Even for the most dedicated, exercising can sometimes be very hard to face. So how can we motivate ourselves better on the low days to get up and exercise?
That numb feeling of knowing you really should exercise, but simply not wanting to is actually part of our natural survival instincts. Our bodies have evolved to conserve energy as strictly as possible. Food used to be much harder to come by and we'd have to work very hard to obtain it. So resting between hunts would be natural, in order to be able to perform optimally on the next hunt for food. A study published in 2015 demonstrated how our nervous systems will actually alter our performance during physical activity to make it as easy as possible. We are hard-wired to be lazy!
However fast forward to modern day and we all know the benefits of exercise, both socially and physically. Add to this, the fact we know we can obtain food far more easily than our ancestors, and this creates a strong conflict between our conscience mind and our instincts. Some neuroscientists call this the "exercise paradox" and they've even proven in a study that it requires more brain exertion to choose activity over inactivity.
So now you have the scientific reasons and excuses, but excuses never got anyone anywhere! So how can we get motivated to exercise?
The simple answer to how to get motivated to exercise, is quite simply to trick ourselves! So let's look at a few popular tricks that people use to get themselves motivated:
"Success is never owned; it is only rented, and the rent is due every day! — Rory Vaden"
Long-term one of the best strategies for increasing your overall motivation and therefore success is to set some solid foundations in place. We'll quickly go through some methods for maintaining success:
Identify your reason
If you don't have any goals set, then you'll struggle to stay motivated. We're goal-driven creatures so having goals, even just in your mind, is so important. The best goals are SMART goals, so they should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timed. They will also be more powerful if you write them down. there's plenty of articles online regarding SMART goals, so if you haven't already set your goals stop reading this right now and take 30 minutes to set your fitness goals.
This is probably the number one precursor to success. Having the ability to do what you should do towards your goals every day even when you don't want to, will bring the greatest rewards. However this article is essentially about self-discipline so if you're reading it, the chances are you are struggling. Keep reading and apply all of the methods we discuss to help improve your self-discipline.
Let's face it, no one feels motivated all of the time, so one key to success and self-motivation is some degree of flexibility. Don't be too hard on yourself, you need to be able to identify when you're not doing something because of laziness, or if it's for another reason. If it's laziness then you need to force yourself to break that negative behaviour, but if there's another reason, then maybe give yourself a rest and allow some flexibility. Just be careful not to make too many exceptions, otherwise they can become the rule, and lead to bad habits.
Measure and Assess Your Progress
Sometimes it can feel like you've not progressed at all. That's why it's important to take the time to record your progress, so you can look back and see how far you've come. Take time to think about where you were a year ago, or even longer. This can be a powerful motivator and reminder that you are making progress, progress made little and often can be almost invisible, until you look back over a longer time period and see that you've actually come a long way. This can also help you to see the potential of how far you'll be able to develop in the future, which in turn can be very motivating.
Psychologists agree that positive reinforcement is far more powerful than punishment. So rather than punishing yourself for not achieving goals, or for breaking personal rules, reward yourself when you hit goals. This will make you more likely to hit future goals and will also induce more self-discipline
So these are the foundations of success and motivation, but we're all human and even with all of these foundations in place there will still be days when you simply can't be bothered. So now let's look at some little tricks we can use to motivate ourselves to exercise when we can't be bothered:
Get a training partner
Having someone who will force you to exercise when you can't be bothered is one of the most powerful techniques. They'll pick you up when you're down and vice versa. Make a commitment to each other and even set a shared goal and you'll be a powerful force.
Just put your gym kit on
Tell yourself you don't have to exercise today, but put your gym kit on anyway. Once it's on you're a step closer to exercise, sometimes this little act will be enough to get you moving.
Agree to compromise
So maybe you had a big leg session planned, but now the thought of even leaving the house is too much. So compromise, for example, agree with yourself to just do 100 reps of your favourite exercise and that's it. More often than not, once you get started you'll end up doing the session you had planned anyway. If you end up only doing the 100 reps, at least you did something!
Only shower after exercising
OK maybe a tougher one to implement if you have a busy working life, but it works for some people. If you make the commitment to only shower after exercise then it can force you to do at least some exercise and will also reduce the number of days you go without training!
Only eat sugar after exercising
The best time to eat sugar is after exercising, so a good trick if you have a sweet tooth is to use sugar as the lure to get yourself to train. That sweet treat will also be much sweeter after a hard session.
Imagine the doubters
This is an interesting technique for the natural rebels. Try to imagine a group of "doubters" who don't think you can do it and then prove them wrong. Release your inner rebel!
Put on some motivational music
If you've already put on your gym kit as above, then throw on some tunes that'll get you in the mood. Even have a little dance around and get your body moving, again don't even worry about training. The movement and beat will raise your heart rate and the thought of exercising may become more favourable.
Watch a motivational video on YouTube
There are hundreds of short motivational videos on YouTube. If you've decided you can't be bothered to exercise then the chances are you're either on your phone or on the sofa. Before it's too late quickly pop on a motivational video and you'll be amazed how it'll make you feel.
Change your exercise
Can't be bothered to run? So go lift some weights today instead. Can't be bothered to hit the iron? So go for a cycle, bored of swimming? Go rock climbing! Basically try something that you weren't planning on doing or even something completely random, the novelty of something different will spark some enthusiasm and may just be enough to get you moving.
Download an app
This is more of a long term strategy to keep you motivated, but can still help immediately. Join a league online using apps such as Strava, or survive the zombie outbreak with Zombies Run! Or earn money with commitment a commitment app like Pact.
So that's both long term strategies and also short term tricks to get you motivated to exercise. Getting the foundations in place will mean you're far more likely to succeed and a lot less likely to lack motivation. But if you're having an off day then try some of these tricks and you'll be surprised how you can hack your own mind into exercising!