If it were easy to maintain a flawless fitness routine, everyone would be doing it. Whether you’re just starting or have been going strong for awhile, lack of motivation strikes everyone at some point. Sometimes you’re tired, insanely busy, or just not in the mood. Even when we begin exercising with exciting goals in mind- such as losing weight, looking better, or becoming stronger and healthier versions of ourselves- we can sometimes lose sight of the positives. It can be easy to talk yourself out of going to the gym when life gets in the way. You don’t want to sit in traffic, you had to work late, promised to meet a friend for dinner, or have household chores to catch up on.
To make matters worse, a temporary lapse in our fitness routine can often result in us feeling even less motivated in the days and week(s) that follow, especially when the routine is relatively new.
That’s why it’s helpful to have a list of strategies that we can turn to when and if we notice ourselves lacking in motivation. Below is a list of some of our favorites.
Workout Motivation Tip #1: Keep a Journal.
Write down how you feel after every workout. Keep a notebook specifically dedicated to this, and put it in a place where you’ll see it after your workout, such as in your gym bag, car, or at your desk. When you’re feeling low on motivation, go back and read your entries. Reminding yourself how amazing you felt after working out in the past can help you get excited to find that feeling again!
Workout Motivation Tip #2: Make a Playlist.
Music can be an incredibly powerful mood booster. In fact, research has shown that listening to happy or sad music can directly alter the way you perceive the world—influential stuff! Almost everyone has songs, albums or artists that make them feel instantly energized when they hear them.
Explore iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, Soundcloud, your CD collection, or ask friends for music recommendations. Have fun collecting songs that get your blood pumping. Put it all on a supercharged playlist that you’ll be excited to listen to next time you work out.
Workout Motivation Tip #3: The Micro-Challenge.
Sometimes, when you know you have a big workout ahead of you, just the anticipation can be enough to sap your strength.
Next time you feel overwhelmed by the thought of completing your workout, try the “micro-challenge” strategy: instead of trying to mentally gear up for a full workout, push yourself to smaller incremental marks.
For example, say you planned to do a 3 mile run and you don’t feel like it. Just push yourself to put on your exercise clothes and shoes. Did you manage that? Woohoo! Now, push yourself to warm up with 10 jumping jacks. Promise yourself that if you still don’t feel like running after 10 jumping jacks, you don’t have to.
Continue this micro-challenge process for as long as you need to. Compromise with yourself and say that you’ll do a 1 mile run instead of 3. Still feel like giving up? Just run to that stop sign, then you can quit. When you reach the stop sign, see if you can push yourself to that tree just around the bend- and so on.
The secret here is that 9 times out of 10, once your momentum is going, you’ll end up completing the workout. And even if you don’t- hey, you still did something active, which is a whole lot better than doing nothing.
Workout Motivation Tip #4: Have Back-Pocket Activities.
Ok, so you didn’t make it to the gym, or to yoga, or spinning class today. Maybe you car is in the shop, you had to deal with an unexpected issue at work, or you had to make an extra trip to the supermarket. Whatever the case, it doesn’t mean you can’t still move. It’s always good to keep a couple of convenient options in your back pocket for when life gets in the way of your plans.
At the end of the day, even if you only had a few minutes to move, it’s always better than nothing. Here are a few good back-pocket options:
1. At-home fitness DVD or online subscription. These typically come in a huge range of styles, time lengths, and intensity levels. You can do a 20 minute yoga class, 60 minutes of cardio dance, or 40 minutes of calisthenics, all conveniently from home. If you have concerns about the cost, check out YouTube. There are a ton of free instructor-led workout videos there that just require a little sorting through to find what you like. Try search terms like “core workout” or “30 minute yoga.”
2. Walk or run. Taking a walk is free and easily accessible to most adults. If you have a dog, bring them along and you’ll both benefit. You can walk outside for any length of time, and even a 10-15 minute jaunt around the block or park can have a positive effect on your body and mood. If you want to burn off a little more steam, go for a run instead.
3. Do yard work or house work. Kill two birds with one stone! Certain household tasks can really burn some calories. Moving furniture, vacuuming, dusting, raking the yard, tending a garden, or shoveling snow can keep your body moving while keeping your home in top shape.
Just try to stay mindful of your body while doing these types of tasks. When you lift something heavy, bend your knees and tighten your abdominals. Avoid working in a position where your hips are higher than your shoulders.
Workout Motivation Tip #5: Try Group Fitness or Get a Workout Buddy.
Even if you’re someone who prefers working out alone most of the time, when lack of motivation strikes, consider trying a group fitness class. The energy of being in a group of people who are all working hard together can be pivotal in the moments that you want to quit. Going with the flow of the class will also make you feel accountable for the full length of the workout- you probably won’t want to be the one person who gives up and leaves early. Plus, some group classes are a ton of fun.
If you’re still not convinced that group exercise is for you, consider finding a friend or acquaintance with similar fitness goals to be your “workout buddy.” You don’t necessarily have to work out together (although you could)- you can simply agree to check in with each other via e-mail or text to let the other one know you’ve done your workout, and to offer support and encouragement. Having someone that you feel accountable to can be a powerful motivator to help you both stay on track.
What strategies do you use to keep yourself motivated to exercise? Let us know in the comments.
About the Author
Julia Workman, CYT
Julia is an experienced yogi, teacher and dancer with a passion for wellness. As the Fitness Program Director OmBody Health, she designs and implements Yoga and fitness programs for our corporate clients. She also teaches powerful workshops that guide busy people toward healthier work/life integration.