Probably the biggest hurdle I hear all exercisers give when asked what keeps them from going for a run or hitting the gym is motivation. "I just don't have the motivation to do X." Well, I know this is a professional's opinion and there's no place for weakness there, but I struggle with the exact same thing! In general, I love to exercise. I love the endorphin rush of a good workout. I love the feeling of more flexible dietary habits that exercising affords me. I love becoming proficient in a new exercise movement or being able to do more repetitions or weight on a lift! But sometimes, when the day is long or I've just not slept well, I feel the overwhelming urge to take a mulligan and watch Netflix. But I'll tell you a secret, on the days that you go for a workout when you don't feel like it, you'll grow more than you thought was possible! What then are the best ways to get motivated??
#1 Set Specific Goals
This adage holds true for more than just exercise; setting specific, actionable goals helps you focus on the product or result you're looking for. Want to lose 10 lbs for that reunion?? Set a goal for a half pound per week! Need to turn that "dad bod" around? Set measurements goals for each target body part! On the days that you don't feel like going, look at your progress so far to help you reach for motivation that's lying dormant!
#2 Partner Up
In a previous life, I was a personal trainer for a small gym in north Alabama. While I felt that my knowledge and expertise delivered results to my clients, I realized that half of my job was simply accountability. My clients knew that I was at the gym waiting for them to come in and complete an incredible workout I'd planned for them...and probably more so that I would call them afterward to check in! While you don't have to drop the cash for a personal trainer, you can still grab a workout buddy or group of friends. I would suggest someone or some others who share the same goals and workout style that you do, if not perhaps a little more aggressive in their training. It never hurts to work out with someone a little more in shape than you are to help push you that extra bit further!
#3 Set a Time and Place
Putting "Doubles tennis at 3:45 P.M. with the guys at the college courts" into your planner or calendar is a lot more likely to get you to actually show up than to generally plan to play tennis sometime this week to burn some calories. Being specific and setting a time and place triggers a part of your brain which places that action or event at a higher priority.
#4 Lay Out Clothes Beforehand
My least favorite activity that I force myself to do is an early morning run. First of all, I'd rather sleep in. Second, I don't wake up until at least my second cup of coffee anyway. Third, my motivation is at its nadir first thing in the morning. I have no desire to make decisions when I first awaken, and even the act of picking out clothes will hamstring my morning run efforts. To circumvent this, I lay out clothes beforehand: socks, shoes, t-shirt, shorts, etc. It takes the decision-making completely out of the process and makes me much more likely to commit to the run.
*Side note: As a former collegiate track runner, I've logged thousands of miles running. By far, my favorite shoes are the Asics Gel GT series shoe. It's the only shoe I'll put serious miles on. Anything that comes between you and the ground should be high quality: mattresses, shoes, tires. Bonus tip: change your shoes every ~500 or fewer miles. More than 500 miles can lead to a breakdown in mechanics and more shock-absorption required by your cartilage in the knees and hips, something I definitely advise against.
#5 Track It
My wife loves her Apple Watch. It's the first thing she does in the morning after she rolls out of bed. One of the things she feels most accomplished about is "closing the rings" on her watch. Having never owned an Apple Watch, I can't tell you exactly what that means outside of the fact that she's reached some sort of physical activity goal for the day. With the proliferation of activity trackers on the market now, tracking your physical activity has only gotten easier and ostensibly less intrusive. If you're a daily gratification kind of person, link your smart device to your phone and hit those daily goals!
Whether you're competing with yourself or with others, competition is easily impetus enough to feed your desire to exercise. I know that in CrossFit, there are several workouts which are repeated on a somewhat regular basis. Beating your personal best as these workouts come around is a big motivator for many. Similarly, competing with your friends and colleagues on 5K races, bench press, or your handicap can help you step off the couch and into fitness!
#7 Want It
This seems intuitive, obvious even, but you have to want it. You have to desire the results and benefits of your physical activity more than you dislike the temporary discomfort, more than the time out of your day, and more than your doubts at achieving your goals. If you want it badly enough, nothing will get in your way. The best way to want something is to envision what achieving your goal will mean for you. Will it help you look good for yourself? Will it give you confidence? Will it help you play with your grandkids? Will it give you more flexibility with your diet? Whatever the reason, focus on that objective every day, really visualize it, and the rest will fall into place.