If you’re reading this blog, there is a good chance you’re an athlete. You don’t have to be a professional, nor do you even need to be “fast”. But if you enjoy the challenge of exercise, you set goals and you work to achieve them, you’re an athlete. We all know how good exercise is for us. It keeps us healthy, works as a stress reliever, and often times keeps us on task; it holds us accountable. While I’ve been a lifelong (fairly serious) athlete, I can also acknowledge that the day ‘exercise’ is no longer part of my job, I’ll still be doing regardless. I just enjoy movement, and I get cranky when I don’t do it. All this aside, there are most definitely days when we just don’t FEEL LIKE IT. The thought of dragging yourself to the pool or lacing up your running shoes just sounds awful. You are not alone...this happens to us all at times. Especially those of you who may be training hard for a big goal event late in the season. November is a long time after January... so if you've been at it for many months, or you just find you're struggling to "go", here are a few tips that may help get you over that little 'hump' of finding the motivation to exercise.
1) Take a day off. Yes, my first suggestion is to simply listen to your inner instinct and chill out. Often times it is just what your body and your mind need. If you find the motivation is lacking and you have other things you need to get done, scrap it…tomorrow will be here before you know it, and I’m willing to bet you’ll be a bit more anxious to exercise the next day. Now I’ve never (EVER) been one for ‘streaks’ (ie: getting caught up in things such as “100 days straight of running!”) or obsessing about overall numbers for the week, month, or year. If you’re one of these people, this one will be tough for you. But I highly encourage you to be able to step away and take rest days; not only for your own sanity (and relationships) but moreso for your longevity of exercise. And the key here? Don't feel guilty about it! Embrace it and enjoy the rest day.
2) Adjust what is on the schedule. If you see a workout that makes you feel overwhelmed just looking at it, and you understand why this may be (fatigue, life stress, etc) make it a goal to get out and move but don’t force the specific workout. Clearly if you have goals, you don’t want to do this all the time! However, I’ve coached athletes for 10+ years and one of the best things about a 'seasoned athlete' is that they can often take the initiative to adjust as and when needed. Not everything has to be ‘cleared’ by someone…sometimes it’s best to just be cleared by you, because nobody knows you as well as well… you. I often say ‘something is better than nothing’ (barring #1) and if you can get out, exercise, and feel better for it, you just may need to keep your workout easy and with no goal other than to clear the mind and refresh the body. Some days you just have to do what will make you feel good.
3) Rally a friend. This is especially important when you know what is coming up for the week, month, etc. Workouts often go by much quicker when you have good company! And while sure it’s great to have solitude when we workout, sometimes it's fun to make exercise social too. I’ve learned over the years that some people click better than others when it comes to training partners. This doesn’t make some people bad people; but I’ve become a little picky when it comes to training with others. You want someone who you can pace well with, or on some days, someone who is stronger (or less strong) than you…depending upon what you’re aiming to do on the day. Be honest with one another. And be sure to check your ego at the start. Nobody enjoys getting half-wheeled or half-stepped for hours on end! It's not a race, just an exercise session. :) Try to find positive training partners, and likewise try to be a positive training partner for others.
4) Dig in and try. Yes, again contrary to #2… if you’re struggling to motivate on a day you have a challenging workout, ask yourself "why". If you’re truly wiped out that is one thing, but I know personally I’ll have days I can’t wait to get to it and others I’m dreading it. If I'm honest with myself, I may dread it for fear of not hitting the goal. And this is a terrible reason! I have to call myself out. We can’t succeed without taking risk and when we take risk, we may fail; but we may also pass with flying colors. There have also been *many* times I’ll warmup, think that it may not be there, then bam.. I get into the set and I’m nailing it. So, some days, you just have to kick yourself in the butt a little bit, get moving, and give it a shot. We never know until we try.
5) Step back and see the larger picture. By this I mean, have you had a trend of lacking motivation? Has this become a more regular than occasional feeling? If so, you may just need a good old extended break. Time away from the ‘discipline’ you’re focusing on. I know Ironman specifically can really wear people down. This is fine…as with anything else in life, be honest with yourself when you assess this. All exercise is essentially ‘good’ for us….so maybe you just need a change of pace for a little while. There are so many forms of exercise we can choose from! I’ve found joy in long walks when that is what I’ve been resigned to given circumstances! Realize that everyone needs to hit ‘reset’ at times. But you just may be the one who needs to make this decision for yourself.
And in the much larger picture...we're all fortunate to be able to do it. I remind myself of this regularly. When I don't want to "go" on some days, I think of how amazing it is that my body allows me to do this. I think of times I've had setbacks, and I've wanted so badly to go out and run hard! I find myself drawing motivation from those whom I know, if given the opportunity, would love to be training for events; but perhaps they can't for various reasons. This is a gift, and we NEVER 'have' to do it, we get to do it.