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How to motivate yourself to get to the gym


“Sara, I want to work out, but I get home from work and all I want to do is lay on the couch and drink wine.” or “Sara, I don’t have the motivation to do my workouts anymore; can you help?”

I hear this all the time. I get emails from clients who express they’re lacking motivation, or hear from friends “How do you stay motivated all the time?”

(Aside from the fact that I DON’T stay motivated all the time, which is another article another time, I talk about my own successes and struggles and provide high-level strategies on fitness, nutrition and mindset in my email newsletter which you can sign up for here  —> http://bit.ly/2m0L9Jm <—.)

My answer to the ages old question of “How do you find the motivation to workout” is this: ACTION.

I take ACTION and wait for the motivation to come after. 

We fail when we wait for motivation to spark us before acting. When in reality, motivation is a result of ACTION.  Motivation is a result of doing.

That’s great, Sara, but what the fuck do I do when I literally feel like doing nothing but sitting on the couch, watching Big Little Lies and drinking half a bottle of wine?

Well, first, I would say honor the shit out of what you want to be doing. If the above described scenario is what you genuinely want to give yourself for the evening, then honor that and be at peace with your decision.

Which means, don’t beat yourself up over not going to the gym or to your yoga class. Give yourself the pass.

If this is a trend that develops for days or weeks on end, that’s where we look at taking ACTION before feeling the motivation.

Specifically what that looks like for me, is I get up and get to the gym. I clear an hour of my day and make sure I have no distractions so I can tune out and tune in to my workout and my body.

Usually, simply getting to the gym and getting through my workout reignites my motivation. Theory above proven? Perhaps… 

And yes, SURPRISE, I still have days (and sometimes days on end) where I simply don’t want to workout at the gym. Some days I go to the gym and dedicate my time to completing my planned workout whereas other days, I honor the notion of needing a lesser intense workout and opt for a shorter duration body weight interval park workout or a tree reducing 60 minute walk in the park.

I still move, I simply modify the means.

I don’t recommend this for everyone, and I don’t suggest this become the default excuse for when we don’t want to work out.

And going back to overarching topic of motivation: if it is motivation you are lacking, simply ACT. 

If you’re overworked and tired and need to modify for the day, honor that. Otherwise, here are a few more strategies to cultivating motivation to workout when you feel like you have zero. 

  • Action over Anxiety.

This is my favorite and one I learned from my biz mentor, Jill Coleman. There is nothing more anxiety provoking than non-action. Feel like you have a zillion things to accomplish in your day before you can ‘justify’ your time at the gym? TAKE ACTION on them.

Take action on one small thing on your to-do list and alleviate some of the stress you’re feeling around the things you need to do.

Doing is more powerful than not doing, remember that.

  • Plan Ahead. 

I talk about this with my clients ALOT, and with you all. Lay your gym clothes out the night before, pack your gym pack and leave it by the door, put together your food if you’re taking it to work. Whatever tasks you feel you use as an excuse, be preemptive and plan ahead.

When you’re lacking motivation to move, the last thing you want to do is tempt yourself with another excuse like “well, I don’t have my clothes together and then I have to get my food packed and so I might as well not go and sleep in.”

  • GO to the gym. 

You can tell yourself, hey, when I get to the gym I don’t have to workout. But chances are that once you drive there you will be able to get in and move for 15 minutes. As simple as that. Then, you’re starting to feed into the positive feedback cycle of ACTION before MOTIVATION.

  • Look at the bigger picture. 

Are you under a lot of stress at work, home, or elsewhere? Is there a bigger situation happening in your life that is causing you stress? Consider that.

When we find ourselves saying “well I used to work out all the time but I simply don’t feel motivated right now. I’ve lost my motivation in the past but always got it back or worked through it; this time it’s different. I literally want to do nothing, so I don’t. Then I feel bad about myself and repeat the cycle the next day.”

This is not atypical.

Look at new stress loads in your life or situations that have recently popped up that may be causing you to feel less motivated and potentially, even depressed. When this happens it is important to honor where we are at and be extra kind to ourselves.

The last thing we need to do when we’re feeling unmotivated and depressed is tell ourselves what a waste we are for skipping the gym.

So, first thing is awareness of the situation. Second, determine if the situation is large enough that you need to take a week off from your workout routine in order to manage the situation.

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Third, create a new workout plan around your situation. Reduce the amount of workouts per week to make it more manageable when you’re navigating the stress. Don’t worry, you can add in more workouts and workout time once the situation has passed. Remember, this is a life-long process of maximizing our health and happiness through balanced movement; you aren’t going to make it or break it over night or over a week…

I know first hand about this from my experiencing navigating my own grief when my mother unexpectedly died 2 years ago. In a major stressful situation like that, I would coach anyone to simply stop any programming they are following and honor their process. For me, my process did include movement but it was very unstructured and unplanned. I would move in and out of the gym when I wanted and I wouldn’t go when I didn’t feel like it. I would walk in and do some squats for 15 minutes then leave. Some days that was enough where as others it was too much.

The process of navigating stressful situations is individual to the person going through it.

If a stressful situation is going on and you need to adjust your fitness plans, do it! Honor yourself and your process and simply make that choice.

If you’re struggling with motivation (which likely brought you to this blog in the first place!) and through the steps I outlined above, recognize you have a few paths to choose from, great!

Determine your situation: are you going through a stressful event and need to take time from your fitness plan? Utilize the steps above to determine that.

Are you waiting to feel motivation to strike before taking action? I should have painted a clear enough picture to debunk this myth.

If we want to feel moved to do something, we simply must DO SOMETHING.

Waiting for something outside there to motivate us inside is a waiting game we’ll never win. Action always wins.

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