Normally, all exercise topics are Neal’s realm, but I (Cristin) wanted to share a personal story that happens to be fitness-related. I originally wrote this post back in early March. I didn’t publish it at the time, probably because we hit the road for WellCheck season. However, I rediscovered it on my computer this week and thought it worth sharing.
I was having a conversation a few weeks ago with an employee of the MSU Fitness Center and she asked me if I was training for any races or events coming up. I told her that I’d been feeling very unmotivated, and that many days I was lucky just to make it to the gym, with some of my workouts not being much more than active stretching sessions. Her eyes lit up, and she said, “That is so inspiring!” She looked genuinely thrilled by my recent lack of motivation to exercise.
At first I was surprised by her reaction, but after some reflection, it actually makes a lot of sense. We all want to know that our feelings and experiences are normal, and guess what? A drop in motivation is totally, completely, 100% normal. Motivation, especially related to health behaviors, comes in waves. Even the most dedicated health enthusiasts have days, weeks, even months, in which exercise (or insert another health-promoting behavior here) is unappealing. We know these waves are inevitable—so it’s how we ride out the waves that matters.
A combination of factors has led to my lack of enthusiasm related to exercise, and this one has been a particularly big wave, lasting weeks. I keep waiting for my motivation to pick up, but in the meantime, I thought I would share some of the coping strategies that I have found helpful for all of you who may be experiencing a similar lapse, now or in the future. Thanks to Neal for providing many of these reminders.
- Remember that something is better than nothing. Not every workout has to be your best workout.
- Ease back from your usual routine if you’re not excited about it. Maybe instead of a 40 minute jog, you start with 10 minutes and see how you feel. Allow yourself to stop after that 10 minutes if you’re really not feeling it. (Although, I’ve learned, that after 10 minutes, I usually feel better, and end up doing what I had originally planned.)
- Try something new. On a day when I was struggling to get moving, I decided to try out a new TRX group fitness class. So fun! It gave me a feel-good boost that lasted throughout the day.
- Or…fall back on what you love. Maybe now isn’t the time to break out of your comfort zone. Maybe now is when you rely on those activities that you know you’ll enjoy. For me, that’s running. Maybe for you, that’s Zumba, or yoga, or swimming.
- Break it up throughout the day. 10 minutes here and there throughout the day might be more appealing than a 30 minute full-exercise session.
- Make it easy. When motivation is low, any barrier will be too great and will keep us from doing what we need to do. Set out your exercise clothes, find your tennis shoes, get your playlist cued up, do whatever it is that you need so that you have no excuses not to be active.
- Know what motivates you. For many people, signing-up for an event like a 5K or 10K will be the push needed to get going. Other people find that working-out with friends can be highly motivating. Taking a hike with a friend turns into a chance to connect rather than feeling like exercise.
- Keep going! We talk a lot about inertia when it comes to health behaviors. Many people begin by adopting a new small behavior; it makes them feel better and they see that they can be successful, and then more behaviors are added one-at-a-time, until they add-up into significant lifestyle changes. But the opposite can also be true when it comes to exercise. It’s called a rut: stop exercising, and it’s easier just to stay on the couch rather than get moving again. It’s important to keep the routine of exercise in place, but modify your routine based on what you feel you can handle. And give yourself a pat on the back for making it outside or to the gym at all. Just keep moving!
- Finally, be kind to yourself. Guilt is neither fun nor healthy. Cut yourself some slack when you’re feeling less motivated than normal.
A wave is cyclical. Hang in there and know that your motivation will come back. Celebrate the day that you feel ready to conquer the world again. In the meantime, hopefully some of the tips above will help you through.
Addendum: Since the original draft of this post, I am happy to report that I’m feeling much better motivation-wise, and have returned to my usual level of physical activity. Yahoo!!! – CS