When you wake up before the sun to get a workout in or push yourself to exercise even after a long day at work, it’s motivation that drives you. Motivation can be like a flame that flickers in and out of existence. What do you do when the motivation to work out and lose weight is in short supply?
Here’s how you can find your “why” and kick yourself in the butt:
- Set goals
- Make fitness a routine
- Understand the effect weather has on motivation and push through
- Don’t let one skipped session derail you
- Listen to music
- Track your progress
Listen, we’re all human, and sometimes finding the motivation to work out seems next to impossible. With the tips and steps in this guide, you’ll be readier to achieve more of your fitness and health goals!
6 Ways to Get Yourself Up and at ‘Em Even When You Don’t Want To
I always have a lot of clients ask me how to stay motivated, especially over the long term. As I alluded to in the intro, motivation is finite. It burns out.
Whether you have no gym motivation or no motivation to diet, the key is to stop thinking about motivation and focus more on this instead.
If you’re trying to lose 20 pounds in eight weeks, then it’s easy to think of physical health and fitness as something you can do and be finished with. You don’t have to worry about long-term motivation.
For those who want to get healthy and stay healthy (which I recommend much more than a short-term diet), then there’s no end in sight, right? You’re going to continue a diet and fitness routine for the foreseeable future.
You’ll have all the vigor you need for a few weeks, but what about a few months into your new lifestyle? Or a year or two in?
That’s why setting goals is so important.
I recommend both short-term and long-term goals. For example, your long-term goal might be general health and wellness while a short-term goal is to bench 200 pounds.
You will eventually bench those 200 pounds, and then it’s time to move on to another short-term goal, and then another one.
You might also have specific long-term goals, like wanting to lose 30 pounds in five months. You’d break that goal down into shorter-term goals until you lose the weight.
When you’re always working towards something, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. That makes it easier to keep pushing.
If you’re 25 pounds into your 30-pound weight loss but you’re feeling particularly uninspired, all you have to do is remember that you have five pounds to go.
Before you know it, you’ve found your “why.” You’re out of bed, at the gym, and doing your thing.
Make Fitness a Routine
Every night before you go to bed, you probably floss your teeth, right? (Or you should!)
You don’t want to floss your teeth, per se, but it’s become so ingrained in your routine that you do it out of a sense of habit. You don’t think about whether you want to do it. You just do it.
When you make exercise your routine, then you similarly don’t have to think about it.
You’ll wake up in the morning and get your gym clothes and shoes ready because that’s just what you do.
If you were to skip a workout, your whole day would feel thrown out of whack because you’re missing out on a critical part of your routine.
I wish you could make fitness a part of your schedule overnight, but it’s not that easy. It’s going to take several weeks, even several months for exercise to become such an integral part of your life that you feel its absence when you don’t do it.
Fortunately, for those first few weeks (or months) of your new diet and exercise routine, that’s typically when you have the most motivation, so the timeline works out.
By the time you begin to feel that motivation waning, you can rely on how exercise feels like a natural part of your schedule.
Now, I do want to say this. Just because exercise has become integrated into your routine does not mean you can’t ever take a day off. I’ll talk about this more a little later, so make sure you check that out.
Understand the Effect Weather Has on Motivation and Push Through
I don’t know about you, but I live for the spring and summer. It’s not only the warmer temperatures that are nice but the longer days and the increase in daylight.
I know that when I wake up, I won’t be driving to the gym in the dark. If I don’t have time for a gym session until later in the evening, I’ll also have daylight on my side.
A 2014 study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine proves how important daylight is to our moods.
The study involved more than 40 people who worked in an office.
One group of 22 people was in an office environment with plenty of daylight while another 27 people worked with no windows.
What did the study find? “Compared to the group without windows, workers with windows at the workplace had more light exposure during the workweek, a trend toward more physical activity, and longer sleep duration as measured by actigraphy.”
That’s great, but it’s not like you can make daylight appear where there’s none to be found such as in the autumn and especially the winter.
You can’t exactly pack up and move to a sunnier, warmer locale either, as convenient as that would be.
None of us can control the weather. I know that if I could, it would be sunny and warm all throughout the year.
Acknowledge that the darker days are going to be extra taxing on your motivation. You’ll want to stay in bed and hit the snooze button an extra time or three rather than go to the gym.
Having a routine that includes fitness will really come in handy here. Even though it’s pitch black when you’re awakening, you’re going to go to the gym because that’s a habit now.
If you’re still struggling because those dark days have gotten you down, then here’s what I want you to do.
Take things one step at a time.
Rather than focusing on the gym, just put your attention on getting out of bed. Once you do that, get dressed.
If you leave the house and go to the gym, then you’ve already done the hard part. What are you going to do, turn around and go home now? That would be a waste of time and gas.
You’ll go in and exercise, and you’ll feel better for it!
And no, I’m not just saying that because I’m a fitness expert. Research does prove that those suffering from anxiety and depression–whether it’s related to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or it happens regardless of the season–can benefit from exercise.
Their symptom severity may lessen.
Don’t Let One Skipped Session Derail You
I have so many of my clients come to me and lament that they missed one gym session this week and so the rest of the week is ruined.
Your decisions for today do not have to carry over to tomorrow. Tomorrow is a new day, and it can be whatever you want it to be.
If that’s a repeat of yesterday, where you don’t go to the gym two days in a row, then so be it. However, deciding to skip several workouts because you missed one is a great way to unlearn the routine that is going to the gym.
Listen, even I don’t always feel like going to the gym. And there are some days when I get out of bed, dress for exercise, drive to the gym, and decide that it’s just not going to happen. Maybe I have a headache, or my muscles are sore, but I decide not to go to the gym.
Those days are very few and far between, admittedly, but they do happen.
Just because I don’t go to the gym doesn’t mean I don’t move my body at all that day. Maybe I’ll do a cardio session instead. I’m still exercising, but I’m not doing more than I feel like I can handle.
When you have a day where you feel like you can’t go to the gym, ask yourself if there’s some other way you can move your body instead.
The fun thing about exercise is that it encompasses so many activities. It doesn’t always mean sweating it out at the gym and lifting massive weights. A light yoga session still counts as exercise. Heck, even taking a walk is exercise.
Of course, if you’re looking to lose weight, then you will burn more calories lifting weights than you will walking and probably doing yoga too (it depends on what type of yoga and how long).
Still, you burn more calories going on a walk than you do sitting on the couch.
There will be some days when you can’t exercise at all. Maybe you’re feeling sick or exhausted.
It’s okay to give yourself a break! Just don’t think that means that you can’t exercise for the rest of the week because you skipped one day.
Listen to Music
Here’s a simple tactic if you’re struggling to find your motivation: listen to music!
Putting on a playlist of your favorite pump-up songs (or listening to a great podcast such as ours) can inspire you to get out of bed and hit the gym.
If you thought you’d drag through your workout, the right songs can inspire you. You may not even focus so much on the exercise because you’ll be too busy enjoying those epic beats.
Before you know it, your workout is over, and you can go home.
The effect of music on mood is well-documented. I’ll cite a 2015 study from the World Journal of Psychiatry that reviewed other publications on the topic.
The journal reported that “we found that almost all studies supported the effectiveness of musical interventions in improving mood, depression, quality of life, functional recovery, and neuromotor performances.”
Track Your Progress
Not to toot my own horn here, but when I go to the gym and I smash even my own performance goals, I feel incredible about it for days. Being reminded of the amazing things my body can accomplish pushes me to want to do better in the future.
I’ll hurriedly and excitedly come up with new goals to see how far I can take my performance in certain areas.
Of course, without documentation of having made that accomplishment in the first place, eventually, the euphoria related to your accomplishment fades.
That’s only natural, which is why you should really track your progress as you start your health and fitness journey.
Use an app, write in a paper journal; do whatever you wish. Just document your progress.
Don’t only concern yourself with how many pounds you’ve lost. Weight loss can be up and down for some people. As I talked about in another post on the blog, it should not be the only metric you’re using.
Measure yourself before you start your new routine. Then measure yourself a few months later.
Your body fat will decrease and some of your clothes will fit loosely. You’ll gradually be able to run on the treadmill longer and lift heavier weights.
There’s a saying that the journey is more important than the destination. In fitness, that’s true too. All these milestones you accomplish on the way are just as impactful if not more so than the final outcome of your efforts.
Motivation is finite, which means your motivation to work out and lose weight can be as well.
The tips I shared with you today are designed to get you out of bed even on those darkest, dreariest days. Finding the motivation to work out may sometimes mean kicking your own butt, but it’s always worth it!