How to Get Over Your Fear of Exercise with Foundation Training

Fear of exercise may simply sound like a bad excuse not to work out, but it’s actually an even worse reality for those who suffer from it. One of the main causes of that suffering is lower back pain, and one of the ways to get over both the pain and the fear can be Foundation Training.

Fear-Avoidant Behavior Explained

Fear-avoidant behavior, or FAB, is the avoidance of certain activities due to the fear of pain or suffering the activity may bring.² Fear of movement or exercise is specifically known as kinesiophobia, and it can result in a vicious cycle that deteriorates your health and well-being.¹ ²

The cycle beings with an injury or discomfort that becomes more painful when you move or engage in exercise. Some may confront the fear and pain, which can ultimately lead to the movement and exercise needed to recover from the injury and alleviate the suffering.³⁻⁵

Others, however, may fall prey to a high level of fear brought on by catastrophizing, or imagining the worst case scenario of what may happen if they exercise. Exercise thus becomes a threat and something they avoid altogether, setting the stage for disuse, disability and depression.³⁻⁵ If people begin to excessively dwell on the fear, in a state known as hypervigilance, they can add pain anxiety to the mix.³⁻⁵

Fear AVOIDant behavior diagram

Further Deterioration

The body can also begin to deteriorate even further due to the unnatural movements someone in pain typically begins to exhibit. These can include abnormal movement and walking patterns, poor posture, and a decrease in body awareness. It can additionally lead to an increased stiffness in the thoracic and back areas along with the altered activation of the abdominal and extensor muscles.

The collection of unnatural movements makes an ideal recipe for eventual damage to the joints and structures that ultimately result in even more pain and suffering.² While such deterioration may seem like an inevitable outcome, it is possible to halt the vicious cycle and restore your health with exercises targeted to the specific problems causing the pain and fear in the first place.⁶

How Foundation Training Can Help

Since 60 to 80 percent of people are expected to experience back pain at some point in their lives, back pain is one of the most common ailments that can set off the fear-pain cycle and eventual deterioration.¹ Both chronic and non-chronic lower back pain is one of the most frequent complaints, and Foundation Training can be a highly effective solution.

Dr. Eric Goodman developed Foundation Training to alleviate his own back pain, and the practice involves teaching the body to move in the manner it was originally designed. Goodman says back pain is one of the first signs of a body breakdown, which is usually brought about by faulty movement patterns and perpetual sitting.⁷

Foundation Training corrects the issue using several strategies. The first is focusing on the posterior chain of muscles and combining as many muscles as possible into a single movement. This helps to disperse the force through the muscles that were designed to handle it, instead of on the joints.⁷ ⁸

FT additionally elongates the muscles in the front of the body which have been shortened and tightened over a lifetime of poor posture and constant sitting. Structural breathing exercises further elongate core muscles, promote proper posture, open and raise your chest, and strengthen your back. The end result of a regular Foundation Training practice is a halting of the breakdown process, the restoration of the body to its proper movements, increased range of motion, flexibility and power, and the alleviation of back pain.⁷ ⁸


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  2. Vincent H, Adams M, Vincent K, Hurley R. Musculoskeletal Pain, Fear Avoidance Behaviors, and Functional Decline in Obesity: Potential Interventions to Manage Pain and Maintain Function.Anesth Pain Med. 2013;38(6): 481-491.

  3. Leeuw M, Goossens M, Linton S, Crombez G, Boersma K, Vlaeyen J. The Fear-Avoidance Model of Musculoskeletal Pain: Current State of Scientific Evidence. J Behav Med. 2007;30(1): 77-94.

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  5. Asmundson GJ, Norton PJ, Vlaeyen JWS. Fear-avoidance models of chronic pain: An overview. In: Asmundson GJ, Vlaeyen JWS, Crombez G, eds. Understanding and treating fear of pain.Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2004:3-24.

  6. Pincus T, McCracken L. Psychological factors and treatment opportunities in low back pain. Best Pract Res Clin Rheumatol. 2013;27: 625-635.

  7. Foundation Training. Available at: Accessed Jan. 28, 2014.

  8. Goodman E, Mercola J. Foundation Training Interview. Published on YouTube; Oct. 12, 2012. Accessed Jan. 28, 2014.