Today’s question: Does your workout feel like a privilege or a burden? And if the answer is B, what can you do about it?
For me, and probably for you, the answer varies. There are days when I just can’t wait to get to the gym. And sometimes working out feels like a drag.
Here are some of the factors, physiological and psychological, that influence our attitude about getting our sweat on—and how to combat them.
Hydration: Performance suffers when we’re even mildly dehydrated, whether from water loss due to sweating, not drinking enough water, or having had too much alcohol the previous day. Simple solutions include keeping a water bottle with you all the time, weighing before and after workouts to make sure you replace what was lost in sweat, and making sure you drink plenty of water when you’re also drinking alcohol.
Overly restrictive dieting: So often we’re in a huge hurry to shed fat. But cutting too many calories backfires in a major way. It endangers our muscle and thus our metabolic rate, and it greatly reduces the amount of fuel available for exercise. Ultimately, if you’re not eating enough (especially if you’re cutting back on carbs), you won’t have the energy or the desire to work out.
Insufficient rest: Noted strength coach Bill Starr used a equilateral triangle to show the interrelationship between the demands of the workout, nutrition, and rest. Simply put, if the workout “side” of the triangle gets longer, the quantity and quality of nutrition and the amount of rest must also increase. So when you spend extra hours in the gym or work out with greater intensity, you must balance the equation with good eating and sufficient rest and sleep.
Overtraining: This relates to the point above. There is such a thing as training too much, and once you dig yourself into an overtraining hole, it can take weeks to get out. Signs of overtraining include an increase in resting heart rate, a performance drop in the gym, constant fatigue, lack of interest in working out, moodiness or depression, and persistent soreness.
Excuses: We’ve all done this, right? I have too much to do today. I’ll go tomorrow. I’m tired. The gym will be really busy now. Every time you let the excuse win, you diminish your fitness habit. Every time you resist, you strengthen your discipline muscle. One great strategy is to tell yourself that you’ll begin the workout, and if you want to stop after 15 minutes, you can. Chances are, once you start, you’ll want to keep going. Remember: You’ll almost always regret missing a workout. You’ll almost never regret doing one.
Boredom: How long has it been since you tried something new–a class, a sport, a training method, a strength program? If you’re bored, shake things up. If you never do group fitness, sign up for a class. If you only do classes, experiment with an individual sport. Try Zumba, martial arts, bicycling, rowing, powerlifting–anything that’s completely different from your usual routine. It’s challenging, exciting, and fun to jump into an activity in which you’re a complete newbie.
Lack of goals: What are you working toward? If you don’t know, you’re missing out on a powerful source of motivation. Take a few minutes to sit with the question. Daydream about an outcome that excites you—preferably one that’s just a little bit scary. Can you see yourself running a marathon, getting down to 16 percent body fat, wearing your skinny jeans from high school, or bench-pressing your bodyweight? Write it down—what you want to accomplish and how long you think it’ll take to achieve it. Spend a few minutes every day imagining how you’ll look and feel when you’ve reached your goal. It can profoundly change your attitude about working out.
What are your best strategies for spicing up your workout life? Please let me know in the comment box!