5 Ways To Motivate Yourself To Exercise (No Matter How You Feel)
I’m no stranger to sweat therapy: I hit the gym on the regular. My running shoes are practically a second set of feet. I’ve never been one to turn down a chance to get down (dog) – heck, I’ve been teaching spin classes since people thought it meant you go to a class and turn around in circles for 45 minutes on end (for real. people used to ask me if that was what a spin class was).
I’m well aware of both the physical and mental benefits of getting my heart rate up on the regular, and consider fitness more of a lifestyle habit than a to-do to get to-done.
So why, then, do I wake up some mornings feeling like the last thing I want to do is get moving?
According to catchy headlines and fly-by-night trends, we’re supposed to sweat it out the same way no matter the season: with intensity, with drive, and with an all-or-nothing mentality that promises slimmer thighs!, better sex!, and brighter moods! 365 days a year. We force ourselves into routines for the sake of routines, not taking into account that we are living, breathing, changing beings who experience enough physical, emotional, and spiritual shifts in a mere day to fill up a week’s worth of SoulCycle classes by 12:01pm on a Monday afternoon.
Study after study shows us that exercise can boost our mood, help our bodies clear out toxins, and make even the most everyday of activities seem a whole lot easier (hello, five-story walk up apartment). But when you’re feeling fatigued, uninspired, or just plain down-in-the-slumps, scientific facts don’t help all that much. 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.
The solution: You’ve got to make your workout work out for you.
I’ve definitely struggled with this since moving across the country. Not only was I not used to the seasonal shifts, but I had to completely restructure my schedule, top to bottom. This definitely included the way I moved. I loved exercising outside, which I didn’t have many opportunities to do in LA – one point, NYC! The gym was also a huge part of my community on the west coast, and I found that the NYC gyms where I felt that were NOT the ones that were the closest to my house. And then there was rain, there was snow, and there was that huge dramatic shift in early November when I didn’t even want to leave the house let alone break a sweat. Thankfully, ten months in, I’ve figured out my roadblocks and how to move through them in order to get moving.You’ve got to make your workout WORK OUT for you. Click To Tweet
Feeling blah? I feel you – and there’s no need to let negative self-talk stand in your way. Here are five ways to set yourself up for success and motivate yourself to exercise, no matter how you feel:
1) Give yourself options. Ever notice that the more often you do something extreme, the more your body starts to want its next hit? It’s kind of like that with fitness. When it comes to working out on a down day, it’s important to feed your cravings, not your addictions. That could mean foregoing your usual five-mile run for a meditative walk in the park. That could mean modifying your burpees in your HIIT sesh so there’s no push-up involved. That could mean trading in plank for child’s pose. Knowing you have options within the workout you choose removes that all-or-nothing feeling and gives your body what it actually wants (feeds the craving) vs. what you think it SHOULD be wanting (feeding the addiction).
2) Have a Plan A…Plan B…Plan C….Plan D… I love to run outside. But I know myself, and there are certain situations in which even the most persuasive person I know (hi mom) wouldn’t be able to convince me to haul you-know-what out in the open air. If you’ve learned how to psych yourself to run in brutal heat, icky rain, or I-can’t-feel-my-face cold, more power to you. Me? That’s a big NOPE in my book.
In the past, I’d either force myself to brave the elements or skip out altogether. Not only was the former potentially dangerous and the latter a surefire way to make me a crankypants for the rest of the day, but neither of those options had to be the solutions! Now I know to always have a Plan A, B, C, even a Plan D for making my workout work for me. Running outside not an option? Use the treadmill. All the treads 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? Say hello to my fave, customizable self-confidence boosting workout. Having multiple options at the ready, I’ve found, ensures I can make a decision that’s right for me no matter the circumstance.
3) Wear what makes you feel good. Many fitness pros and motivational coaches will recommend that a surefire way to get amped to work out is wear a rockin’ piece of fitnesswear. And that’s solid advice. Heck, a whole activewear revolution is happening because of that exact school of thought!
The problem is, sometimes that’s not what actually makes us feel our best – especially if we’re feeling 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. Sometimes, I throw on my fiancé’s old t-shirt and call it a day. Point is: if your fitnesswear best makes you feel rockin’, 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 – and pleasant – workout when you’re less concerned with the way you look and more invested in the way you feel.
4) Make playlist presents for yourself. When I find music I love, I become borderline obsessed. So muchso, in fact, that I’ll listen to an entire album or playlist on repeat for weeks, then move onto another set of songs for another few weeks after that. And so on, and so on. That first time I listen is always the most exciting – so what I’ve learned to do is 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, genre “stations” on Spotify or Pandora (I’m all about the “90s Smash Hits” right now), even podcasts. Giving yourself something to look forward to within the workout setting is a great way to trick yourself into putting the work in and having a blast in the moment.
5) Give it a REST. Okay, so this one might seem counter-intuitive…rest to motivate yourself to exercise? Isn’t this a recipe for a negative talk spiral? Actually, it’s the exact opposite. I’m not talking about resting when you’ve got 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? Just like with food, 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 Orange Is The New Black on your couch. But at the same time, it’s necessary to train yourself to cut yourself some slack. How can we ever develop a healthy relationship with our body if we’re constantly putting the pressure on it to look, act, and do things a certain way? 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 one sole chance or obligation to do things the “right” way.
Looking for more WANT wisdom to help you get moving? Click here for help ramping up…or maybe even slowing down.
Now, you: I’d love to hear how you motivate yourself to exercise when you’re just not feeling it. Is there a specific trick you’ve got up your sleeve? Is there a song or playlist you’ve go that gets you going no matter what? Leave a comment below – your sweat-positive strategy might be exactly what someone else needs to get them spinning in the right direction. Literally or figuratively ;)
Photo by Caddie Hastings