Getting motivated is difficult when you're going through a fitness downtime. Here are some ideas to help you keep on movin' if you've found that you've started slowin' down.
A new outfit never hurts
It's strange but true. Buying a new pair of cross-trainers, a new fitness bra, running pants, or thong leotard (if they're still your thing) can suddenly make you yearn for the gym. The prospect of looking good in a new get-up is a good motivator. If you're not the fashionable type, the principle still applies when it comes to fitness equipment. Accessorize: Purchase a new sports watch, pedometer, or a snazzy new helmet! You'll be raring to try them out!
Hook up with someone
For those of you who are tired of going to the park or gym alone, get yourself a training partner. A partner doubles your fun! More importantly, accountability makes it much harder to quit: You're responsible for your partner and he or she is responsible for you. Even if you don't feel like working out at the last minute, you're obligated to meet your partner because she is waiting for you.
No excuses on lo-mo days
You know what? Sometimes you have to get tough with yourself; crack the whip, just get out there, and do it. Exercise needs to become a habit, a normal part of your everyday life. If exercise is to create a lasting effect on your body, it must be continued, to some extent, forever. Just do something, anything, for five minutes. Remember the exercise goals you made when you first started your program? Remember the smaller, subgoals you made in order to keep the expectation realistic? Well, downsize: Instead of a super-long session, halve it. But even if you don't, something is better than nothing, and the next workout can now be five minutes shorter.
Record your progress
If you haven't been recording your exercise sessions, it's time to start. Keeping a journal will give you a sort of gold star mentality to help you keep on track. Make your plan feel exciting — you might even want to evaluate your aims and progress with a new goal. But write it down: Seeing the proof of success helps motivation along.
Whistling while you work can make the most gruesome of workouts a little more enjoyable, as can any sort of distraction. So use a Walkman when you run (on low volume, please, to protect your eardrums). Read a book or magazine when you're on a stationary bike or stair machine. And tune in because gym equipment with Internet, movie, and CD capabilities are coming to a gym near you.
Give it five minutes
You may not feel like doing your usual hour-long workout on some days. Then don't. Cut the workout to 30 minutes, but really push yourself during that time. Or even give it five (see "No excuses on lo-mo days"). If you can just convince yourself to do a little bit of something, you'll often find that you complete a whole workout anyway. Numerous studies show that high-intensity exercise programs have a higher drop-out rate.
Keep it low, go slow
Stop looking for a miracle. One study showed that those who stuck with their exercise program saw it as a lifestyle change rather than a temporary pastime. The ones who stuck to it planned on working out about three times each week. The dropouts only expected to work out once a week. If you are a beginner or work out at an easy fitness level, realize that a low-intensity exercise takes longer to give results. But rather than get disappointed along the way, be patient. Results will come if you stick to it.
Exercise releases pleasure hormones. You'll feel good even on minimal amounts of any types of physical activity, from yoga and deep breathing to running and football, and any vigorous exercise can leave you feeling happy and exhilarated after even a short time. But to experience what is known as an aerobic high, where the brain is awash in feel-good endorphins, studies indicate that you must do intense exercise for an extended period of time. If you've reached this point, you could suddenly feel as if you're running on air and exerting no effort at all. If you're fit enough to do so, push yourself to reach this high.
Reassess your goal
If you're in a rut, you might need a new goal. Take a good look at what you've achieved and insert a new dose of cross-training into your schedule.
You can also splurge on a personal trainer once a month or once every six months to help revamp your routine. You can hire a trainer privately or at most health clubs for $25-$85 per session. Split the cost with a friend if you find it out of your range. You might just find that you learn little tips and tidbits about your workout that can motivate you to new levels of commitment—with better results.
Take a break
If you're really burned out, take time off to vegetate and rejuvenate. Chances are you need this relaxation time. The amount of sleep you have had, your mood, diet, and any stress you're under can affect your energy levels. If you're not getting enough nutrients or enough calories, your body may not function efficiently and you'll feel tired and listless. Eat plenty of fruit, vegetables, and other carbohydrates to fuel your energy levels.
When you are ready to take exercise by storm once again, you'll be refreshed and ready to go. It's fine to miss a few days in your schedule every now and then. It won't harm your long-term goal as long as your overall participation is consistent.