- How to Rekindle Exercise and Weight-Loss Motivation When You Just Want to Chill and Eat Chips
- 1. Revisit your goal.
- 2. Keep short-term goals in sight, too.
- 3. Make dates with the scale.
- 4. Track other things besides your weight, too.
- 5. Think positive.
- 6. Focus on form.
- 7. Focus on your surroundings.
- 8. Divide and conquer.
- 9. Be creative-especially if you get injured.
- 10. Go at your own pace.
- 11. Sweat at home.
- 12. Start with the hard stuff.
- 13. Commit to just 10 minutes.
- 14. Touch base with an expert.
- 15. Get an accountability buddy.
- 16. Set a new goal.
- Fitness Motivation Made Easy
- 1. I move.
- 2. I do stuff I like.
- 3. I wear a fitness tracker.
- 4. I find ways to fit in exercise.
- 5. I stay accountable.
- 6. I make it a priority.
- 7. I motivate others.
- 4 fitness buys that’ll get you excited to work out
- 1. You’re doing the same old thing
- 2. Your progress is stalled
- 3. You’re not leveraging a workout partner
- 4. You’re not recovering properly
- 5. Your environment has gone stale
- How to Get Yourself to Exercise if You’re Depressed
- Make it as easy as possible for yourself.
- Be extremely realistic.
- Reinstate an old exercise habit (if you had one).
- Make your workout something you actually want to do.
- Treat yo’self (after you actually exercise).
- Hold yourself accountable.
- Record your triumphant moments.
How to Rekindle Exercise and Weight-Loss Motivation When You Just Want to Chill and Eat Chips
Photo: Stockkete /
Remember when you committed to that new workout plan and your enthusiasm and motivation were through the roof? “Sunday meal prep? DIY cauliflower rice? 5 a.m. workout? F*** yeah!” But then several weeks or months in, you start to notice more takeout orders creeping in. Or, despite a difficult breakup with sugar, you find yourself eating ice cream standing in front of the freezer. Those morning workouts? Not happening-and you haven’t really found another way to fit exercise into your daily routine. (Shaun T calls this motivation plateau an “implementation dip.”) In short: You’ve lost the motivation to work out and that’s keeping you from reaching your goals, whether they’re to lose weight, eat a little cleaner, or build the strength to run that race.
It’s frustrating, but it’s also common. The best part: It’s easy enough to get exercise motivation back-even if you’ve lost it. These tips will help get you back on track.
1. Revisit your goal.
Unmotivated? Losing sight of why you started working out in the first place? Tune in to the “why” behind your goal (what inspired you or what success looks like to you). Don’t be afraid to spend some time journaling and really thinking about what you want to gain by losing weight. Get excited about it! (It helps to reshape your mindset; design thinking can help you find your “why.”)
2. Keep short-term goals in sight, too.
Sometimes, having a goal that seems far away can be daunting and overwhelming. Instead, break a goal into smaller, short-term goals. For example, if your goal is to lose 10 pounds, instead, focus on losing one pound in a week or two weeks, and keep going with that until you’re at your long-term goal. “Plateaus are part of the process,” says Kim H. Miller, Ph.D., an associate professor of health promotion at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. Stay motivated in the meantime by giving yourself credit for how much better your clothes fit and for improving your overall health.
3. Make dates with the scale.
True, the scale isn’t everything-but it could help keep you on track. In a study at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, of 3,026 adults, those who weighed themselves more frequently lost more weight over two years or regained fewer pounds.
4. Track other things besides your weight, too.
Making lifestyle changes impacts your mental and emotional health as well. Take note of how much more confident you’re feeling or if you’ve noticed any changes in your anxiety level after working out. Have you noticed changes in your sleep and energy? (FYI, tuning into non-scale victories isn’t just a way to achieve your goals, but also key to making your health or fitness transformation last long after.)
5. Think positive.
Just psyching yourself up while you’re strength training can increase your muscle power by 8 percent, according to a study from the School of Sport and Exercise Science at the Waikato Institute of Technology (Wintec) in New Zealand. You’ll reap about 12 percent more power imagining those perfect lifts versus when you’re distracted. Depending on how pooped your arms are, “mental imagery could help to activate additional motor units,” says Brad Hatfield, Ph.D., chair of kinesiology at the University of Maryland School of Public Health. It could stimulate muscle fibers enough to help eke out more curls.
Image zoom Photo: FoxyBurrow /
6. Focus on form.
Not being able to muster more reps at the same weight can be frustrating, discouraging, and totally kill your workout motivation. Decreasing the amount that you’re lifting in 10 percent increments until you can finish the set with good form can help in the long run, says Juan Carlos Santana, director of the Institute of Human Performance gym in Boca Raton, Florida. “The bigger the effort, the bigger your body’s response will be,” he says. That means netting some 46 percent greater strength gains by doing two or three sets compared with only one, says a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. And don’t beat yourself up: Pushing your limits just a little further gets you firming results you’ll feel, says Santana. (You can always switch over to drop sets too.)
7. Focus on your surroundings.
Running motivation is especially fleeting. When you’re trying to slog through that first-or extra-mile, shift your attention to the things around you, says Alan St. Clair Gibson, M.D., Ph.D., deputy dean of research for science and health at the University of Essex in the U.K.: “You might slow down, but it will help you keep going.” Also add a can-do mental mantra, like ‘I’m a running machine!’ to put more mettle in your pedals.
8. Divide and conquer.
Split your run into walking and running parts at first, says Joe Puleo, head cross country and track-and-field coach at Rutgers University and coauthor of Running Anatomy. Jog a quarter of a mile, walk for half a mile, and finish by jogging another quarter. As you improve, stretch out the jogging and shrink the walking segment before jogging that final quarter mile. Do this three or four times a week and “you’ll be able to run the whole distance in about six weeks,” Puleo says.
9. Be creative-especially if you get injured.
There’s more than one way to reach your exercise goal, says Trent Petrie, Ph.D., director of the Center for Sport Psychology at the University of North Texas. Sweating it out on the elliptical (416 calories an hour), cycling (512 calories), or jogging in water (512 calories) can all have positive effects, says Robert S. Gotlin, D.O., director of orthopedic and sports rehabilitation at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City and editor of Sports Injuries Guidebook.
10. Go at your own pace.
Intimidation keeping you from a workout class? Go at your own pace, says instructor Kimberly Fowler, founder of YAS Fitness Centers in California. “If the instructor tells you to turn up the resistance, go to where you feel you can keep up; then if you get tired, lower it.” After all: You’re in control of your body.
11. Sweat at home.
Beam a trainer to your living room for a fraction of the in-gym cost. Online streaming workouts are the latest craze in the fitness space. You can take boutique classes online or check out our slew of kick-ass workout videos.
Image zoom Photo: Firima /
12. Start with the hard stuff.
Not only will you be more motivated to work harder at the beginning of a workout than the end of one, but in a study at the Department of Health and Exercise Science at the College of New Jersey in Ewing, treadmillers who did higher-intensity work followed by lower-intensity exercise got more results and felt that their workouts were less stressful than when the order was reversed. Can’t complain there!
13. Commit to just 10 minutes.
Gassed after a long day at work? “There’s a difference between being mentally tired and being physically tired,” says Miller. “Doing something physical will actually help combat some of the mental fatigue.” But telling yourself that you’re not going to do more than 10 minutes of exercise often leads to extending the time once you get into it, he notes. In a study at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, doing 10 minutes of moderate exercise, such as light pedaling on a stationary bike, was enough to improve mood and fatigue levels, too.
14. Touch base with an expert.
A trainer or a dietitian can be a great resource-even if you think you know what you’re doing. They can help you make tweaks to optimize the good habits you already have in place, and introduce some new tips and tricks to get you moving in the direction you want. An expert can also provide a much-needed reality check after you’ve been down the social media compare-a-thon rabbit hole. (Seriously, comparing yourself to others will not help your goal.) If you find that working on your body is kicking up uncomfortable emotions, a therapist can offer the support you need to move forward mindfully.
15. Get an accountability buddy.
You don’t have to go it alone. Some people find that having an accountability buddy to check in with periodically can be motivating. (Here’s exactly how the buddy system can help you.) You can cheer each other on, share your struggles, and trade tips. Just be careful: If you catch yourself slipping into a competitive mindset or getting down on yourself when your partner does “better” than you, you might be better off without them. (Learn more about how joining an online support group could help you finally meet your goals.)
16. Set a new goal.
Still not feeling it? If you get to a place where thinking about your original goal makes you feel icky, it’s okay to change gears. (Here’s proof: When It’s OK to Give Up On Your Goals) Do some soul-searching and think about what you really want to accomplish (as opposed to what you think you should want) and get excited and SMART AF about it. Make that goal specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely, and fun. Being healthy is as much (okay, much more) about feeling great as it is about looking great. (Also see: Your Complete Guide to Conquering Any and Every Goal)
- By By Jessica Cording and Carey Rossi
Abby Lee Miller’s legal woes meant bad news for one of her elite junior dancers in Tuesday’s Season 6 installment of “Dance Moms.” The ALDC coach appeared to take out her frustrations over her bankruptcy fraud indictment on one of her longtime dancers, Mackenzie Ziegler, in episode 2 of the Lifetime series.
“Abby vs. Melissa” kicks off the drama by Abby, who arrives late for the weekly team meeting, placing Mackenzie on the bottom row of her infamous pyramid. She says Mackenzie’s “feet, lines and posture” failed to impress her during the premiere episode competition. Even after Mackenzie’s mom, Melissa Gisoni, sticks up for her 11-year-old daughter, Abby’s taunts continue during the team’s practice.
Practice makes perfect! #DanceMoms pic.twitter.com/ybkSUCbx4M
— Dance Moms (@DanceMoms) January 13, 2016
While rehearing their group number, Abby points out that Mackenzie is behind her teammates in the routine. Abby goes on to call Mackenzie a “ding dong” when she sees her laying on the ground while getting critiqued. The insults continue when Abby begins teaching Mackenzie her solo routine, “I Just Want to Stay On the Couch and Eat Chips,” which was inspired by her infamous Season 1 line, “I just want to stay home and eat chips.” When Abby asks Mackenzie to recite the title of her dance, Abby claims she’s incorrect.
“I was just thought it would be like my interview,” Mackenzie says.
“She can’t even remember the name of the dance,” Abby complains to her other students.
“That little smart a— is trying to tell me that that’s not the quote that she said. That we’re wrong,” Abby says after sending a tearful Mackenzie out of the room.
When Melissa confronts Abby about her language, Abby claims Mackenzie had an attitude.
Later on, when Abby begins coaching Mackenzie on her acrobatic skills, Melissa cries over the coach’s treatment of her daughter. “I’m not making accuse for her,” Melissa says. “I just want you to care about you like you used to Abby.” Abby responds by saying she simply wants more out of her student and is giving her technical critiques.
At the competition, the judges note that Mackenzie’s ankles are “a little soft” and award her fourth-place in the junior solo division. She is beat out by her teammate and fellow junior soloist Kendall Vertes, who places third.
After awards, Abby says she’s disappointed in her soloists’ performances and the team’s failure to walk away with a first-place win for their group dance. Mackenzie tells Abby she feels her solo, which had her wearing pajamas and pigtails, was too immature for her age.
“I think this dance was too young for me. That’s what I think,” she says.
“Well, that’s why we gave it to you. Because it’s easy,” Abby explains. “I’m not going to give you a lyrical routine and tell you to straighten your legs and point your feet anymore because it taking too much out of us to do that.”
Do you think Abby was too hard on Mackenzie? Sound off in the comments section below. “Dance Moms” airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. EST on Lifetime.
Are you looking to make your occasional strength class or Sunday spin session a regular ritual? You may be one of many casual exercisers who wants to sweat more often, but struggles with finding the workout motivation to make fitness a part of your daily routine.
Conventional wisdom hasn’t been particularly helpful in figuring out how to get in the groove and become that person who says, “I’ll meet you for brunch later. Gotta fit in my run first.” You’re told you have to “want it” enough. Or that you have to do something 21 days in a row before it becomes second nature. But what do you do on the 29th day when it’s raining outside and you’re dying to skip your run and sleep for another hour instead?
RELATED: 7 DIY Pinterest Projects to Get You Motivated
Fitness Motivation Made Easy
Fortunately, economists and psychologists have been studying how to crack the code of what compels us to repeatedly do something we don’t always want to do. Here are some of their best strategies to boost workout motivation.
1. Give Yourself a Real Reward
Sure, some people might be motivated by vague goals such as “better health” or “weight control.” But if that’s not doing it for you, journalist Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business advises making the benefits of working out more tangible, such as by treating yourself to a smoothie or an episode of Game of Thrones afterwards.
“An extrinsic reward is so powerful because your brain can latch on to it and make the link that the behavior is worthwhile.”
He describes creating a neurological “habit loop,” which involves a cue to trigger the behavior (setting out your spinning shoes next to your bag), the routine (making it through spinning class) and then the reward. “An extrinsic reward is so powerful because your brain can latch on to it and make the link that the behavior is worthwhile,” he explains. “It increases the odds the routine becomes a habit.”
RELATED: The One Habit That Could Slash 1,400 Calories Per Week
Over time, the motivation becomes intrinsic, as the brain begins to associate sweat and pain with the surge of endorphins — those feel-good chemicals released in the brain that are responsible for that “I-feel-freaking-amazing” rush you get after a great gym session. Once you’ve trained your brain to recognize that the workout itself is the reward, you won’t even want the treat.
2. Sign a Commitment Contract
We can make promises to ourselves all day long, but research shows we’re more likely to follow through with pledges when we make them in front of friends.
You can up the ante even more by signing a contract agreeing to pay a pal $20 every time you skip Pilates. “It’s a simple notion of changing the cost,” explains Jeremy Goldhaber-Fiebert, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at Stanford University who studies health decision science. “I say I’m going to make a commitment to do something for a certain amount of time, such as exercising 30 minutes three times a week for 12 weeks. If I don’t do that, I’m going to pay some kind of penalty, whether it’s monetary or the embarrassment of having friends know I didn’t live up to my word.”
RELATED: 9 Ways to Find Workout Motivation (Every Damn Day)
In studies of people who created online contracts via the site stickk.com, Goldhaber-Fiebert and his colleagues found that those who signed longer contracts ended up exercising more than those who agreed to shorter durations. “We have to get past the initial experience of displeasure in order to recognize the longer-term benefits,” he says. “The challenge is designing tools to help make that happen.”
3. Rethink Positive Thinking
Devotees of positive thinking have long promoted visualizing the benefits of a behavior as a motivational strategy. For example, when I’m deciding whether to get out of bed to go running in the morning, it helps to imagine how the sun will feel on my face as I run around the reservoir. Or how delighted I’ll be when I see my new muscles developing.
“After you imagine the obstacle, you can figure out what you can do to overcome it and make a plan.”
But such feel-good fantasies are only effective when accompanied by more realistic problem-solving methods, according to Gabriele Oettingen, PhD, psychologist at New York University and author of Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation.
RELATED: Just Not Feeling It Today? 33 Sources of Workout Motivation
Here’s the rest of the formula: After identifying your wish and visualizing the outcome, you have to identify what’s holding you back — a technique she calls “mental contrasting.” In one study of 51 female students who claimed they wanted to eat fewer junk food snacks, researchers asked each woman to imagine the benefits of nibbling on better foods. Those who identified the trigger that made healthful snacking difficult for them — and came up with a plan to reach for fruit when cravings hit — were most successful at sticking to their goal.
Feel too tired to go to the gym after work? “After you imagine the obstacle, you can figure out what you can do to overcome it and make a plan,” explains Oettingen. For example, you can switch to morning or lunchtime workouts or go straight to the gym instead of stopping at home first.
RELATED: 19 Reasons to Work Out (Beyond the Perfect Body)
4. Find Your Fitness Tribe
Let’s face it: No one can pay you to do more squats, rack up more miles or lift heavier — and science proves it. Researchers in a recent study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that rewarding new gym members with $30 or $60 gift cards for exercising made little to zero impact on their workout motivation. While it might sound like a sweet deal to get paid to sweat, what will ultimately inspire you to get up and start moving is a strong, supportive community. The laughs, high fives and words of encouragement from the bonds people make are things money simply can’t buy. From CrossFit boxes to run clubs to yogi circles, there’s a fitness squad for everyone. Find a workout that makes you feel good and surround yourself with people that help build your confidence as much as your strength. The cost of putting yourself out there? Priceless.
Originally posted August 27, 2014. Updated August 2017.
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1. I move.
Let me start this off by clarifying one important thing: I’m just a normal person who exercises. I’m no fitness fanatic. You won’t find me at a 5 a.m. boot camp class (because, sleeping) or Instagramming pictures of a daily kale and protein powder smoothie (because, yuck).
The only “burpee” I do is after a big meal. And if I’m being really honest, people who do stuff like that — whose intention is to be motivational — actually have the opposite effect on me. They make me feel inadequate — like I’m never going to have that kind of drive and dedication and may as well give up now and sprawl out on the couch with a pint of ice cream and some Netflix.
So don’t worry. I’m not here to go all Maria Kang and tell you that you’re not exercising because you’re a lazy piece of crap. Nobody needs to hear that, especially someone who’s having trouble mustering the motivation to work out at all. If you’re reading this, well, that’s probably you. And that’s okay, because it was me too.
After popping out three kids in five years (and, all right, enjoying all the desserts), my body was a sluggish wasteland. For the first time in my life, I was within spitting distance of 300 pounds. Miserably depressed, I felt swamped in flesh. So I isolated myself, skipping events where I might see someone who would think, Damn, she’s gained a lot of weight. I used my kids as an excuse to stay home (which was pretty legit, because we all know how hard it is to do anything with toddlers), but the real reason was that I was deeply ashamed of the way I looked.
Although I read all the body positive “love yourself as-is” articles I could get my hands on in an effort to be happy with who I was, I just couldn’t accept the fact that I had gotten this way. But as unhappy as I was, the thought of actually doing something about it was so overwhelming that I was paralyzed. It seemed like such an insurmountable goal — something for someone else to reach, someone with more determination, more grit than me. And so I cocooned myself in big shirts and stretchy pants and felt disgusting and guilty every time I spent another evening with my ass glued to the cushions.
My personal catalyst for change? I’d like to say I did it for my health or for my kids, but since I’m being honest: It was vanity. I knew my weight had gotten out of hand, but seeing as I avoided full-length mirrors like the plague, I didn’t know exactly how out of hand … until one day when my 4-year-old was recording random videos on my phone.
Little did I know that he had left it recording and propped it up on the counter, directly across from the refrigerator — the same refrigerator that, according to the video, I rummaged around in with my gut hanging unflatteringly out of a too-small tank top. I was confronted with raw, glaring footage of the reality I had tried so valiantly to ignore. Heart pounding, I forced myself to watch it. And I cried in defeat and disbelief.
It may have been an emotionally brutal wake-up call, but it served a purpose. I couldn’t ignore it anymore. Yet there was still the not-so-little matter of the pesky 100-plus pounds I needed to lose. It wasn’t just going to fall off, and the mere thought of heaving myself up to exercise literally made me exhausted.
I recalled a Shel Silverstein poem I had loved as a child that said, “Have you heard of tiny Melinda Mae, who ate a monstrous whale? She thought she could, she said she would, so she started in right at the tail.” The poem goes on to say that she ate the entire whale, bit by bit. It became my personal mantra for tackling anything that seems overwhelming: How do you eat a whale? One bite at a time.
In the spirit of Melinda Mae, I started out with baby steps. I felt entirely too fat to go to the gym, so I began my quest at home. I walked around the house as much as I could. I tried to put more energy into doing my daily tasks. I danced with my babies and used them instead of weights to work out my arms. We had a Wii Fit, which cheerily chirped, “That’s obese!” every time it would weigh me. (Thanks a lot, asshole.) I bought a little aerobics step and stepped up and down on it while I watched TV. Gradually, I started to see a change, even though it still felt like I was using a chisel to chip away at an iceberg.
My neighbor had been trying to get me to come with her to a Zumba class at the gym for months, and finally I relented. The first time we went, I was the biggest girl in the class. I plastered myself nervously against the back wall, ready to bolt at the first sign of anyone snickering at the fat chick trying to work out. To my surprise, though, it was actually a lot of fun. Before I knew it, I had migrated up to the front row and was dancing around like I owned the place — rolls and all.
It wasn’t always a smooth road, but I kept at it, and over the course of two years, I took 112 pounds’ worth of bites out of that whale. Dropping that much weight gave me a new level of self-confidence that the overweight me never could have imagined.
I’ve had a few setbacks since then — like when my husband found me so irresistible that I got pregnant for the fourth time (surprise!) and gained 60 pounds — but I’ve learned to forgive myself for any bumps and climb back on the wagon, so to speak.
We’ve already discussed the fact that I am not one of “those people” when it comes to fitness and health. If left to my own devices, I would happily spend my days baking and eating and lounging around in a pillow fort. And I have to fight a constant battle not to let myself slack, or I totally will. It’s just how I am. So how do I keep myself motivated to exercise and maintain a healthy weight?
Seriously, movement begets movement. (It’s science. Remember learning about kinetic energy and Newton’s laws of motion?) On the days when I feel like doing absolutely nothing, I make myself get up and walk around for a while — because once you’re in motion, staying in motion becomes much, much easier.
2. I do stuff I like.
I loathe the elliptical machine. I’m not a runner. I’m terrible at sports. But I do love to dance, and go for walks, and take step aerobics classes. I loved Zumba so much that I became an instructor. You’ll never stick with activities you find boring, but there are so many different ways to move.
3. I wear a fitness tracker.
I take advantage of my super competitive streak and wear a gadget around my wrist that counts my daily steps, which really helps me in the motivation department. You can set personal goals or compete in challenges with other people to see who can get the most steps in.
4. I find ways to fit in exercise.
You don’t even have to do a workout to get a workout. Every time I pick up laundry or a toy (which is approximately 12,342 times per day), I squat instead of bending over. I do calf raises while I’m standing at the sink. I walk around with my stomach sucked in. I run around with my kids. I stand in front of the bathroom mirror and clap my butt cheeks together. Don’t judge me.
5. I stay accountable.
As a group fitness instructor, my classes are counting on my presence, so I have to exercise at least three times a week. But if leading a class isn’t your bag, find a workout buddy and stick to a schedule together.
6. I make it a priority.
I don’t always have a fantastic time waxing my eyebrows or flossing my teeth, but they’re a necessary part of my self-care routine. And now, so is exercising. I wouldn’t let my teeth get plaque-y or my brows grow out until they resemble caterpillars, so I won’t let myself slack off on exercise either (at least not more than once or twice a week).
7. I motivate others.
This can be tricky, because like I said, not everybody wants to be motivated. But I find that if someone asks me to help them stay on track, it helps me too. I can’t very well tell them to adopt a healthy habit while I’m demonstrating the complete opposite.
It might seem like a foreign concept from where you’re standing. I totally get it. But trust me: Once you make exercise a regular part of your life, you’ll actually (gasp!) look forward to it.
I’m not gonna lie, there are still days when I’d rather get a bikini wax from a honey badger. But consistency is key, and even tiny steps are better than none. Whether you’re 10 pounds overweight or 200, believe this: You are so, so worth the effort.
Put together a killer workout playlist
Load your smartphone with your favorite songs and turn them up when you’re feeling too tired to change into your workout clothes. More often than not, you’ll perk up and feel ready to work out, says Michael Everts, owner and founder of FIT personal training in Washington, D.C.’s Dupont Circle. “It gets you to the gym—the hardest part of motivation—and once you’re there, you’ll probably stick around.”
4 fitness buys that’ll get you excited to work out
If you need an extra push, reward yourself with this fitness-inspired gear. They’ll not only help you plan your workouts and stick to your goals, but every time you see them, you’ll feel good about your progress.
Andaz Press Gym Fitness Wall Art amazon.com $6.99 2019 Runner’s World 12 Months of Motivation Calendar amazon.com Fitlosophy Fitbook: Fitness Journal and Planner for Workouts amazon.com $22.49 AQUANE Inspirational Fitness Water Bottle amazon.com $16.99 Theodora Blanchfield CPT Theodora Blanchfield is an NASM-certified personal trainer, RRCA-certified run coach, and certified yoga instructor who completed her 200-hour yoga teacher training with YogaWorks.
Some guys can spend hours in the gym. You know the feeling: It doesn’t matter what the weather’s like, or how you’re feeling, or even what you do once you’re at the gym—you’re there, doing the same old routine, grinding away.
And that’s exactly the problem.
After a while, your old reliable workout program can start to feel less like a routine and more like a rut. Suddenly you’ve become a gym robot, soullessly going through the motions, as your progress stalls and your workouts start to feel like a chore instead of something you enjoy. And the worst part? You’re not sure why.
But fear not, champ—help is on the way. Rejuvenate your program and start enjoying training again by addressing these five mental blocks that are holding you back.
1. You’re doing the same old thing
Following the exact same workout program since high school is a bad idea. Let’s face it: Doing 3 sets of 10 all week, every week can only get you so far. And while humans are creatures of habit, lacking any innovation will dampen your progress and kill your motivation.
What you need is a a program incorporates slight variations from week to week. Instead of the usual 3 sets of 10—known as straight sets—try doing a varied set/rep scheme, which hits your muscles with varying intensities to stimulate more muscle fibers, or varying your approach to each exercise slightly. Here are three to try:
Ladder reps: These involve doing ascending or descending reps such as 5, 7, 9, 11 or 12, 10, 8, 6, respectively. The weight would be adjusted for each set to match the goal number of reps.
Pyramid reps: When pyramiding, reps can look like this: 12, 10, 8, 10, 12 or 1, 3, 5, 3, 1. A trainee who has been doing sets of 8 or higher for a long time will really notice strength gains when training with weights suitable to reps of 7 and below.
Grip Switch: Change your grip to stimulate and recruit your muscles differently. Instead of always doing chin ups (double under hand grip), try doing neutral grip (palms facing inward) or pronated chin ups (double over hand grip, known as a pull up). Instead of always doing bench press with a bar, give your shoulders a break by doing a neutral grip dumbbell bench press.
2. Your progress is stalled
This can start to feel like a self-fulfilling prophecy—and if you’re not careful, it can lead to a vicious cycle: You’re bored, so you make no gains, and that makes you discouraged, so you work even less.
Training should be driven by reasonable, attainable goals and your progress toward those goals. Otherwise, you’re just lifting random weights in the gym with no purpose. Do you want to increase strength? Then you should be lifting weights for 5 reps or lower and always strive to move the bar faster. Do you want bigger muscles? Then lift weights for 5 reps or higher and always strive to add weight to the bar. Want to lose fat? Dial in your nutrition so you’re in a calorie deficit and bang out energy-depleting-type workouts. The training plan must match your goals in order to achieve them. Know what you want and choose to best plan of attack—and remember, you get what you train for.
3. You’re not leveraging a workout partner
Some people work well on their own. Others need company and find motivation in working out with friends. If you’re one of the latter, find a training partner who has goals similar to yours and good lifting technique. He or she can help you with your form while providing a spot when you’re venturing into heavier weights. Yelling silly things such as “It’s all you, it’s all you!” can be very motivating at the end of a tough set as well. Work off each other and reach new levels of strength and size you wouldn’t normally if training on your own.
4. You’re not recovering properly
Some of the best coaches will tell you that recovery is more important than the program itself. Doing trusted programs won’t get you the results they promise if you’re staying up late, eating Doritos for dinner, and breakfasting on leftover pepperoni pizza. Ask any Olympian, and they’ll tell you that they put huge amounts of thought and effort into making sure they’re eating clean and sleeping properly. Here are a few simple steps to improve:
1. Dial in your pre/post workout nutrition and cut the crap (sugars, highly processed and fast foods, trans fats, etc.).
2. Get seven to nine uninterrupted hours of sleep per night. Staying up late playing video games and waking up early for work the next morning is recipe for a training disaster.
3. When training, often more is always less. You might think that if training three times a week is good, training six times a week will be great! The same logic suggests that if five sets of five reps will improve strength a little each day, then maybe ten sets of five will increase it by twice as much. Right? Wrong. Unless you’re a genetic freak, doubling everything will actually stall your progress and leave you over-trained, fatigued and unmotivated. You don’t need to spend hours in the gym to see results.
4. Follow the Law of Diminishing Returns and find out what works best for you. Experiment with different set/rep schemes and different programs. Document your progress and recovery. Emphasize your recovery just as much as you emphasize lifting weights and you’ll make progress.
5. Your environment has gone stale
Whether you’re training in a sweaty rustbucket or an ultra-luxe studio, the same old spot can start to get old after a while. One option to spice up your training is to visit a different gym. A new training atmosphere (people, music, smell, air conditioning, etc.) might be the thing you need to get motivated again. If that’s not an option, start taking a workout class to supplement your program—you’ll be surprised how many spandex-clad women can kick your ass in kickboxing.
If neither of those is your style, then take your workout into the great outdoors. Take an adventure travel vacation. Go rock climbing. Go visit a national park.
Hell, with a little imagination and a few simple workout tools, you can make any outdoor space into your own gym. Buy a sand bag and a kettlebell and find a park with a monkey bar set. You’d be surprised how much you can kick your own ass with just a bag, bell and a bar.
Get the results you’ve been training for and enjoy working out again.
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How to Get Yourself to Exercise if You’re Depressed
I remember waking up one spring morning about three years ago agitated from multiple efforts to extract the most aggressive of running shorts wedgies. I had slept in full running gear, boob-smashing sports bra included, and my sneakers were on the floor directly next to my bed, per instructions from my therapist. She was trying to get me to go outside for a jog as soon as I woke up in the morning and this seemed like the path of least resistance.
Let me back up. I went through a phase of mild depression in 2015 after moving to a new city where I knew no one except for the partner who had just broken up with me. Depression feels different to everyone, and mine was basically sad movie-sobbing plus fear intertwined with anxiety—a fun combo platter. So on top of being too exhausted to do much (a common physical symptom of the weepies), I would get really angsty and negative in the morning. I had a bomb ass therapist though, who rocked with me to and through this phase, and one of the things she pushed was exercise.
Exercise is not a cure for any type of mental illness, but it really helps for a lot of people. It made a huge difference for me. “Just getting activated, behaviorally, is a useful treatment for depression,” says Nicholas Forand, assistant professor of psychiatry at Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell Health. “The act of getting out and engaging in some goal directive behavior and getting some positive feedback—that can help shift the tide a little bit in terms of feeling depressed.” Forand also tells me that aerobic exercise (a.k.a. cardio) has been shown to help people with depression feel better.
Here’s the thing, and I can testify: It’s really hard to get a depressed person to work out. In my mind, exercising was a lot of work and I couldn’t fathom why or how it would enhance my life, which at that point was basically an early Adele album. But my therapist—like any worth their co-pay—was adamant. And her calculated strategies got me out, moving around—even if only for a few minutes—and feeling like a more familiar version of myself. So if you ever find yourself in the situation I was in, here’s a little hope in the form of seven ways to get yourself to work out, starting with the running-shorts-to-sleep technique that proved successful for me.
Make it as easy as possible for yourself.
“The hardest thing is task initiation—to get started,” Forand tells me. Give yourself a chance to succeed by setting up your environment in a way where it makes it easier to do the hard thing.” Hence, wearing the running attire to bed. If I’m already dressed, all my depressed, sluggish ass needs to do is to walk out the door. Do whatever you need to do to eliminate all obstacles that could make you want to give up and go back to bed, he says.
Be extremely realistic.
“People often say they’re going to wake up at 5:30 and go to the gym when there’s a zero percent chance that that’s actually going to happen. You set yourself up to fail,” he says. And that failure can be incredibly demoralizing. Achieving goals is something that’s crucial to your self-esteem at this time, so don’t play yourself like this. “Set realistic expectations for yourself. What would be a better time to go to the gym? Maybe you feel a little better when you’re coming home from work, or maybe at lunchtime. Arrange it around that instead of doing it at a time where you’re already working against yourself.”
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Going to the gym for an hour may feel impossible, adds Amy Serin, neuropsychologist and chief science officer of the TouchPoint Solution, a healthcare tech company, but walking for five minutes outside may feel doable. “Exercise doesn’t have to be a heart-pounding, sweat-dripping experience to be effective,” she says. “Even small amounts of moderate activity can go a long way toward lifting someone out of a depressive funk. And once the first small step is taken, it’s easier to add on to the behavior.”
Reinstate an old exercise habit (if you had one).
“It’s easier to build a habit off of old neural pathways that are already established rather than forging new ones,” Serin says. “So if you used to do a kickboxing workout regularly, for example, start with that because the habit can be reactivated easier than starting something totally new. Use your neural networks to your advantage.” Serin assures me that if you weren’t active beforehand, you can still implement exercise into your routine now, but it might take longer.
Make your workout something you actually want to do.
“If you’re telling yourself the only way to work out is to go to the gym and run on a treadmill for an hour—which sounds horrible to me—of course I’m not going to want to do it,” Forand says. “I like riding my bike. So instead of going to the gym and torturing myself, I ride my bike on the weekend.” There’s no wrong way to be active, he adds, especially if you’re not working out at all. “Any kind of exercise is better than nothing, so you might as well make it interesting to you.”
Treat yo’self (after you actually exercise).
“You can create short-term motivation by using psychology’s Premack Principle—equivalent to ‘eat your broccoli and you’ll get dessert,’” Serin says. Make a deal with yourself to do something pleasurable or treat yourself if you exercise; the reward can be small or can even be something that’s a regular part of your day (e.g.: “I will walk this morning for at least 15 minutes and then I can text my friends”).
Hold yourself accountable.
Putting it in your phone’s calendar or setting a realistic plan is an accountability thing, Forand says. What’s even better, though, is to be accountable to someone else. “Sign up for a class and pay money for it. They expect you be there and you’ve got a little bit of skin in the game,” he says. If you can find a workout buddy, that’ll make you less likely to bail since you’d be disappointing someone else. “Or even tell somebody you’re going to do it. Tell someone to hold you accountable.”
Record your triumphant moments.
“Even simple things can feel like they are impossible when someone is depressed and conjuring up motivation can be really, really difficult,” Serin says. So treat exercising like an experiment and you can potentially use the results to fuel you, since your brain might be predicting that exercising will suck. “Approach it with curiosity,” Forand says. “I’ve asked people to write out their predictions—which are usually negative—and then go try it for a little while and see how accurate their predictions were. Often times, the exercise is pretty self-reinforcing and you feel better afterwards.” Serin adds that it’s hard to remember the positive when depression strikes, so it’s good to keep a reference to remind you that after exercise your mood really did improve temporarily.
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Young beautiful blonde woman lying in bed suffering from alarm clock sound covering head and ears with pillow making unpleasant face. Early wake up, not getting enough sleep, going work concept (iStock)
Whether you’re a gym rat or a fitness beginner, we all have days when we don’t feel like working out. Maybe it’s been a stressful week, and you just want to get home to a glass of wine. Perhaps you’ve been working out for weeks and are feeling frustrated that you aren’t seeing results. Maybe you used to go to the gym regularly but fell off, and you’re now having a hard time returning. Or maybe you just have no idea where to start and are feeling overwhelmed at the prospect.
Whatever the reason, sometimes we just don’t feel like working out. Here are some tactics to get you through.
Make a plan
The first step to reaching any goal is setting the goal in the first place. Try to make your goals S.M.A.R.T:
- Time bound
This is usually the part that trips people up. Many people know they want to feel better, but they don’t know what will get them there because they haven’t given it much thought. Losing weight is measurable goal, but it isn’t terribly specific. How much weight do you want to lose? Maybe you want to lose 10 pounds, which is specific and measurable. It’s also more realistic and attainable than saying you want to lose 50 pounds is (which is still attainable, but much more difficult). Next, ask yourself whether the goal is relevant. If there’s no real reason you want to lose weight, you likely won’t stick to the goal. It must have some relevance in your life to matter to you. Finally, make it time bound by putting some constraints on the goal. How quickly do you want to lose 10 pounds? Two weeks may not be attainable, but two months might be. By making your goal time bound, you’re adding some built-in motivation and accountability.
Figure out what’s holding you back
Before you can implement steps to reach your goal, it’s important to determine what’s been holding you back so far. Are you struggling to feel motivated? Is working out hard because you don’t have a babysitter? You can’t justify the cost of a gym membership or personal trainer? Whatever is holding you back, it’s important to acknowledge it so you can get past it.
It’s also important to make sure you’re ready. Fitness, like any other habit, requires you to be ready to make a change in your life. Per the transtheoretical model of behavior change, if a person is not ready to make a change, it won’t stick. It’s important to understand which stage you’re in and that we can relapse and reenter at any stage. Slipping up every now and then does not set you back to square one.
Source: Fix.com Blog
Break the plan into smaller pieces
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your goals won’t be accomplished in one fell swoop either. Take that big goal you set and break it into smaller pieces. Sure, maybe you want to go to the gym five days a week, but how realistic is that when you’re first starting out? Set a smaller goal to start, such as working out three days a week, and celebrate when you accomplish it. You’ll feel great about hitting these goals, which will make you more likely to continue.
Not only can you break your plan into smaller pieces, but also you can break your workout into smaller pieces! The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30–60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (five days per week) or 20–60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise (three days per week). The good news is that research has shown that it is just as effective if you break these workouts into 10-minute intervals – if you’re working at the right intensity. As such, a 10-minute body weight workout before work, a 30-minute brisk walk at lunch, and 20 minutes on the stationary bike after work count as 60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise.
Do what you can when you can
Not ready to splurge on a gym membership or get equipment for your home? Short on time and can’t get to the gym for an hour? Try something else.
Workout videos: Whether you buy DVDs or check out free streaming workout videos through your cable provider or online, there’s something for everyone. Yoga, dance fitness, and boot camp-style workouts are just a few of the options. Not only will these give you flexibility in terms of timing and fitness level, but also they’re a great choice if you feel self-conscious about going to the gym.
Substitute household items for equipment: Want to do a free weight exercise but don’t have free weights? Use water bottles or canned food! Just make sure if you’re using food that you use the identical weight in each hand.
Get extra movement during everyday tasks: There are a many ways to add extra movement to your day. Although it may not seem like much, every little bit of extra activity goes a long way when you’re trying to be more active. Park in the farthest spot and walk a bit more when you go to the grocery store. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Go for a walk on your lunch break. Make your favorite TV show into a workout game and do squats every time the main character says his or her token phrase. Get up and walk around during television commercials.
Try a bodyweight workout: One of the best tools for fitness is your own body weight and gravity. Try this workout. You can do it anytime, anywhere, and with no equipment.
Remove excuses before they arise
This comes from identifying what has been holding you back. Get your gym bag ready at night before you go to bed so if you’re running late in the morning, you won’t skip bringing it. If you want to get up early for a run, lay out your workout clothes and get to bed early. That way, all you will need to do is throw them on, lace up your shoes and head out the door. Choose a time to work out and stick with it by creating an appointment in your calendar. You wouldn’t cancel a meeting with a coworker, so don’t cancel an appointment with yourself for your workout.
Don’t beat yourself up
Sometimes getting in a workout truly isn’t possible. It may be because you’re sick, you have a family emergency, or you must stay late at work unexpectedly. It’s important not to beat yourself up when you don’t hit your goals. The trap many people fall into is an all-or-nothing mentality. “Well, I didn’t make it to the gym today, so it’s totally shot. I may as well have cake and ice cream for dinner.” Instead, use this as a learning opportunity. Determine what went wrong and put together a strategy to fix it. If the problem was out of your control, just shrug it off. Things happen sometimes, and missing one workout isn’t going to derail your progress.
Find your why
Working out for a specific event or goal, like a wedding or a high school reunion, can be great for motivation. The pitfall is that once that event has passed, it can be hard to maintain the motivation for working out that existed before. To maintain that motivation long term, it’s important to find your why. This is the real reason behind working out. For some people, it is becoming fitter so they aren’t out of breath while playing with their children. Others want to lose weight to live longer and to be around for their family. It could include wanting more energy to get through the day. Whatever the reason, it’s personal and it’s something that will last long term. When you know your why and are reminded of it every day, it’s a whole lot easier to get up before sunrise for a run.