Motivation; it’s the holy grail of a regular exercise routine, right?
Wishing that we were more motivated to workout or feeling frustrated that others are just more motivated than we are is a waste of our time and energy. The clients I’ve trained that are the most successful with creating a regular workout routine do not rely on motivation alone in order to get their workouts done. They understand that motivation isn’t a stable foundation for a regular exercise habit.
Sure, motivation is part of the process of crafting a consistent sweat habit, but it’s also misunderstood. Motivation waxes and wanes like the moon. It’s never going to be consistently high or consistently low.
The more you understand about your energy, motivation and habits, the easier it will be to make regular exercise a priority in your life. Here are five of my favourite motivational tools that I use regularly with my training clients.
Mental Energy Bank Account/Pie Chart
It’s a common occurrence while doing coaching calls with my training clients that the topic of frustration over lack of motivation comes up. It often plays out like this:
Client: “Ugh, I’m just so frustrated. I used to be so good at getting my workouts in every week. Now it’s like I don’t have the motivation to do it, and I need to figure out how to get it back.”
Me: “Ah yes, I hear you. It is really frustrating to feel like your motivation has gone and dried up! What sorts of responsibilities do you have on your plate right now?”
Then my client will begin to list off a plethora of jobs, including starting a business, or caring for small children, or running a household, or working full time, commuting, and caring for an aging parent.
When this happens I know it’s time to introduce the Mental Energy Bank Account tool.
Every single decision we make in the day drains our energy. Whether it is something as simple as choosing what to eat for breakfast, or something as complex as solving a staffing issue at work, the more considerations, choices and decisions we have to make, the less energy we are going to have as the day wears on.
Knowing that our mental energy is like a bank account is key in understanding our motivation. We can’t make good decisions about exercise and food if we are at a zero balance (or in the negative!) with our mental energy stores.
If we aren’t regularly topping up our mental energy with things like good sleep, down time, relaxation techniques, or fun activities that boost our energy, then we won’t be able to consistently make good decisions about exercise and eating well.
Mastering our mental energy bank account means outsourcing some decision making in our lives, and understanding that filling our plates with too many draining responsibilities will also drain our motivation. When we make a regular habit of good mental energy deposits, motivation surges too.
The ONE thing
What is the one thing that would shift your day into a more empowered, feel good focus?
99% of the time, the answer for my clients is movement. A sweaty quick workout, a walk, a class…
I teach the women in the Blast Fitness Coaching Club that while we often wait to feel motivated in order to do a workout, the pattern actually needs to happen in reverse. A workout brings motivation, it helps increase our blood flow and helps us to get into the driver’s seat regarding many of our other healthy habits for the day. I am a more patient mother, more focused at work, and have much more balanced moods when I get regular exercise.
It’s much easier to make great food choices when we’ve got a workout in, it’s much easier to focus on constructive tasks when we’ve got a workout in, and it’s much easier to keep the ball rolling on the subsequent days of the week when we start the week off with some exercise.
When we see a workout as a vital step in the direction of feeling more motivated, we tend to be more proactive. Waiting for motivation is like waiting for lightning to strike, it’s unpredictable and often inconsistent. When we make ‘one thing’ our area of focus, and that one thing is a workout, it brings a cascade of other positive lifestyle behaviours along with it. We sleep better, we eat better, we feel more calm, connected and grounded. And all we had to do was focus on that ONE THING.
Ignore The Mess
When my clients tell me they aren’t motivated to exercise, my first thoughts always go to ‘what is draining your energy? what is costing you mental bandwidth’?’. And if you’re currently working from home, parenting children, and/or also trying to exercise at home, you know that THE MESS is freaking draining. It’s laundry, it’s toys, it’s unanswered emails, it’s the half-written Christmas cards, the dishes…
Being at home can be distraction central. So what do we do about it? WE PUT ON OUR BLINDERS. Ignore the mess. When I go to workout I literally step over piles of dirty laundry. I push toys to the side. Why? Because exercise is my one thing! (See motivational point #2, above). I prioritize exercise above tidying. Tidying can wait until the workout is done.
Sometimes in an effort to avoid exercise, we clean, tidy and putz around the house. For years I would put tidying in front of exercising on my priority list. Until I had a second child and realized nothing would be tidy again…
The 3-2-1 Tool
This tool is one of the most simple and effective strategies I use for myself and others to help bring a bit of action into a state of inertia.
Imagine you are sitting at your desk at work. You’re feeling sluggish and like you don’t want to exercise on your lunch hour, even though you’d intended to do so earlier. You can think of every other reason not to exercise. You could grab lunch with friends, scroll mindlessly on social media, or get a head start on the afternoon’s work tasks.
But instead you use the 3-2-1 tool. You literally say out loud (or in your head) “I’m going to get up and go to the gym in 3-2-1”.
I first heard of this tip from life hack master Tim Ferriss. It works with getting out of the bed in the morning, it works with starting a workout, it just works. Of course the intention needs to be there, but use the momentum of counting down to ignite a cascade of action.
“A lack of motivation is not what is standing between you and your goals; inaction is.”
The 3-2-1 tool might not help us in instantly feeling 100% motivated, but it does help us to get started and we know that the feelings of motivation follow action.
Dismantling Our De-motivators
Motivation is less like an on/off switch and more like a wave that waxes and wanes. This means that when we’re on a motivation up swing, we are actively choosing motivating thoughts and actions. Conversely, when we are on a motivation down swing, we are likely operating in a pattern of de-motivating ourselves.
You know what this feels like: it’s when you’re having the discussion in your head that the couch looks so comfortable and would be a much better choice than changing out of your work clothes into your sweat clothes and getting your butt to the gym.
When we work at minimizing the factors in our lives that regularly de-motivate us, then we are more likely to stay on the motivational upswing a little longer. The most common de-motivators my clients (and me!) experience are:
- Contradictory behaviour patterns: You say you are going to do a workout after work, and then you end up doing the opposite (eating chips on the couch, going to the bar for beers etc).
- Allowing recurring distractions: You consistently find yourself skipping workouts to get work done, to complete errands or to end up wasting time on social media.
- Sneaky self talk: You find that you talk yourself out of showing up for a class, or talk yourself into staying in bed for an extra 20 minutes in the morning.
Recognizing our motivational downswings is the first step to changing them. Notice if you are trying to talk yourself out of a workout and call yourself out on it. Make your sweat time a priority and you’ll get to experience all the feel-good endorphins, stress reduction and strengthening benefits of regular, consistent exercise.
Here’s to stoking that motivational fire, and understanding that there is more to consistency that motivation alone!
Thanks for reading,
To join over 400 women who have participated in my online coaching group, the Blast Fitness Coaching Club, join the waiting list HERE. Registration for our fall opening of the club will open on August 17th. You’ll workout with me and the other coaching club members weekly on zoom, receive new workouts every 30 days, get new recipes and sample eating plans, have access to fun challenges, and personalized guidance from me as your coach on our private Facebook community.