Some days we wake up buzzing, psyched to slide right into our AM fitness class. Other days, just the thought of moving is enough to make us cringe. When it comes to fitness, results are correlated with consistency — so how do we motivate ourselves when we’re just not feeling it? Use this fail-proof guide to fitness motivation…
True or false: Fitness pros have no problem motivating themselves to move. Answer: A big belly laughing false. I’ve been in the fitness industry for well over a decade. I have yet to come across someone who has the whole motivation thing down. We all have days, weeks and periods of time where the last thing we want to do is get up and work out. Study after study after super-catchy-Instagram-infograph tells us that exercise makes us happier. It boosts confidence and keeps everything from our skin to our digestive system in tip-top shape. But when we’re feeling low, scientific facts don’t help. And the accountability factor of having a class to make or a trainer to see isn’t always a surefire recipe to get amped up.
As someone who both sweats and shifts self-talk for a living, I know how much a lack of motivation can mess with our heads. It can send us spiraling down a negative self-talk hole of I’m not good enough. It’s totally normal to have days when you just cannot (and those feelings are valid). The solution isn’t to berate yourself and reinforce a mindset that working out is punishment. You need to make your workouts work out for you.
How Can I Find The Motivation To Workout?
Not feeling your fitness groove? Don’t let negative self-talk stand in your way and stop you before you’ve begun. Because no single strategy works for everyone — and because I am a slight overachiever — below are twelve tips for fitness motivation. Some are tried and true, some may be unfamiliar and some may even surprise you.
Pre-game | Some days you’ll feel ready to go, and some days you’ll feel like you’re far from it. Just like tailgating before a big game (if you’re a sports person) or binging on a band’s music before dancing all night at the show (if you’re a concert person), establishing a pre-game ritual helps your mind get into workout mode. Listen to energizing music; visit your favorite juice bar on your way to the gym; fill your favorite glass water bottle up ahead of time; lay out workout clothes the night before. Your fitness routine can — and should — begin way before you break a sweat.
Give yourself options | Have you noticed that the more you do something extreme, the more your body wants to do it again? It’s like that with fitness. When working out on a down day it’s important to feed your cravings, not your addictions. This could mean foregoing your usual five-mile run for a meditative walk in the park. This could mean modifying burpees in your HIIT session, or trading plank for child’s pose. Knowing you have workout options removes that all-or-nothing feeling and gives your body what it actually wants (feeds the craving) verses what you think it should want (feeding the addiction).
Have a Plan | Always have a plan A, B, C and even a plan D for making your workout work for you. Running outside not an option? Use the treadmill. All the treadmills already taken at the gym? Hop on an elliptical. No cardio equipment available whatsoever — or it’s just too miserable to leave the house in the first place? Do a bodyweight circuit. Having multiple options at the ready ensures you can make a decision that’s right for you, no matter the circumstance.
Wear what makes you feel good | Many fitness pros and motivational coaches will recommend wearing a rocking piece of fitness wear as a surefire way to motivation — and that’s solid advice. The problem is, sometimes it’s not what actually makes us feel our best. This is especially true if we feel uncomfortable in our own skin. When I’m feeling down on myself and physically uncomfortable, I wear clothes that have a little more give to them. Point is, if your fanciest fitness wear makes you feel rocking, rock on. But if an old concert tee and stretchy pants from 2008 make you feel great, that’s great too. It’s much easier to get in a productive workout when you’re less concerned with the way you look and more invested in the way you feel.
Make a playlist | When I find music I love, I become borderline obsessed. The first time I listen is always the most exciting. I create a playlist for myself (or download an entire album on Spotify) and promise myself not to listen until my next workout. This works with playlists and genre stations on Spotify or Pandora (I’m all about the 90s hits right now), new album releases and even podcasts. Giving yourself something to look forward to is a great way to trick yourself into putting the work in and having a blast. Usually, we reward ourselves after a workout, but saving something you’re excited for during your sweat session reframes things and makes the workout itself the reward.
Share with friends | Speaking of playlists, make a collaborative one with your workout bests. Did you know that you can create crowd-sourced playlists on Spotify? Create a playlist, go into settings and make it collaborative. Send it to friends who are also fitness-minded and ask them to add to the mix. If you want to make it structured and keep it fresh, have everyone add three to five new songs each week. You’ll have a rolling list of tunes you might not have heard before. More importantly, you’ll feel a sense of camaraderie knowing you and your crew are in this together.
Give it a REST | This one may seem counterintuitive: Rest to motivate yourself. Isn’t this a recipe for a negative talk spiral? Well, it’s the exact opposite. I’m not talking about resting when you have adrenal fatigue or are overtraining — which, obviously, require rest. I’m talking about letting yourself off the hook. If you’re constantly pressuring yourself to be motivated, how will you ever get there? Your decision to exercise (or not exercise) is not good or bad — it just is. Yes, sometimes it’s necessary to just get up and do it even when you’d rather be binge-watching Netflix. But at the same time, it’s necessary to train yourself to cut yourself some slack. In my experience, this is a breeding ground for guilt and exercise addiction. Give yourself the space to breathe — you might be surprised by what happens when you start to approach exercise as one of many opportunities to feel good, not an obligation to do things the right way.
Make it convenient | Convenience fuels consistency. It doesn’t matter if you have a favorite fitness studio — if it’s far away, you’ll easily talk yourself out of going. There are so many apps and blogs that can help you do everything from structure your workout to guide you through the workout itself. Part of the reason I joined the Aaptiv team is because it’s the kind of app I need and use myself. You can customize workouts with which music and for how long — then just pop in headphones and go. I’m obviously a fan of Aaptiv, but there are many ways to find a program that is a blast, effective and sustainable for you. If it’s fun, you’ll enjoy it. If it’s convenient, you’ll do it. Find the combo of both.
Hack Your Alarm Clock | Your alarm clock can serve as way more than the thing you press snooze on every morning four times. Use it to help you get into a routine that works for you — and stick to it. Want to work out in the morning but not really an early bird? Set your alarm for five minutes earlier than usual and next week, set it for five minutes earlier than that. Keep going until you find a time that allows you to wake up and get your sweat on. Like to sweat in the middle of the day or in the evening, but always seem to get caught up in life? Set your alarm for the time you’ll need to stop what you’re doing and get ready. Need a boost? Program the alarm to ring as your pump up song (my personal choice is Diva by Beyoncé).
Minimize Online activity | Sometimes we follow fitness accounts because we think this will help motivate us. But that plan can backfire, making us feel like we’re not fit enough, strong enough or that our bodies aren’t what they should be. Take stock of who you follow and how they make you feel. Fill your feed with accounts that make you feel confident living your best self — not like a second-rate version of someone else. (May I suggest: @sweatlifeNYC, @zallibhai, @BethanyCMeyers, @JessamynStanley, @PatriciaMoreno33, @pixopatomus, @JenWiderstrom, @wheybyj, @blogilates.)
Find IRL inspiration | Who do you know who leads a fit life, who is down-to-earth and has a life that looks like yours? Who do you admire? If you can’t think of anyone, that’s okay. There are plenty of accountability groups on social media, from private Facebook groups to hashtags (such as #progressnotperfection) where you can cheer on your virtual hype crew through highs, lows and everything in between. Find someone who makes you feel if they can do it, you can too.
Plan Ahead | Approach your fitness routine as if you’re talking to your least motivated self — before she actually appears. All these tips are wonderful in theory but what happens when you’re actually feeling low on fitness mojo? We all have those days. (Yes, even fitness professionals.) Instead of fighting against them, plan ahead for low motivation days. Plan with future you in mind. What’s going to get her moving? What excuses would she make? Stay three steps ahead by establishing proactive, excuse-proof routines before you need them.
Katie Horwitch is a fitness pro and founder of WANT: Women Against Negative Talk, who is all about motivating through her unique brand of positive, proactive coaching. Discover more Katie here.
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