And it can be tough to fight inertia to add something to our daily habits that isn't pleasurable to us. It may feel like an uphill battle.
And I'm not always motivated to work out either. I'll go through phases where I feel burned out or just plain ol' tired, with a bad case of the "what-ever's".
But I know from experience that it will pass. I've gotten to a point where I don't beat myself up for missing a sweat session (or 2 or 3). Occasionally I do, but for the most part, I know that sometimes my body just needs the break.
But other times I know it has more to do with run-of-the-mill lack of motivation and I need to just get over it.
Read on for 6 of my most-effective tips for boosting motivation:
1. The 5 Minute Rule
On days that exercising is the last thing I want to do, I'll promise myself that I'll do it for just 5 minutes. And if after those 5 minutes I'm just not feelin' it, I can stop. Nine times out of 10 I'll keep going at least another 15+ minutes. And if I don't, I know that at least I did something. Sometimes the hardest part of the workout (mentally) is putting on my exercise gear and getting started.
2. Change It Up
Another source of low motivation is boredom. Even personal trainers get sick of doing the same thing day in and day out, me included. Although you don't want to program hop and change things up too often, you do want to add purposeful progressions to your training program. Try bumping up the intensity or trying a new exercise. For example, if you do cardio, try adding in a few high-intensity intervals.
Say you're planning on doing 30 minutes at a moderate pace. After warming up, go hard (7-8 out of 10 intensity) for 20-30 seconds. Then return to your normal moderate pace. Do this once every few minutes till your workout is over. Just the distraction of changing the speed or elevation on the machine and fighting to keep up can make the time go by faster. Plus, you get a boost in calorie burn. Win-win, baby!
Or you can go another direction and try something new, like yoga, Zumba, pilates, kickboxing, wall climbing, ice skating, or hiking. And many cities now have trampoline "gyms." What better way to feel like a carefree kid again and get in some breathless, muscle burning activity?
3. Go Shopping
I'm no fashionista, but I do love getting new clothes, especially workout gear. From colorful sneakers to leggings with fun prints to a flattering tank, I actually get excited to exercise when I'm wearing something new.
Although I love my Athleta and LuLuLemons, you don't have to spend an arm and a leg. Some of my best finds have been at Academy Sports, JC Penney, and TJ Maxx. They all carry name-brands, but at affordable prices (look for coupons and sales). Target and consignment shops are other places to look for cute fitness clothes.
4. Temptation Bundling
When you're putting in your miles on the treadmill or lifting some weights, why not try listening to an audiobook or podcast? Or reading a trashy magazine? Watching your favorite tv show or movie can also make the time go by a little faster.
I know some will scoff at the idea of people reading while on a cardio machine, arguing that they're not working hard enough. But if the choice is you going a little easier in intensity and reading or listening to a book or you not exercising at all, I'll take the former every time. Whatever gets you moving is okay in my book.
5. Make it Social
We're all so busy these days that fitting in time with the girls just seems near impossible. If you make a fitness date with a friend, not only do you have the accountability to show up, but you also get to kill two birds with one stone --- fitness and much-needed friend time. Sign up for a class, take a leisure walk, play tennis, lift weights together.
6. Remember Your "Why"
When push comes to shove, remember why you got started in the first place. What are you trying to achieve? How do you want to feel? Accomplished, confident, strong, fit, less stressed? Connect what you're doing (exercising or eating healthy) with what you'll get in the long run (smaller dress size, muscle definition, more energy, better health to be around longer for your family). When you connect your emotions to the day to day grind, it makes it easier to get done what needs doing.
Motivation naturally waxes and wanes, even for the most dedicated of fitness buffs. Even after you've made exercise a habit, you will still find yourself struggling some days to make it to the gym or give 100% in your workouts. This is a-okay. The best thing you can do is to examine why you're feeling this way and then either pick one of the tips above or give yourself a break without beating yourself up.
If you're finding yourself feeling extremely unmotivated everyday for long periods of time, there may be more going on under the surface. You may be overtraining, under-recovering, or placing too much pressure on yourself. You may be under a ton of stress at work and/or at home. This kind of prolonged apathy is a sign that something is out of whack and needs attention, not to be pushed aside in the pursuit of our goals. Talk with a friend or loved one. Journal your thoughts and see what pops to the surface. Our mental health affects our physical health, so it needs to be nurtured.
Try one of these tactics next time you're struggling with motivation. Focus on how you'll feel afterwards, and give it your best effort.
If you'd like a little more accountability and guidance with your fitness and nutrition, consider joining fit pro Natalie Rensi and me for a 6-week online group training experience called Healthy Habits, Happy Holidays. Imagine how it would feel to be already well into achieving your goals come January 1st when everyone else is making their resolutions. For your clothes to fit better. To have more energy to deal with the hectic holiday season. To be less stressed.
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