We've all been there. We ride the high of being ready to get it done. We're excited to set out toward our goal and, with all of the wind in our sails, we feel like we're going to accomplish it this time. We are ready, present and motivated.
Then fast forward a few weeks and suddenly it feels like a chore, we're debating between the couch and the gym, questioning whether our original goal is worth it and lacking that excitement we once had.
This can happen for a couple of reasons. More likely than not, with all our gusto, we either:
A. Aimed too high and burned ourselves out
B. We're not seeing the progress we wanted to as quickly as we wanted to and lose the motivation to keep going.
It can be a little daunting dealing with a lack of motivation. So here, we're going to cover a couple of ways to push through the tough days and a couple of ways to re-establish that sense of motivation. Either way, the first step is to:
1. Manage your expectations.
If you set your expectations for yourself too high at the start, it can be really demotivating when you're not able to meet them. This goes in terms of, both, your goals and your plans to achieve them.
If, for example, you set your goal as something very ambitious such as 'I want to lose 20 Lbs in one month.' it can be problematic in a few ways. First, it's a very lofty goal that would require:
a. Having enough body fat to lose that quickly
b. A severe calorie deficit
c. A lot of physical activity
Second, would you know how to do it a way that was sustainable long-term? This is key to maintaining motivation or progressing towards your goal when that motivation isn't there.
The most you can set yourself up to lose in a week, safely, is 2 lbs for larger individuals. You may be thinking 'But I've seen the scale drop 5 pounds before!' Larger fluctuations in weight tend to also include water and food waste reduction.
On average, most people set themselves up to lose about 1 pound per week. If you log into a weight-loss app this is typically the starting point. This requires a 3500 calorie weekly deficit from either dieting, exercise or a combination of the two.
Now put yourself in the scenario of wanting to lose 20 lbs by the end of the month and instead you lost 4 lbs. Since you came no where near the goal you had set, you're more likely to be disenchanted with your weight-loss, even though you still made progress. Had you initially managed your expectations and picked a more reasonable goal, around 6 pounds in a month, you would have been excited by the same weight-loss even though you didn't make your goal.
The same goes for exercise. If you start off out the gate with going to an exercise class every day, followed by a walk, followed by swimming or what ever other physical activity you think to pick up, you've set your expectations for yourself so high it will be nearly impossible to stay excited and engaged with it, especially if you haven't been doing anything for 3+ months. If you start from zero and decide to go to 100, you'll burn out (or worst case scenario, hurt yourself) before you make any progress.
If you lower the bar a little, you're more likely to stick to your new routine even when you don't feel like it. Dedicating 2 hours a week to fitness is easier that 6+ hours and when the goals are smaller it's easier to stay motivated. By setting a goal that is more manageable like 2 fitness classes a week or a daily 15 minute walk. You're setting yourself up for small wins that you can celebrate along the way, which will naturally increase your motivation.
Think about it: If you can only do push ups on your knees, how excited, proud and motivated will you feel once you're able to do that full push-up?
2. Create a reason to stay motivated.
Another way to find your motivation is to create a reason for it. External motivation can pick up the slack when you're finding it hard to be internally motivated.
In that case, maybe it's time to sign up for a competition or a challenge. You won't want to be at the bottom of the totem pole, so you're more likely to show up for yourself and keep going, even when you don't want to.
Does signing up for a virtual 5k or a meet seem too daunting? Set up your own competition. Grab a few friends with similar goals, throw down a friendly wager and set a time-frame. In the end, even if you don't win, you'll still win.
Another way to create this kind of accountability, is to find a workout buddy. Whether it's a friend, a spouse or a relative, you won't want to leave the other person hanging so you'll be more likely to get up and go when your go got up and went. Again, find someone with similar goals and be there for each other, push each other a little harder, and you can be each other's motivation.
3. Create a schedule.
Creating and sticking to a schedule can help you show up for yourself. You wouldn't cancel a date with a friend or an important meeting, so don't cancel on yourself. If you've already blocked out the time for it, it's time to commit to it.
One of the problems with having an amorphous workout schedule is that it's too easy to say 'I'll do it tomorrow.' If you know that you always workout on Monday and Wednesday at 5 PM, you are building a habit and, with enough reinforcement, habits are hard to break. A big part of this is because exercise impacts how you feel, which leads us to the next point...
4. Establish how you feel when you exercise and when you don't.
Paying attention to the after effects of exercise (or lack there of) can be a strong motivator on it's own. If you notice you're more productive after you train, sleep better and have less aches and pains, use this to remind yourself why you're exercising. Overall, you feel better.
If you miss a workout and notice that you're antsy, groggy, have lower quality sleep, or tend to snack more, use this to remind yourself why you're exercising when you're tempted to skip a session.
By focusing on the positive effects of exercise and weighing them against the negative effects when you don't exercise, you're more likely to stick with it even when you don't have the desire to move. If you can reliably recall that every time you exercise you feel better afterwards, you're appreciating the process and making it more desirable to continue it.
5. Try something new.
If all of these other strategies fail, it might be time to try something new. Maybe you've been interested in trying kickboxing, yoga or lifting weights. Adding some variety can up your excitement level towards physical activity.
And if you try something new and you don't like it, what you were doing before will still be there. You never know, you might be excited to get back to what you were doing before after a brief hiatus!