What To Do When You Don’t Feel Like Working Out
Overcoming Obstacles and Getting Motivated

Whether you’re a gym rat or a fitness beginner, we all have days when we don’t feel like working out. Maybe it’s been a stressful week, and you just want to get home to a glass of wine. Perhaps you’ve been working out for weeks and are feeling frustrated that you aren’t seeing results. Maybe you used to go to the gym regularly but fell off, and you’re now having a hard time returning. Or maybe you just have no idea where to start and are feeling overwhelmed at the prospect.

Whatever the reason, sometimes we just don’t feel like working out. Here are some tactics to get you through.

Make a Plan

The first step to reaching any goal is setting the goal in the first place. Try to make your goals S.M.A.R.T:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time bound

This is usually the part that trips people up. Many people know they want to feel better, but they don’t know what will get them there because they haven’t given it much thought. Losing weight is measurable goal, but it isn’t terribly specific. How much weight do you want to lose? Maybe you want to lose 10 pounds, which is specific and measurable. It’s also more realistic and attainable than saying you want to lose 50 pounds is (which is still attainable, but much more difficult). Next, ask yourself whether the goal is relevant. If there’s no real reason you want to lose weight, you likely won’t stick to the goal. It must have some relevance in your life to matter to you. Finally, make it time bound by putting some constraints on the goal. How quickly do you want to lose 10 pounds? Two weeks may not be attainable, but two months might be. By making your goal time bound, you’re adding some built-in motivation and accountability.

Figure out What’s Holding you Back

Before you can implement steps to reach your goal, it’s important to determine what’s been holding you back so far. Are you struggling to feel motivated? Is working out hard because you don’t have a babysitter? You can’t justify the cost of a gym membership or personal trainer? Whatever is holding you back, it’s important to acknowledge it so you can get past it.

It’s also important to make sure you’re ready. Fitness, like any other habit, requires you to be ready to make a change in your life. Per the transtheoretical model of behavior change, if a person is not ready to make a change, it won’t stick. It’s important to understand which stage you’re in and that we can relapse and reenter at any stage. Slipping up every now and then does not set you back to square one.

Are You Mentally Ready to Exercise - What To Do When You Don’t Feel Like Working Out

Break the Plan Into Smaller Pieces

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your goals won’t be accomplished in one fell swoop either. Take that big goal you set and break it into smaller pieces. Sure, maybe you want to go to the gym five days a week, but how realistic is that when you’re first starting out? Set a smaller goal to start, such as working out three days a week, and celebrate when you accomplish it. You’ll feel great about hitting these goals, which will make you more likely to continue.

Not only can you break your plan into smaller pieces, but also you can break your workout into smaller pieces! The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30–60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (five days per week) or 20–60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise (three days per week). The good news is that research has shown that it is just as effective if you break these workouts into 10-minute intervals – if you’re working at the right intensity. As such, a 10-minute body weight workout before work, a 30-minute brisk walk at lunch, and 20 minutes on the stationary bike after work count as 60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise.

Break Your Workout Into Smaller Pieces - What To Do When You Don’t Feel Like Working Out

Do What You Can When You Can

Not ready to splurge on a gym membership or get equipment for your home? Short on time and can’t get to the gym for an hour? Try something else.

Workout videos: Whether you buy DVDs or check out free streaming workout videos through your cable provider or online, there’s something for everyone. Yoga, dance fitness, and boot camp-style workouts are just a few of the options. Not only will these give you flexibility in terms of timing and fitness level, but also they’re a great choice if you feel self-conscious about going to the gym.

Substitute household items for equipment: Want to do a free weight exercise but don’t have free weights? Use water bottles or canned food! Just make sure if you’re using food that you use the identical weight in each hand.

Get extra movement during everyday tasks: There are a many ways to add extra movement to your day. Although it may not seem like much, every little bit of extra activity goes a long way when you’re trying to be more active. Park in the farthest spot and walk a bit more when you go to the grocery store. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Go for a walk on your lunch break. Make your favorite TV show into a workout game and do squats every time the main character says his or her token phrase. Get up and walk around during television commercials.

Try a bodyweight workout: One of the best tools for fitness is your own body weight and gravity. Try this workout. You can do it anytime, anywhere, and with no equipment.

Workout Without Equipment - What To Do When You Don’t Feel Like Working Out

Remove Excuses Before They Arise

This comes from identifying what has been holding you back. Get your gym bag ready at night before you go to bed so if you’re running late in the morning, you won’t skip bringing it. If you want to get up early for a run, lay out your workout clothes and get to bed early. That way, all you will need to do is throw them on, lace up your shoes and head out the door. Choose a time to work out and stick with it by creating an appointment in your calendar. You wouldn’t cancel a meeting with a coworker, so don’t cancel an appointment with yourself for your workout.

Don’t Beat Yourself Up

Sometimes getting in a workout truly isn’t possible. It may be because you’re sick, you have a family emergency, or you must stay late at work unexpectedly. It’s important not to beat yourself up when you don’t hit your goals. The trap many people fall into is an all-or-nothing mentality. “Well, I didn’t make it to the gym today, so it’s totally shot. I may as well have cake and ice cream for dinner.” Instead, use this as a learning opportunity. Determine what went wrong and put together a strategy to fix it. If the problem was out of your control, just shrug it off. Things happen sometimes, and missing one workout isn’t going to derail your progress.

Find Your Why

Working out for a specific event or goal, like a wedding or a high school reunion, can be great for motivation. The pitfall is that once that event has passed, it can be hard to maintain the motivation for working out that existed before. To maintain that motivation long term, it’s important to find your why. This is the real reason behind working out. For some people, it is becoming fitter so they aren’t out of breath while playing with their children. Others want to lose weight to live longer and to be around for their family. It could include wanting more energy to get through the day. Whatever the reason, it’s personal and it’s something that will last long term. When you know your why and are reminded of it every day, it’s a whole lot easier to get up before sunrise for a run.

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