You’re on the couch, your trainers are in the shoe rack and that awesome activewear you spoiled yourself with a few months ago? It’s neatly folded in the cupboard... you know you should go to gym - but, something is holding you back.
Perhaps you went yesterday, or a couple days before that, but today… the last thing you want to do is drag yourself through an exercise routine.
And so you convince yourself that you have too much work to do anyway, or you just need a rest day.
Are these really just excuses, and the fact of the matter is that you’re just not excited about getting a workout anymore. Have you simply lost your motivation to exercise?
Exercise can become a chore
The truth is that half of people that start an exercise program with a go-getter attitude and heaps of motivation, actually lose interest and drop out within the first 6 months1. Why does this happen, you ask? Well, there are many reasons, like:
- Repeating the same mundane workout
- Reaching a plateau in your training, which is often related to reason number 1
- You’re exhausted because you don’t allow enough recovery time between workout days
- Your only reward is reaching your ultimate, long term goal
While these are common reasons for diminished exercise motivation, there are many more. But, whatever the reason, today you’ll learn 5 solutions that can help to bring back the spark and keep you on track to keep moving.
More motivation, more reward
This is what the research says about overcoming those exercise barriers many of us face:
- Variety is the spice of...workouts! - Research has shown that exercise variety is the key to greater adherence in your routine2,3. Mix up your workout routine, train in different styles and different environments, and try something new every now and then. Swimming, running, cross-training, dancing; do whatever gets you excited and happy to get your sweat on!
- Set realistic goals for ongoing reward - We exercise to look and feel good4, and when you stop noticing the changes, you may lose motivation. At this point, it’s best to reassess your goals5. Are they too big? Can you make them more short-term? For example, if weight loss is your goal, make a point to notice more frequent but smaller changes on the scale and look at how your body fat percentage is decreasing over time, lean muscle mass is increasing, and how your clothes fit overall for the motivation you need to continue6,7.
- Find a workout buddy - Another way to get back into a solid exercise routine is to rope people in. If you have someone you need to be accountable to, it’s easier to do so. A buddy that you can work out with, go for a run with, or even take an exercise class with a couple of times a week can make sure you don’t stay on the couch when you should be getting up and out8,9,10.
- Reward yourself for your efforts - When you do get up and get out, especially when you really don’t feel like it, reward yourself. Have a healthy snack after your workout, or set aside money each time you go to the gym and buy something for yourself that you’ve been eyeing out. The brain and motivation centre works on a reward system, so, if you trick yourself into turning your workouts into a treat, it can be great for your motivation11,12.
- Prepare ahead of time - If you have a gym day scheduled, don’t wait until you get home to unpack your kit and get ready. The couch can become all too inviting, and it’s all the more likely you’ll end up staying in once you are home, especially if you’re already in a rut. Have everything you need with you so that you can get to your workout without taking a break first. Your exercise preparation includes having the right food available, too. A light snack or shake before a workout can help your body to prepare for the impending exercise, and provide fuel for your body to burn14.
By having these 5 strategies in place, a lot of barrier to exercise are suddenly removed, and it becomes much easier to find yourself at the gym, fuelled and ready with your pre-workout snack, in a better mood because of your workout buddy and ready to take on a new type of training with a small reward to look forward to after.
If you ensure you’re getting enough rest days, sleeping adequately and providing appropriate nutrition before and after, you can avoid the fatigue and even injury that will seriously impact your motivation.
Additionally, be sure you’re fuelling with snacks that are rich in both protein and carbohydrate to keep your body feeling great while enhancing the result you obtain from your workout. Pre-workout snacks can be eaten 30-60 minutes before a workout, and post workout snacks can be eaten immediately after.
But, most of all, always be kind to yourself.
If you decide today is not the day to run 10km or take part in a gruelling 60 minutes CrossFit class, don’t force it. But do something! Swap out the sweat session for a stretch session or turn the run into a power walk. Some days your body just doesn’t need the extra stress but, as long as you’re moving, you’re benefiting.
Your health, body and mind will thank you for it.
- Wilson, K., & Brookfield, D. Effect of goal setting on motivation and adherence in a six-week exercise program. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Physiology. 2009. 6:89–100.
- Sylverster, B., et al. Variety support and exercise adherence behavior: experimental and mediating effects. Journal of Behavioral Medicine. 2016. 39(2):214–224.
- Whaley, D.E., & Schrider, A.F. 2005. The process of adult exercise adherence: Self-perceptions and competence. The Sport Psychologist, 19, 148–63.
- Castonguay, A., et al. Body-Related Self-Conscious Emotions Relate to Physical Activity Motivation and Behavior in Men. American Journal of Men’s Health. 2014. 209–221.
- Ntoumais, N., et al. Longitudinal associations between exercise identity and exercise motivation: A multilevel growth curve model approach. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. 28(2).
- Van Wormer, J., et al. Self-weighing Frequency is Associated with Weight Gain Prevention over Two Years among Working Adults. Int J Behav Med. 2012. 19(3):351–358.
- Welsh, E., et al. Is frequent self-weighing associated with poorer body satisfaction? Findings from a phone-based weight loss trial. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2009. 41(6):425–428.
- Wing, R., & Jeffery, R. Benefits of recruiting participants with friends and increasing social support for weight loss and maintenance. J Consult Clin Psychol. 1999. 67(1):132-8.
- Huang, S., et al. From close to distant: The dynamics of interpersonal relationships in shared goal pursuit. J Consum Res. 2015. 41:1252‐1266.
- Plante, T., et al. Effects of Perceived Fitness Level of Exercise Partner on Intensity of Exertion. Journal of Social Sciences. 2010. 6(1):50-54.
- Zsuga, J., et al. FNDC5/irisin, a molecular target for boosting reward-related learning and motivation. Medical Hypotheses. 2016. 90:23-28.
- Schultz., W. Behavioral dopamine signals. Trends Neurosci. 2007. 30(5):203-210.
- Albelwi, T., et al. Exercise as a reward: Self-paced exercise perception and delay discounting in comparison with food and money. Psychology & Behaviour. 2019. 199:333-342.
- Beck, K., et al. Role of nutrition in performance enhancement and postexercise recovery. Open Access J Sports Med. 2015. 6:259–267.