Monday, August 15, 2011

When Finding the Motivation is Harder Than the Work Out...

I was catching up on a few blogs that I follow when I came across one in particular that "spoke" to me today.  Josie, over at Yum Yucky, is hosting a "Finish What You Started" Challenge and posted about her own struggles with staying motivated when sometimes, what she'd rather do, is sit on the couch (read her full post here).  As I've alluded to before, I also struggle with motivation, sometimes so severe that I am SURE there is something wrong with me (read: you are a quitter, Lynn).

The example I used when commenting on her post was this: "I confirmed plans last night at 10:30 pm to meet a friend for a run today after work...about an hour ago I started wondering how I can get out it. Get this...I even wondered if eating my cottage cheese (a new "dairy" food for me) might make my tummy hurt enough to HAVE to cancel our run.  How pathetic is that?!?!? 

I would be ashamed but it's important for me to share these things because many of us are so hard on ourselves and often throw in the towel when it APPEARS that willpower comes easy to some people.  It is a struggle (for me) sometimes to do what I know needs to be done.  Just because I do a HARD workout almost every single day doesn't mean it comes easily...more often than not there has been some cussing, bribing and pride issues involved to 'getter dun'."

Reflecting on this it seems to me that some people may actually react negatively to fitness posts if they don't know everything that goes into accomplishing these activities.  Sometimes, what isn't known to the reader, is the HUGE amount of self-motivation that goes into those workouts.  I've had a few friends who have made comments regarding my 'will power' and others who have expressed a kind of resignation to their own workouts by saying they would never have the resolve to workout so much (or eat vegetarian/give up {most} junk food/stick to a clean eating plan).  As I've stated before in a prior blog, it takes a LOT for me to follow through on my workouts (and clean eating).

I'd even venture to say that some of the things I do to get through my workouts can be down right ridiculous. 
Sometimes it's not this easy. (source)

Things I've tried or still do for 'motivation':

~pouting (not very attractive for a 40 year old)

~foot stomping (see pouting above)

~self-talk (yes, out loud)

~hand-clapping (cheerleader style)

~talking to the dog and/or cats (usually I try to reason with them "I can do this right?  I mean, it's only 40 minutes and all I WAS doing was catching up on Twitter posts. And I can quit after 20 minutes if I'm just not feeling it...can't I??")

~putting on my workout clothes so as to feel silly reading or watching TV while wearing my sports bra, running shoes and iPod strapped to my arm

~hiding my computer and telling myself I'll disclose it's location AFTER my run

~Bribing myself with some form of food/drink reward.  It used to be a 1/2 a glass of wine after a run but now it's more likely to be a Shakeology shake ONLY after a workout (otherwise I'd drink them ALL the time)

About 99% of the time I feel better after I work out or run, as do most people.  So, I don't know why I have to continue to go through this routine to stay on-track with my training plan.  I've also thought that through repetition it would become a habit and my mind & body would just go with the flow.  But it's really not that simple...not for me.  

I apologize but this is both adorable AND hilarious.
I guess what I am trying to say is that just because you may not feel like working out doesn't necessarily mean there's anything wrong.  It takes effort to accomplish great things and I believe that's why we feel so good after a work out. For some of us, comparing our work out schedule with others can be counter-productive...they may have different goals, a different style, and may even have too aggressive of a plan resulting in injury and/or burn out.  It can make us feel like we aren't doing enough or are lazy because we really don't want to go for a run...not even a short one.  But maybe we are all more alike in that regard than what we think.  (Even the profession athlete struggles with motivation at some point.)  

Okay, THIS might actually work...or kill me.
Many of us (myself surely included) tend to compare ourselves, our workouts, and our results to one another and although it may not be with a 'jealous' eye, it can still add to the stress of simply working out.  Don't get discouraged, try not to compare, figure out some ways to self-motivate and at least get started on your goals.  One of the best ways for me to stay focused is to actually plan my work outs.  I schedule them in my planner and even load them into my Google calendar.  When my reminder alarm goes off I TRY to treat my work out the same way that I do when my alarm goes off for work.  I get up and do it.  Even on my worst days I usually snap out of my funk within a few minutes and before I know it, my work out is over.

Are you a good self-motivator?  What have you found that works for you?  


  1. I love this post Lynn!! I totally can get this! I have to motivated myself almost everytime I workout. Its so hard to come home from a long day at work and know you now have to go out and pound the pavement. But once I start, I am so happy and feel elated I did it!

  2. Lynn, Sheri referred me to your blog. I love how you say that it doesn't mean that motivation comes easily even though you do exercise mostly everyday. I couldn't agree more with you on this. I too exercise 6 days a week and that does not mean that motivation comes easily - in fact it's darn hard. It's hard to find the motivation to do it 6 days a week and sometimes it's harder to find the motivation than exercise. I'll be coming back to your blog :)

  3. What a great post that needed to be written and read by all of us. You are completely right - many bloggers see the glam of exercising and never get a behind the scenes peek at how it all works (and as you've just described, not always smoothly). It really is hard getting motivated. I love the one of you wearing your workout gear to get you inspired. My only motivation is to lie to myself. I tell myself that my exercise time is a part time job and if I don't do it, I'll get fired. Silly, but it does work (most of the time).

  4. for me, once I accepted that lack of motivation and blah days are just part of the journey, those things had less power to keep me feel stuck for too long. You're a bad ass, Lynn. I trust in your mojo. :)

  5. I think I could honestly call myself a good self-motivator. But then I should be; I've spent the better part of 5 years studying the whole process of motivation in diet and exericse!

    What I've found that works best is taking control of your brain!

    Whilst this might sound either grand or just plain stupid, in reality it is actually very easy, and something every single person I have worked with has been able to do, quickly and easily.

    Once you are on the path of 'deliberate brain use' you find that motivation comes easily, every time. Except when it doesn't, and those times only ever come when the body needs a break, so in this case you could say that you're motivated to rest, rather than un-motivated to exercise. This may sound like semantics, but is actually an important difference.

    I have written a post about taking control of your brain, check it out here:

    I hope this is useful to your readers,
    Keep up the good work,

  6. Sheri, thanks for the comment and referral! You're one of my own personal motivators!!

    Blackhuff, yes that's exactly what I mean...even though we know what's good for us it isn't always an automatic thing to do.

    Ellen, Exactly! Behind the scenes it can be a lot of work. Much like looking at the beautiful models...they don't wake up looking like they do when we see them on the red can take hours to look fabulous and it can be very uncomfortable. It was important for me to attempt to convey that I am no super-human...I'm just like everyone else who struggles to get things done. There's no magic, you just have to do it...or get fired! =)

    Yum-Yucky and George: you hit the nail on the head. Yes, I agree that it can be a mental game and that the days that I just can't muster the will to lift a finger are most likely signals from my mind or body that I need a break. Often times, for me, once I get the mentality of working out hard and consistently I neglect to take enough time off. Many, many times my greatest improvements have come form an unexpected (and unscheduled) week off. I've come back stronger and able to run farther and faster.


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