7 Tips to Deal With a Lack of Motivation
Unless you’re a robot, keeping your motivation high for exercise can be a challenge. All of us want to look good, but in an instant gratification society, a lack of immediate results tends to cause most of us to check out. You can’t get in shape with the touch of a button, so you need to do whatever you can to stay motivated and not fall off the training wagon.
How do we do that? Well for starters, you have to want to stay motivated. Taking your training as seriously as Zack Morris studies for a history exam is a surefire way to minimize your trips to the gym. No one can solve apathy, so if you have absolutely zero desire to work out, then no one can help. But if you have a little bit of fire inside, then read on.
1. Don’t Reward Yourself
Don’t reward yourself for working out. By reward, we’re referring to buying yourself an outfit or going on a trip when you reach your goals. It’s a proven method to zap any motivation you have left. In all of my experience with people, every single client who wanted to reward themselves for starting a training program disappeared faster than the pork tenderloin I left on a counter with a 6 month old puppy lurking in the kitchen. I once worked with a young girl who had parents who promised to buy her a car if she lost weight – even that didn’t work.
It may cause a temporary spark at first, but the lack of motivation will hit you again. You’ll end up compromising with yourself and concluding that your special reward isn’t even worth the effort. In fact, you may even set yourself up for some bad lifestyle habits that can halt your progress and even worsen your health.
Working out is a reward itself. I’ve met people who are limited to 10 minutes of physical activity per session, so don’t take your ability to train for granted.
2. Take Some Time Off
Sometimes you just need a break. Taking a week off may be a smart choice, especially if you’re not exactly sure of what you’re doing in the gym. Overtraining is more common than you think, so giving the body a chance to recoup may reignite your desire to get back into the gym. Many athletes will actually see their body change during some time off because their body was so stressed. Enjoy a vacation and you might just drop a few pounds.
3. Good Tunes
Make a workout playlist, but put some thought into it. Make several lists for a different genre or type of music.
I’ll tell you my secret: anyone who knows me knows that I’m a big superhero nut. When I walk my dog, I have a playlist of some of the more upbeat scores from superhero movies like Man of Steel and the Dark Knight (some Braveheart doesn’t hurt either). It’s a break from the same old music, it gets me fired up for my next workout, and it helps keep me positive while I’m on the walk and I say good morning to someone and they don’t say anything in return. Or they just grunt.
So I’m not a superhero – I get it. In fact, the most heroic thing I’ve ever done is help a lady push her grocery cart through a parking lot during a nasty snow storm. But the music hits a note with me and keeps me motivated.
4. Set a challenge for each workout
Program hopping is bad idea; people resort to it when they’re bored. Program hopping is training for a marathon one week and then strength training the next – you don’t want to do that. Abandoning your program is a big no-no. As long as your training is sensible and your diet good, you’ll get there in time. But you need to make sure your staleness doesn’t cause you to sabotage yourself and stop before you reach your goals.
Each workout, set a challenge. Maybe you try to do 1 more rep on each exercise, or try a new exercise each workout. Or try to knock the session out in 5 minutes less than it took last time. Whatever the case may be, set a new and unique challenge each time you work out. Accomplishing the challenge is yet another reward to your training.
5. Get a Training Partner
Find someone in better shape than you and see if the two of you can train together. Make sure the person wants to train, not just try to outwork you so they can feel better about themselves. Here’s the tradeoff: they push you to work harder while they get a fire lit under their you know what because they have someone trying to outwork them. The point behind it is to find some healthy competition: keep each other accountable and don’t make anything personal. Above all else, find a training partner, not a gossip pal who wants to work their mouth muscles more than their other muscles.
6. Get a Critique
If you’re overly sensitive or new to training, skip this step. But if you’ve been training for a while, find someone who can point out some weaknesses in your game. By weaknesses, we’re talking about finding an objective approach to your current conditioning level. Here’s a good example:
“Hey So and So. Your shoulders and biceps are really well developed, but I noticed your back is somewhat underdeveloped. Plus you seem to struggle with exercises involving your back. Think you can make it stronger? Think you can learn how to do a pull-up?”
Okay. So in this example we analyzed someone’s physique and pointed out some good things along with one thing that needs work. An experienced coach can praise your strengths and notice chinks in your armor. And it doesn’t have to be just about your physique: maybe you’re a runner with great endurance but struggle when you can encounter a big hill in your run.
No reason to get all upset over that example. Just get an objective opinion that is meant to improve your weaknesses. Check your ego at the door and you should be good to go.
7. The Checklist
Make a list of all the things you want to accomplish. Put everything on there, even the smallest goal like eat breakfast today. Compile the list and hang it somewhere you see it every day. You can even make the list as glamorous as you want: decorate it with gold stars and unicorns if that’s your thing. Each time you achieve a goal, cross it off the list. Use a big red sharpie if you want, anything that makes the completed work stand out from the leftover goals. Being able to scratch a goal off the list gives us a feeling that we’re getting things done. It’s that old roll up your sleeves and get to work feeling.
It’s been said that people hire coaches, not coaching. I work with a lot of people and each one has their own way of staying motivated to workout. What’s yours? Let us know in the comment section below; it may just be something that I could use with a frustrated client.