Whether you’re the occasional exerciser or a die-hard gym bunny, we all have those days, months or times in our lives when we just don’t feel like getting our butts to the gym or venturing outside to workout. Maybe our lives have gotten super hectic, or maybe the change in the weather makes us a little more tired and the couch seem a little more welcoming. Either way, getting ourselves to our workout and then pushing ourselves during the workout can both be challenging at times, even to the most seasoned exerciser. As a spinning instructor and former gym bunny, I know from personal experience that EVERYONE can use a little extra motivation sometimes. So here are some tips to get yourself motivated and keep yourself moving!
1) Take baby steps. Lay out your workout clothes. Put them on. Put on your shoes. Put on your coat. Taking it one step at a time can help to gradually make your way out on to the road or to the gym. Just try not to overthink each step – sometimes a little bit of the Nike attitude is helpful: just do it.
2) Break down your goals. Rather than establish a large lofty goal like losing x pounds in y months, try thinking about it in smaller units, like a weekly weight goal, or even better, a per workout goal, like running an extra minute or adding on a little more resistance on your bike during today’s spin class.
3) Give yourself a reward. After a good workout or achieving one of your goals per #2, give yourself a real reward like a piece of dark chocolate or watching an episode of your favorite show. Obviously use good judgement – don’t go and have a Big Mac after your workout, but you know what I mean. Getting your mind to associate exercise with pleasure makes your motivation intrinsic so it all becomes one fun happy loop!
4) Variety is the spice of life. Working out can be a fun uplifting experience. Really! They key is to introduce variety into your workout. Mix up cardio vs strength training, indoor vs. outdoor workouts, sprints vs. jogging, or try a new class at the gym. In fact, not only is variety helpful in motivating yourself, it will make your workouts more effective. If you do the same activity over and over, our body (and mind) gets used to it and the challenge (and therefore resulting change) decreases. Incorporating a good amount of strength training helps to increase calories burned, both while you’re working and when you’re not working out – combining strength and cardio into your routine will be the best bet for making a change in your body.
5) Energize your day. This is a good view to keep in mind. Although you do expend energy during your workout, studies show that people who exercise moderately but regularly have less fatigue than those who don’t exercise at all. Often when I feel sluggish, doing a moderate workout gives me that much needed second wind.
6) Make a plan. If you schedule your workouts in advance rather than go when you have time, you’ll be much more likely to reach your goal. Plan also for how to deal with your obstacles to working out, for example being too tired or busy – you know what holds you back. Try scheduling your workouts with a buddy which will make it more fun and make you accountable to each other. Making a plan does mean you have to prioritize your workout, but you’ll be surprised at how workable your schedule will become if you do give it that extra bit of priority.
7) Break up your workout. Can’t find a full hour to dedicate to your workout? No problem! A 20-minute workout is also very effective, and could even be more effective than an hour-long workout if you’re boosting the intensity with intervals. Or try breaking it up into one 10-15 minute session in the morning and one after work.
8) Remind yourself of why you’re doing this. Working out isn’t just about weight loss, it’s about health and it’s about energy. From personal experience, working out regularly makes me feel healthier, stronger and happier – I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been tired or in a bad mood going in to a workout and have come out of it feeling way more optimistic and alive. Another fun/silly trick that somehow always motivates me is watching TV shows or movies that show someone being totally physically awesome. Watching the kid in The Flash run at his crazy speed somehow gives me a craving to get on the treadmill…but that may just be me 🙂
9) Have a snack. If you feel sluggish during your workouts it may be because you haven’t fueled yourself sufficiently. Eating a snack rich in protein and complex carbohydrates 2 hours before your work out can give you that extra boost to push yourself during your workout.
10) Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Drink water before you workout for energy and to aid in digestion, and while you workout for energy. In my spinning classes I always say you have 3 tools when you feel yourself slowing down: your water, your breath, and the music. Truly, they are your 3 best friends during a tough workout.
BONUS: Be kind to yourself. This one is important. The idea here is to turn exercising into an activity you enjoy and that enhances your overall life, not that is a drag that you dread. If you beat yourself up for missing a day or taking it easy during your workout, it will just fuel the negativity. Just acknowledge that today didn’t go as planned, touch on why, and let it go. Tomorrow is a new day and although exercising is important, it doesn’t determine who you are as a person or how great you are. Just do your best!