career as a part-time membership salesperson at a fitness club while I attended the local college. Within a few months, I was having a blast working in the club and making a better income than most guys my age. When I was twenty-one, two friends and I started a marketing company that traveled the country and helped club owners generate new memberships. For the next six years, I spent nine to ten months working in different fitness centers around the United States and generating thousands of new memberships. This type of travel—and constantly opening a "new business" (a new membership campaign) every two months in a different city—was perfect training to become an entrepreneur. I had to be resourceful, creative, driven, flexible, and responsive while getting along with people of all ages, shapes, genders, races, religions, and incomes.
Over the last twenty-three years, I've witnessed many new offerings that encourage people to commit to a healthier lifestyle. From StairMaster equipment to water aerobics to thirty-minute circuit training to pole dancing—the barrage of new equipment and cleverly branded workout programs by bulging-biceped gurus will never stop. But motivation doesn't start in the health club; it starts in the mind. And that's where I come in.
In my career, I've probably heard more lazy excuses and flat-out lies than anyone else on the planet. But it's funny, even as the fitness industry has changed, the excuses haven't. Twenty years ago, the three most common reasons for not joining a club were these:
1. "I don't have the time."
2. "I can't afford it."
3. "I can't commit."
These are still the three most popular excuses today.
But this book isn't here to convince you to join a club. Really, it's not. Obviously, if you do decide to go that route, I hope you choose Anytime Fitness. But I just want you to be active. To be healthier. To make your world and our world a better place.
The fact is, I don't think of this as a book. It's a deprogramming effort. Along with fat, salt, and sugar, we're all filled with tons of misinformation—and we've treated this issue with kid gloves for too long. I want Working Out Sucks to shock you into recognition, hit you on an emotional level, and dispel the biggest health myths you've been fed over the years. I'm not going to fill this book with gloom-and-doom statistics, clinical explanations, and arcane scientific studies. Instead, you'll find a practical 21-day program for getting on the path to change, you'll read success stories from people who've done what you want to do, and you'll be challenged to make this the last health and fitness book you'll ever buy.
If this effort succeeds, you'll go from wanting to be healthy to wanting to get healthy—and you'll get off your bulbous rump to do something about it. After I slap you upside your head with a supersized dose of motivation (my specialty), Rebecca DeRossett, MSW, LICSW, a marriage, family and behavior-change therapist in Stillwater, Minnesota, will address the unique emotional issues associated with health and wellness. (Health is so often associated with the body, but the real key to success is using the brain to unlock motivation and overcome fear.) Then, Brian Zehetner, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS, a registered dietitian and a conditioning specialist in Woodbury, Minnesota, will provide a commonsense approach that takes the mystery and intimidation out of fitness and nutrition. I've collaborated with experts because, like you, I also seek outside help to reach my personal fitness and nutrition goals.
So this is it. The journey starts here. If you don't mind a get-real approach to health, then turn the page and begin to treat your life—your full emotional, spiritual, soulful and physical life—seriously. If that doesn't sound good, or you're too sensitive or easily offended, then put this book down, take out your smartphone, and click on the "order a pizza" app.
It's your choice.

"Your son has a fifty-fifty chance of surviving this surgery."
Those were the words heard by my parents in January 1982. My older brother, Steve, was facing heart transplant surgery at the age of seventeen. It's sad to think of any teenager in this situation, but in my brother's case, he could be considered lucky. He was born with a tiny hole in his heart, a condition that prevented the heart from keeping up with his body's circulatory demands—especially during strenuous activities. Shortly after he was born, the doctors didn't think he would live past the age of five.
But Steve had irrepressible resolve, some inexplicable good fortune, and the care of brilliant personnel along the way. Although he was three-and-a-half years older than I was, he was physically weaker. He wasn't strong, and his endurance would be taxed fairly quickly in any athletic event. His condition prevented him from participating in organized sports, but it didn't stop him from playing neighborhood games with his sister, brothers, and friends.
My brother was compassionate toward other kids and patients with physical limitations, and he shunned pity. If he took his shirt off, you could see two massive scars on his chest. One long scar ran down the center of his chest. The other ran horizontally from the front of his ribs and around the side of his body. The scars looked like two sets of railroad tracks on a very skinny body—evidence of two previous open-heart surgeries. After a while, Steve learned to take his shirt off and enjoy life without being self-conscious—despite the constant questions, teasing, and staring.
Steve enjoyed swimming, being outdoors, hiking, and playing football with his younger brother in the park near our home. He would get annoyed at himself for running out of breath and slowing down the games. But after he caught his wind, he'd go right back to them. Steve was robbed of the ability to play without limitations. He had to think twice about every physical action, and it must have been difficult to always be the last kid picked in most games. (Although when I was captain, I always picked him first.)
As Steve got older, his heart began to wear out. The defective organ could not circulate blood effectively, his extremities often grew cold, and his breathing during any strenuous activity—even for a short time—became almost immediately labored. As his situation deteriorated, the medical experts determined that my brother's heart was bound to give out. A heart transplant was the only way to keep him alive.
That brings us back to the fifty-fifty conversation. Can you imagine a coin flip determining your life—or a one-in-two chance of ever seeing your son, daughter, brother, or sister again? That morning in the hospital, just hours before surgery, our family spent our last moments with my brother. What do you say in this situation? Steve had spent countless nights in the hospital and had become accustomed to the heightened emotions. While we cried and hugged each other, he artfully injected humor into conversations, defused the gloom, and refused to succumb to self-pity. We all did our best to be optimistic, to fool ourselves into knowing for certain that we would see him alive later that day. We hoped and prayed, but we didn't know which side of the coin Steve would get.
My brother died on the operating table, surrounded by a brilliant medical team that did everything they could to save him. Although I've summarized his story in a few hundred words, my brother's death has left a void that is still felt thirty years later by me, my younger brother, my older sister, and my mom and dad. Although Steve was the one born with a hole in his heart, he left a hole in ours. But here's the question: Was my brother lucky or unlucky? If you ask the doctors, they'll say he was lucky. Remember, they didn't predict that he would live past the age of five. But he was fortunate enough to experience almost eighteen years of life. My brother would have agreed with them.
Working out sucks . . . but your excuses suck more. Do your arms and legs work? Does your heart beat? Although few of us were born with the physical gifts to be a professional athlete, most of us were born with a silver spoon in our DNA. Mentally and physically, we have nothing holding us back. The challenges we face are the TV remote, the recliner chair, and an endless barrage of mindless sitcoms. During the final days of my brother's life, he badly wanted to swim before his final surgery. The doctors wouldn't allow it at first, but my parents coaxed them into letting Steve take one more swim. In the pool, he was happy. He felt normal and light, and the water rejuvenated his spirits. All he wanted to do was something you or I can do every day without having to ask for a doctor's permission. Steve wanted to be active. How about you? Unless you were born with a serious malfunction, you have no excuse. You are luckier than you think—even if you were born into a fat family. Get off your ass, quit feeling sorry for yourself, and start living.

Right now, in laboratories across the country, some really smart people are working to create a "skinny pill" that will replace the need to exercise. Can you imagine how rich someone would be if he or she could find a way to make us all healthy just by taking a pill?
Still, I hope none of you are holding out for it. Remember Olestra? It was a fat substitute that added no fat, calories, or cholesterol to products, and it had been used in the preparation of traditionally high-fat foods. Everyone was excited at the thought of eating endless potato chips, french fries, and other junk food with no consequences—except for a few side effects, like, um . . . diarrhea. (Not surprisingly, Olestra didn't last long. Consumers wouldn't trade eating a bag of Olestra chips for six trips to the bathroom.)
There's no denying that we live in a pill-obsessed society. And don't get me wrong: I'm not trivializing the necessity of pills or their effectiveness in helping people who have serious conditions. But I've also seen the power of exercise as medicine, and clinical evidence supports the idea that regular exercise lifts mood, increases happiness, decreases stress, and boosts confidence and self-worth.
How we feel about ourselves physically is undeniably important, and this personal appraisal critically influences our conscious choices and subconscious actions every day. Consider this scenario: What if everyone were simply healthier? What if an entire community of individuals experienced a prolonged boost in self-esteem? People with healthy self-esteem get better grades, commit fewer crimes, are less prone to addictions, and have a higher degree of social confidence. 1 And studies have shown that people with high self-esteem report being happier, healthier, and wealthier—and list more close relationships with friends and family members than do people with low self-esteem.
Look at this from another perspective. Listed below is a rap sheet on some of the challenging societal issues that cause pain, conflict, and societal decay:
Teen pregnancy
Sex abuse
Sex addiction
Drug abuse
Domestic violence
Poor student performance and test scores
What do all of these issues have in common? In many cases, they originate from low self-esteem. Or, if there's a biological or neurological vulnerability (which has been linked to alcoholism and obesity), psychological deficiencies may develop secondarily. Either way, it's safe to presume that when you look at this list, low self-esteem is both a cause and a result—a vicious circle if there ever was one. So, what happens as an entire generation becomes unhealthier? Considering the list of issues above, how does that manifest into poor decisions or overall societal decay?
Self-esteem is the likeliest candidate for a social vaccine, something that empowers us to live responsibly and that inoculates us against the lures of crime, violence, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, child abuse, chronic welfare dependency, and educational failure. The lack of self-esteem is central to most personal and social ills plaguing our state and nation.
Am I suggesting that low self-esteem (being emotionally unhealthy) coupled with being physically unhealthy is one of the primary issues affecting our society? Yes. Am I also suggesting that for many people, regular physical exercise may be the magic pill that could make an individual—and a society—a healthier and better place to live in? Ditto.
Working out sucks . . . but having a low self-worth sucks more. Obsessing about pills will only keep you stuck in your rut, waiting for some elusive future while you get fatter and sicker. Think of exercise as medicine—because it is. Plus, it's less expensive than most things you buy at the pharmacy. (And it doesn't cause diarrhea.)

You're walking down the street when some hoodlums approach and give you a choice: "Your money or your life?" You think about it for a bit. Hmmm . . . I have quite a bit of cash on me. How much am I worth?
Sounds crazy, right? In reality, you wouldn't hesitate to give them your money. But when it comes to fitness, why do so many people list money as one of their top reasons for not getting started?
Over the last twenty years, one of the most common I-can't-join-a-gym excuses is "it's too expensive" or "I can't afford it." That's a flimsy lie, and you know it. In today's culture of hyperconsumerism, spending money is our country's most popular sport. The word thrifty only exists in the rental car business and the Boy Scouts' honor code.1
The average American spends more money in one month of automobile expenses than he or she does on one year of personal fitness-related expenses. That's a lot of chubby people riding around in nice cars!
But you don't have to save or spend money; you simply have to reevaluate what's important to you. Over the years, I've asked thousands of people to rank their most important priorities in life. The top four answers are religion, family, work, and health. This is further supported by a 2010 Barna Group survey that listed Americans' top priorities as (in order of importance)"family, health, wealth, and faith." So most of us rate health as our life's second-highest priority—yet we spend nothing on it. Why?
Let's look at consumer-spending breakdown prepared by the federal government in 2009 (U.S. Department of Labor, "Consumer Expenditures," April 2009):
Health care:$2,853
Apparel and services:$1,881
Cash contributions:$1,821
Personal care:$588
Alcoholic beverages:$457
If you divide $49,639 by 365 days in a year, you find it takes the average American $136 a day to exist. Now, consider that an average health club membership is $39 a month, which is $1.30 a day. That's less than 1 percent of your monthly budget—and remember, you ranked health and fitness as your second-highest life priority. Don't you find it interesting that you (and many others) are not dedicating anything to your second-highest priority, and to take action, all you have to do is invest less than 1 percent of your monthly budget?
Working out sucks . . . but using a lack of money as an excuse for staying lethargic, out of shape, and depressed sucks more. You're worth more than a green piece of paper with the face of a president on it. Don't rob yourself of the ability to look better, feel better, play with your kids, and not be out of breath when you take the stairs.

Speaking of 1 percent, what's something that every man, woman, and child on this planet has in common—something we all share, regardless of country, gender, age, income level, or astrological sign?


On Sale
Jan 3, 2012
Page Count
304 pages

Chuck Runyon

About the Author

Chuck Runyon is the cofounder and CEO of Anytime Fitness, based in Hastings, Minnesota.

Brian Zehetner, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS, is the health director at Anytime Fitness, a registered dietitian, and a certified strength and conditioning specialist with more than fifteen years of experience in the nutrition and fitness industries.

Rebecca A. Derossett, MSW, LICSW, is an executive coach for Anytime Fitness and the owner of Stillwater Psychological Associates in Stillwater, Minnesota.

Learn more about this author