7 Ways to Rekindle Exercise Motivation
If the weather (too cold/hot/wet/dry), chatting with a friend, or picking lint off the rug are becoming regular excuses for skipping a workout, you've got yourself a motivation problem.
Not to worry: According to Jeffrey Brown, Ph.D., an assistant clinical professor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, even diehard exercisers sometimes lose their will to get their rear off the couch. "The trick is to find something that keeps you going during a lull in your motivation or rekindles your motivation so you want to get moving again," Brown says. Here, Brown offers seven great tips for sparking your urge to exercise.
1. Set goals.
Brown says that without a concrete goal exercise can start to feel a little aimless. Workout goals, he advises, should be realistic yet just enough out of your reach at the start that they feel exciting and meaningful. They should be measurable and specific so it's obvious when you reach a milestone. It's also good to have mini "stepping stone" goals along the way to a major goal so you always feel like you're accomplishing something and "back-up" goals in case you get temporarily derailed.
2. Act like a child.
Sometimes the ways your mother got you to do things when you were five still work best. Brown believes there's nothing wrong with promising yourself a little treat after you shower up if that's what it takes to get you to the gym. Just try to be mature and sensible about self-bribery; rewarding yourself with a piece of cake or an expensive jersey is both unsustainable and counterproductive.
3. Trick yourself.
Brown also likes the idea of "scaffolding" into exercise. That's where you gradually prepare yourself, little by little, to start your workout and almost without realizing it — you're moving. For example, you might start by putting on your tights. Then, a little while later, lace up your shoes. Next, you put on sunblock or fill up your water bottle. Though it may take you a little longer than usual to get out the door, each step moves you a tiny bit closer to the actual workout until you've committed so much energy to preparation, you might as well just do it.
4. Get a buddy.
If you've been working out by yourself, find a partner. A recent study by the National Strength and Conditioning Association found that working out with someone else makes it more likely both of you with stick with the routine and get better results. What if you're already working out with a partner and still aren't feeling motivated? Brown suggests the two of you try training with a bigger group for a while or invite some others into the mix.
5. Choose an optimal location.
Finding the right workout setting is crucial. You may love the noise, busy-ness, and social interactions of a gym, crave the quiet of a serene park, or prefer pedaling an exercise bike at home. The point is that you have many options. If where you work out is bringing you down, changing the scenery will make a world of difference. And, as Brown points out, environment isn't limited to your physical surroundings, either. Changing what you listen to or starting to listen to music if you've never done so, can provide that missing motivational spark.
When you're tired and would rather not train Brown suggests thinking of disabled runners crossing the finish line of a marathon. Consider their strength and determination and think how lucky you are to be blessed with a healthy body. Go for a workout that day for no other reason other than that you can. Keep in mind not only the physical, but also the mental, emotional, and even spiritual importance of honoring your body and keeping it in great shape. We only get one body and it has to last for the long haul. Every push-up, every step, every reach for your toes is a blessing and contributes to your overall well-being.
7. Take a break.
It could be that your motivation is seriously flagging because you're suffering from burn-out, and you simply need a short break from exercise to recharge your enthusiasm. Brown advises allowing yourself a 3- to 5-day rest. The time off should help you rev your engines and allow you to regain that sense of excitement and energy you get from regular exercise. Just don't let those few days turn into a few months.
How have you kept your motivation going? What tricks and tips would recommend to others who are in a workout rut?
— Liz Neporent, Fitness Reporter
Veteran fitness and health writer Liz Neporent is the co-author of Fitness for Dummies, Weight Training for Dummies, The Winner's Brain, and the just-released The Thin in 10 Weight-Loss Plan. When not pounding the pavement or pumping iron — or thinking deep thoughts about health and fitness for her latest writing project — Liz can be found hanging out with her hubby and daughter in New York City or upstate New York.