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How do you stay motivated?

Posted by Kristen D.

I would thing that even the gymaholics have days when they're dragging and have the "but I don't want to go" blues. How do you motivate yourself to get to the gym on those kinds of days? And, if those thoughts are motivated by physical exhaustion, should you listen to your body and take a break for the day?
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Work Hard, Play Hard. That really has to be one of the most overused phrases in the English language. But if you are working yourself into a frenzy over working out, it's important that you give yourself equal amount of time to step back and play. Yes, your body does need to rest on occasion. If you are working out more than 5 days a week, your body is most likely being over exerted. You have to take extra caution to be sure you're replenishing fluids and nutrients your body needs to continued functioning properly. (There's nothing worse than hearing someone say they work out everyday every week and never pop a carb. Ouch. Your body NEEDS food for fuel). If you are feeling unmotivated, you may not be getting enough energy to compel you to work out. If, on the other hand, you NEVER want to work out, it's time to rethink what you're doing. Maybe you should mix it up - get a tennis partner for two days a week and hit the gym the other two. Consider a team sport or change up the music you're listening to. Always remember to reward yourself for going, as well. Nobody LIKES working out - that's why it's called work. If you can get to a point where you play, it will be a lot better for you.
Motivation through Positive Guilt. The only time in my life when I didn't listen to the "I don't feel like running" mantra in my head (especially on days when it was really warm or mornings when it was really cold) was when I joined Team in Training (TNT). When you join TNT you basically get people to sponsor you in an event (my sister and I did a marathon). They give money to the American Cancer Society, you run (or bike, or whatever event you signed up for). In one of their initial cheerleading sessions they told us to think about how hard it is to get through a day of chemo or a day of watching your kid through chemo and then ask yourself how hard it is to get out there with your healthy body and train. From that vantage point it was pretty easy to put on the shoes--- to say nothing of the fact that once you collect a bunch of money from people they all want to know how the event went. It would be pretty hard to say you just didn't feel like training after giving a big pitch asking them to make financial sacrafices for the cause. Maybe staying motivated is about getting out of ourselves.... just a thought.
Motivation through Competition-- A Wellsphere Biggest Loser?. The success of the NBC's TV Reality show Biggest Loser ( ) suggests that motivation can be found in competition and in not letting down people to whom we have made commitments. I realize there was a huge cash prize incentive at the end of this particular format, but I can't help but believe that a fundamental desire to win, and to help others, regardless of the prize, is also part of this process. On this *Survivor* type show severely overweight people somehow find the motivation to put nutrition and exercise in prime position when they clearly lacked such drive prior to the show (or they wouldn't be candidates to participate). On The Biggest Loser it is not just about individual success because each person is also part of a team and each participant's choices directly impact the success of the other team members. I wonder if a similar concept could work herein. Maybe we could create a Wellsphere Biggest Loser competition and see if we could inspire each other to live healthfully. Such a concept actually has corollaries to real life because so many of our individual actions, even if seemingly small, really do have an impact on us collectively. Any takers?
Lotsa Weighs. 1. Put a picture on your refrigerator of yourself right now. Put a picture on your refrigerator of someone you'd like to look like, or picture a picture of yourself when you were in the shape you want to return to. 2. Keep a workout log to monitor your progress in length of time of your overall workout and cardio-vascular workout. Include your daily weight, the weights you're using on machines or free weights and the amount of repetitions you achieve. 3. Schedule sessions with a trainer if you can afford it.
Lotsa Weighs II: The Return of the Motivator . 1. Keep it short and sweets. Have a delicious snack that you only allow yourself to eat after a workout. 2. Keep it short but sweaty. Wear warm clothes to keep from injuring muscles and tendons that haven?t been properly warmed up. Weigh your self afterward for a pleasant surprise. This is, of course, only a water weight loss but it's still cool (and you're hot baby).
Lotsa Weighs Three: The Challenger. 1. Get a workout partner who can motivate you and vice versa. It's a two way freeway. 2. Re-start your workout regime with no weight on the bar and do more repetitions. Focus on form and technique. No pain but big gain. No bulk but don't sulk. This is much easier to face and it makes your body stronger with more endurance. Just ask any trainer or physical therapist.
Lotsa Weighs IV: The Revenge of the Challenger. I just remembered: 1. You can go six days a week if you alternate body parts. Every day you think of working out and can be motivated by the memory of your last workout. 2. Plan to show your friends how you look, before and months after you?ve been working out regularly.
Lotsa Weighs V: The Last Sequel (I promise). 1. Tell somebody that you're going to workout today, and then you have to be true to your word. 2. Set a ?workout alarm? on your alarm clock or PC. Don?t turn it off. Snooze it until you're about to leave the door dressed for sweat success. You?ll get sick of the reminder until you respond to it.
Lotsa Weighs VI: The Comeback. Watch DVDs of movies where characters revitalize their stamina thru workouts. Ali, Pumping Iron II (a 1985 film about bodybuilders who are women), and The Karate Kid are just a few examples. Buy them and watch the workout or event prep segments as often as you need motivation. Ask people that you see working out all the time, what motivates them.
We All Struggle. This is something everybody deals with at one time or another. I say you're right in taking a day off if your body is asking for it. However, if you find you are hating going to the gym, maybe you shouldn't be there at all. Maybe you need to plant a garden and tend it to get your exercise. Maybe you need to jog outside with a dog. Maybe your body has changed and you need tai chi instead of tae bo. I think if something's just a complete chore then it's not what we ought to be doing. When you find something you love, it's not a question of motivation!
Variety is the Spice of Life. Cliche I know but true. There are some exercises that I have to do that I don't enjoy. Mainly because they are the most effective and time efficient. Lunges, for instance. I just try to make sure I'm doing something I enjoy on the same day I'm supposed to do lunges. Make sure you vary your routine and do things you love along with the things you don't like as well.
Pretty Stickers. I have a sticker system. Each day I work out, I get a sticker on my calender. Goal is 5 happy faces and 1 fish per week. I'm obsessed with pretty things and to some extent organization, so I often workout when I really don't want to just to make sure I meet my sticker quota. Some days I really really don't want to exercise though, so my workout isn't as a strong. I make sure the sticker mirrors this so I don't think I had 5 days of super sweat when really it was 4 days of short light job and 1 light yoga. How this works: 1 full happy face sticker = at least 30 min cardio and my 30 min floor routine of crunches, butt thrusts, etc. 1/2 happy face = at least 30 min of cardio. 1 heart = at least 20 min cardio. 1/2 heart = 10 min cardio (kind of pointless, but at least a get a sticker that day!). 1 small star = yoga. 1/2 star = my 30 min floor routine. 1 or 1/2 heart + 1/2 star = 20 or 10 min cardio and floor routine. 1 big fish = GREAT yoga (you can tell if it's great).
Girl, I completely feel you! I think there are some times when your body does need to recuperate and it's okay to skip the gym. But overall, I don't really see why going to the gym should be the ONLY way one has to exercise. I skipped out on the gym a while ago when it felt like it was becoming a chore to go. Now I focus on getting exercise in ways that are actually fun and enjoyable to me--like yoga, indoor rock climbing, and Afro-Haitian dance...not to mention my daily brisk walks. I think that when exercise starts to get redundant, you need to figure out ways to spruce it up so that it doesn't feel like you're forcing yourself to exercise.

Hi Kristen,

First let me begin by responding to your final thought... If physical exhaustion is what you're feeling, then a 'formal gym' workout might not be the solution. In lieu of the gym thing, try getting outdoors for an easy, fresh-air, walk. Low level physical activity will increase the body's oxygenation as well as release 'feel good' endorphins that may in actuality help the 'exhaustion feeling'. As far as getting motivated to get to the gym, here's some ideas:

* Find a workout buddy who'll give you a call and meet you for a workout

* Make a contract with yourself and include some fun rewards (i.e. manicure/new shirt, etc) if you achieve your goal

* Maybe instead of going to the gym, crank up the music at home and pick up some portable workout equipment and workout right where you are.

Hope those ideas help.

Debi P

I have always had problems motivating to workout, until I discovered Ashtanga yoga. It is the first time in my life that I have jumped out of bed at 6:30 3-4 times per week. Perhaps if you aren't ever motivated to go, it is because you haven't found the sort of exercise that really moves you.

I think having a set class and a community is the best way to stay motivated.

I love the gym, but on the days I don't feel like going, I put my gym clothes on at home, including my running shoes, and that usually gives me the boost I need. If physically exhausted, I give myself a day or two off.
I am on a bad roll right as of late, however, I have just bought a small tv and DVD player for my office so that I can get in a workout in the morning before school. I find that if I go to the gym in the morning- I an extra 30-45 minutes just for the drive, changing, etc. I have already got in a few of those morning workouts that I probably would have missed. Motivation is a changing and sometimes fleeting thing. You need to take the time to center and figure out what will do it for you. This works best for me to do at night. Then I wake up ready to tackle another healthy day!

What motivates me is to feel good. I know that if I don't get any exercise in a day, I feel awful. I can't stand to not get fresh air everyday and not feel worked out at least three times a week.

Having a dog is also very motivating...especially if they are a dog that needs a lot of exercise and you don't have a big garden. I definitely have to take her out everyday...and I love it!

The best trick is visualization. Think about how you "feel" when you've finished your exercise routine. It's typically the after that makes the whole effort worthwhile, right? So if you can "feel" what it feels like to complete your session, it will motivate you to get up and get going!

On the other side, yes, there are definitely some days when clearly your body is saying, "No, not today." And yes, you need to listen. Life isn't a sprint or a marathon, it should be a scenic walk to enjoy and embrace.

Here's some tips on how to adjust your workout to your mood and health when you need to. Pretty helpful.

NOTICE: The information provided on this site is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your physician or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on Wellsphere. If you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.
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