A quick preamble: As holistic personal trainers, we’re primarily concerned with helping people move better in the world around them, so I’m going to aim this article in the direction of “How to get yourself to go to the gym when you really really REAAAAALLLY don’t want to but know you’d feel better after but it’s cold outside/you’re busy/whatever.” All the following also magically and beautifully applies to productivity, being nicer to people you love (or don’t), and more.carry on….
Feeling motivated is the Unicorn of the physical transformation world. When you’re motivated, a portal pops open in your mind! You can see your self as the athlete / super parent / pain-free energy beast you’ve always wanted to be, and dammit you’re headed to amazing things!
If you’re like a lot of our clients, that feeling is often less “magically beautiful” and more like the “anti-room of requirement” from Harry Potter: It comes out of the blue when it wants to. It disappears the minute you really (desperately!) need to step away from the computer and go move your body.
You have a couple options!
- Grind it out in misery aka “suck it up” (this is exhausting and neurologically expensive, but can be used in a pinch.)
- Binge watch Netflix and eat chips (this is nice. Until you realize it’s been two seasons of Grace and Frankie, it’s 1 am and someone ate all your Haagen Daz.)
- Trick yourself into doing the thing (this means you get to feel the satisfaction of the thing without all that “adulting” and “shoulding.”)
When we’re low on motivation, most of us try for the “grind it out in misery” option until we run out of f*&@#s and just can’t hack it any more, default to #2 until we feel like garbage about ourselves, possibly get a glimpse of motivation!!!! then go back to #1 when it’s gone again.
I’m here today — a world class procrastinator and legendary motivation/grind/Netflix endurance athlete — to tell you this is unnecessary!
Here are 3 ways to get yourself to go work out / do your drills when you just don’t feel like it:
Come up with and remember a damn good “WHY.” and see it.
(I’m just gonna get this out of the way: “Because I should/Dr Oz said so” is a pretty bad reason. I’m guessing you’re not sitting on the couch because you actually are wanting to be a lazy pile of human forever. Part of you probably wants to relax, needs to re-set your brain or spend time with someone you love or maybe just avoid something unpleasant. You know you’ll get something out of it, which is why you end up doing it!!)
Your brain needs some kind of internally-generated, very important reason to do something when you’re out of the magical unicorn feeling. It has to be something that outweighs the short term fix, like knowing how you’ll feel at the end of the workout, an upcoming trip with lots of hiking or being able to more effectively care for someone in your life.
Make a small commitment.
- Just go to the place. Whether it’s the other room or the gym across town, change your clothes and make the trip. If you get there and just would rather eat dirt than get started… you get permission to leave. (I’ve totally done it. Sat in my car at the gym and thought. Nope. My body/brain/heart are just NOT up for this.) Or read on!!
- Just do the warm up: Telling myself I only have to do the warm up the best way to get myself moving when I’m really feeling tired or busy. By the time I get moving, I’m usually energized and end up finishing the workout anyway, but I give myself full permission to bail anytime after the warm up.
- Only do 5 reps. When I snatch test for SFG certification, I do 10 repetitions per hand, per round but I never count past 5. It’s like this magical number that seems so small and doable, but adds up to 100 super fast!
Ways you can play with this!
- Set a timer for as long as you want to work out, and do 5 repetitions of every exercise you can think of, then start over until the timer is done!
- Take something you’d normally do 10-15 of, choose a much heavier weight and drop your rep scheme down to 5
- Play with compound exercises, like a squat – press that double up!
- Hold an isometric contraction for 5 breaths
- Walk/Run/Cycle/Stairs/Dance for 5 songs
- (I got a million of these, but don’t tell the Saturday group. They think I’ve been going easy on them by only making them do 5.)
Get a buddy.
Guys, for reals, the buddy system works. And with social media being an increasing part of our lives, you’re never really alone!! Accountability is a very real thing and totally trumps lack of motivation when you have to tell someone “Sorry I missed our workout/your class. I watched Grace and Frankie and ate all the Haagen Daz instead.” (oh. Is that just me?)
Motivation is a tricky thing. I saw something the other day that said “We’re all adults. Either you have it or you don’t.” and that’s just not TRUE. That’s not how brains work! Yep.. sometimes you just want to go to the gym and do awesome things. Other days — your brain needs a good reason. A small place to start. A human connection.