Postponing exercise? Two ways to regain motivation and stop putting off workouts
Today is the day!
You told yourself you’d go to the gym after work. But the work was busier than I thought. Now you are exhausted. You drive home, you clean up a bit, but then you make the mistake of sitting down. You may feel your energy fading, along with your motivation.
You know yourself should do that workout.
But the idea of dragging yourself to the gym is fast becoming a pipe dream. You feel like you can’t get up. So you decide that you will train tomorrow. But this is also questionable.
This cycle can last for days … weeks … even months. And it’s frustrating because part of us wants to exercise and knows we’ll feel so much better once we do, but another part of us would rather just crash on the couch.
So why do we put off training?
Let’s look at three culprits:
1. I am too busy
2. I don’t feel like it
3. I can’t wake up on time
1) I’m too busy
Have you discovered that there are “more important” things to do than go to the gym?
Maybe there is paperwork to catch up.
Maybe there are clothes to fold.
You may have to make dinner.
The tricky part is that all of those could be valid. All of those can be important. But those reasons can quickly turn into excuses. Especially if those same reasons hold you back day after day.
2) I don’t feel like it.
Some days we are just not in the mood.
They were tired.
We are stressed.
We are not motivated.
Because we are not in a good mood, we wait until a “better day” or when we are in a “better mood.”
Behind this reason is often the belief that “I need to be motivated before I act “ – which is FAR from the truth. I have met many fit people and some days they are enthusiastic and super motivated, but sometimes they are not, but they work anyway. Lack of motivation doesn’t stop them.
3) I can’t wake up on time
Mornings can be tough.
The alarm interrupts our perfect sleep. So we hit the snooze button once … twice … a dozen times until we finally have to desperately prepare for the day.
Maybe the bed is too cozy
Maybe it’s too cold outside
You may be too tired.
It can be difficult to wake up, especially if you are a night owl. Or if you have a habit of snoozing your alarm clock. Sure, exercising in the morning has benefits. But if mornings don’t work, find a time that does. For some people, lunchtime or evening works much better.
So it could be any of these or a combination of these. Whatever the reason, let’s look at two ways to prevent this cycle of procrastinating.
Imagine the finish line
As you envision your next workout, what comes to mind?
Can you imagine how nice and pleasant it is going to be?
Do you think how happy you will be while doing it?
How much fun are you going to have?
Probably not. When most people imagine exercising, they imagine all kinds of unpleasant things. Their focus is on painful exercises … how difficult it will be … how tired it will be … how sore it will be … everyone who looks at it …
It’s easy to see how they convince themselves not to.
Focusing on these things will somebody unmotivated. But just like a photographer, you can adjust and shift your focus to other qualities of a landscape. Most beautiful aspects. Most inspiring aspects.
In fact, let’s learn a lesson from the Navy SEALS on this.
Years ago, the Navy SEALS were in a quandary, 76% of their top candidates were dropping out. The Navy knew these recruits were more than capable, but few were making the cut. So they called in psychologist Eric Potterat to find out how to increase the mental toughness of the recruits. Potterat created four habits (called The Big Four) that worked so well that they increased the graduation rate by 50%.
One habit was known as “Imagining how good it will feel.”
When recruits needed a boost to keep going through brutal training, he taught them to imagine successfully completing a training. This allowed them to tap into powerful emotions like feeling successful and achieving something. And this allowed them to get through.
Here’s how you can use this:
Visualize a successful workout
Imagine successfully completing the training.
Think about how good it will feel in the end.
Feel that success and that accomplishment.
Even if it’s just a workout, it’s still an achievement.
Even if you can’t perform as well as you used to, it’s still an achievement.
Visualize it the best you can.
Incorporate all the senses that you can.
And you don’t have to focus on completing the entire workout. You can use this for certain parts of your training; using something Potterat calls “segmentation”.
In an interview with Business Insider, Potterat states:
“If you are pushed into a seemingly overwhelming and stressful situation, the best thing to do is take it one step at a time and focus on what is controllable.”
Choose certain exercises and how they will feel once you’ve done them.
For me, I don’t enjoy doing pull-ups. If I imagine myself doing pull-ups, it’s not very motivating. But if I imagine what it is like after completing the pull-ups, it is very motivating. Use it for certain exercises.
When you break it down this way, it’s kind of like crossing out items on a checklist. You can give yourself a wave of achievement by completing each of those little steps.
Here are some additional aspects you can focus on:
When you’re done, how much more alert and energetic will you feel?
How much more peace of mind will you have after exercise?
How much better will you feel for the rest of the day?
Do you think that feeling of accomplishment will accompany you the rest of the day?
5 minute commitment
Working as a fitness professional, I learned that the most successful clients had certain things in common.
One of which was the amount of workouts they did on their own (called “off-day workouts”). In many cases, this would make or break people. You see, when people need to show up for a session with a coach, they have a responsibility. Then it is not too difficult to introduce yourself.
But it’s a different story when they have to perform alone.
So I gave them a challenge.
Even if you are tired.
Even if you don’t feel like it.
Even if you are not motivated.
Even if you are not in the mood.
5 minute commitment
Training for 5 minutes
If after five minutes you still don’t feel it, go home.
Well guess what?
In most cases, they will finish all training. Instead of waiting for motivation to hit them like lightning, they acted on their path to motivation. It is similar to the William Butler Yeats quote, “Don’t wait to strike until the iron is hot; make it hot by striking.”
Commit to just five minutes.
At worst, you still get a little workout.
At best, you finish everything.