Tell me if this sounds familiar: You know that you should go to the gym, maybe you theoretically even want to go to the gym. But when that calendar appointment rolls around and it’s time for you to put those workout leggings on, you do not want to do it at all. If that’s you, and if that’s the case, this post is going to be all about how to find the motivation to work out.
Hi, my name is Karin Nordin and I am a former workout resistance queen. I have spent years of my life resisting workouts, avoiding going to the gym, and procrastinating my exercise habits. But then I got a Ph.D. focused on health behavior change. When I actually started to learn some of the science behind self-help, I was able to apply it in my own life and drastically reduce the resistance that I face towards working out. So much so that last year I competed in a powerlifting meet. I was able to train for that meet consistently because I had these skills — the skills that I’m going to teach you in today’s post. So that’s right. Today I’m going to talk about 3 evidence-based skills that will help you find the motivation to work out.
Find the motivation to work out by Questioning your excuses
Let’s go ahead and dive in. The first tactic that I want to talk to you about is really a very simple question that you can ask yourself and that simple question is, is that true? So let me paint the picture for you. You’re sitting on the couch, you’re slouched over, it’s time to go to the gym. You’re like, Ugh, I don’t want to do this. I’m too tired, it’s too hard. I don’t have to work out today, etc. Your brain is sending you alllllll of these excuses. In that moment, I want you to ask yourself for each one of those excuses:
Is that true?
I don’t want to go to the gym. Is that true?
I’m too tired. Is that true?
The reason this question is so powerful is that it forces us to take a pause, and avoid going into autopilot mode. When our brain’s in autopilot mode, it wants to make the same decision that we’ve made every single time before this. So if last time you skipped the gym and the time before that you skipped the gym, your brain will default towards that decision because it’s the most familiar choice. But by asking yourself, is that true? You can start a dialogue, you can start negotiating with your brain, which is going to help you ultimately make the decision that you want to make.
Find the motivation to work out by Removing the negotiation
All right, let’s move on to tip number two, which is to remove the negotiation. I used to work out four days per week, and around August of last year, I started to feel a lot of resistance to working out. My brain wanted to negotiate, Okay, I have to do my first workout today. Oh no, I can do it tomorrow. Oh no, I can rearrange this, that, and the other thing. If you’ve ever rearranged your week of workouts over and over and over again, let me know in the comments!
Establish a bare minimum
So what I did in response was I removed all sense of negotiation by establishing a bare minimum. I told myself, Karin, every single day you are going to move for 30 minutes. That can be a walk, a full-strength workout, a run, or a lift. It could be a yoga class, laying on your floor stretching. It doesn’t matter what it is. But no matter what, every single day, you’re going to move for 30 minutes.
Because I stopped my brain from negotiating whether I was going to work out today or tomorrow or the next day, that reduced negotiation helped exponentially. This is an evidence-based tactic as well.
So here’s what I challenge you: If you are struggling to find the motivation to work out, I challenge you to establish a bare minimum that you’re going to do every single day. Now, you don’t want to be pushing yourself every single day, so make sure it’s flexible enough to accommodate for energy levels and even sickness. But I want you to establish that bare minimum, and I want you to practice becoming a person who respects that minimum.
Find the motivation to work out by Treating obstacles as real barriers
And lastly (and this is one of my favorite techniques to help clients with) treat your obstacles as real barriers. One of the things that I notice a lot is that when we’re experiencing workout resistance, we’ll tell ourselves I just need to do it, or I need to be more disciplined. We might even say to ourselves, I’m being so lazy, or I’m just being lazy. But when you’re sitting on the couch and you’re avoiding that gym, you’re not being lazy.
There is some sort of real obstacle that your brain has identified. It can be an obstacle that might consciously feel a little bit silly.
Maybe it’s the fact that your sweatpants are really comfy and you don’t want to change.
Maybe it’s the fact that your car is parked farther down the block than it usually is.
I don’t know what it might be for you, but when we start treating every single excuse as a real obstacle and negotiating with our brain to provide real solutions, that is actually going to help SO much for generating the system, plan, and actions that we need in order to move forward.
So stop telling yourself, I’m going to be more disciplined. Stop telling yourself, I’m just going to get it done.
Make a plan, not just a statement.
I hope these tips resonated with you and showed you how to find the motivation to work out. If you were inspired by this post and now have a baseline minimum to use when it comes to exercise or movement, I want to hear about it in the comments. Otherwise, make sure to come back here next week because I’m going to have tons more posts around common things people struggle with, like workout motivation. While you’re waiting, hit up my YouTube channel for more tips, tricks, and behavior change hacks.
You. Are. Not. Alone.
It is a normal thing to resist workouts sometimes.
The more that we can accept that and acknowledge that there’s nothing wrong with us and this is a normal part of human existence, the better off we are going to be.