Google “workout motivation” and you’ll find everything from ripped bodybuilders shaming people into hitting the gym, to quotes like “Slow motivation is better than no motivation.” What you won’t find is a picture of me. At least not this year. For the past 12 months, I’ve been super inconsistent and generally meh on exercise.
I’m not gonna lie: part of me loved being more sedentary. Mornings are a lot less hectic when I’m not bundling a toddler into the running stroller before preschool dropoff, or waking up at 5am to fit in my burpees. But while the first couple months were fine, what followed was a 10-month slide to a place I wasn’t comfortable being. Over the past year I:
- Gained 8 lb. (Clearly not muscle)
- Let sweets creep back into my diet
- Watched my LDL cholesterol climb 10 points while my HDL dropped
- Started feeling sluggish, puffy, and just down
I don’t need to get my sweat on daily just to feel normal, but I do need to exercise at least three days a week to be my best self. And I haven’t been doing that. Over the past week, I’ve been thinking about why that is and how I — and others — can learn from my failure. Here’s what I came up with:
Workout Time = Me Time
It’s hard to find the motivation to work out if you aren’t enjoying exercise. Most days, I’m on the go from the moment I wake up until about an hour before bed. When I did BBG, the sound of the buzzer every 7 minutes seemed like an extension of that stress. When I completed the program, I was glad to be rid of that feeling and had come to associate it with working out in general.
This week, I forced myself to go to a yoga class. I the past I’ve struggled with yoga because the classes are long, I have trouble quieting my mind, and I prefer more strenuous workouts. But I’ve gotten to a point where I’m so tight that I have trouble with basic movements like turning to look through the rear window when I’m backing up the car. So I found a new studio where classes are only 60 minutes and gave it a go.
When I arrived, the first thing I noticed was that there weren’t any mirrors. At first, I worried this would impact my form. Instead, I discovered it helped me focus on the movements instead of how I looked or what others in the class were doing. What followed was an hour of absolute release. My muscles were challenged, but my brain was calm. I emerged feeling relaxed and revitalized – exactly what I’d been craving. My workout time has become me time, which makes me more motivated to stick with it.
Tailor Your Workouts To The Rest Of Your Life
This may sound like common sense, but for most of my adult life, I’ve actually done it the other way around. My loss of workout motivation coincided with my efforts to build my own business. And while I do have part-time childcare, I’m still struggling to balance my work and family life. If I spend 30 minutes driving to and from a class, plus 45-90 minutes taking the class itself, as much as half of my child-free time is gone.
For me, finding the motivation to work out also means making it easy. When I looked back on my run with BBG, I realized the reason it was successful was because it was only 30 min and I could do it at home. That meant that if Scott was away and couldn’t watch James in the morning, I could get up early and work out. I could also fit in a workout while James napped, or even while he played in the yard.
We need to be honest with ourselves about what really works for us. For me, that means keeping workouts short and having the option to do it at home.
Give Yourself Permission To Be Flexible
I thrive when I can create structure for myself, which is why my workout motivation peaks when I’m following a program with clear goals. But I’m not good at building flexibility into that structure. For example, when I was doing BBG and a friend would invite me to try a new exercise class, I’d decline unless it fell on a day when I hadn’t planned a BBG workout.
Recently, I came across a fitness-focused Instagram account run by a woman who is a full-time nurse and also a mom. In one of her posts, she mentioned that she doesn’t always finish her workout program in the prescribed amount of time. Instead, she makes sure she does every work out, no matter how long it takes. That was like a revelation to me and sparked all kinds of creative problem solving ideas. I realized I could spread my workouts over a couple weeks during busy times, or I could do power yoga in lieu of a full body workout if that’s what my body needed.
So many of the workout motivation memes and coaches out there are really aggressive about a “no excuses” approach to exercise. But doing the best you can – even if it’s not as much as you’d like – isn’t making excuses. It’s just life.