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Motivation: How To Get It Back And Fight Off Your Workout Slump

by Sportitude
1 Oct 2019

We’ve all fallen to the draw of comfort food and staying cosy indoors during the winter months– temporarily losing the motivation to eat and live well as the chiller seasons close in.

Like healthy habits, bad habits can stick. Even when gloomy days are replaced with the sun-kissed mornings of spring and summer, snapping back into your fitness routine isn’t always easy – and negative emotions and mindset can hold you back.

Jump-start your fitness with our top tips to get your mind and body moving forward.

Don’t be hard on yourself – it’s OK to push the reset button

Going from your glass half full workout routine to a winter long fitness funk can damage your self-esteem and even though spring is truly upon us, these negative emotions are hard to shake.

Aerobic fitness, endurance and strength deteriorate with inactivity – a process called 'deconditioning' or 'detraining', but be kind to yourself.

Don’t give up - it’s not a failure but a learning experience that you can channel positively to stay motivated now and in the future.

 “A champion is defined not by their wins but by how they can recover when they fall.”- Serena Williams (professional tennis player)

Break out of the all-or-nothing mentality

You don’t have to hit the ground running. It takes time to build momentum, especially from a standstill. Any physical effort, whether it’s 1 hour or 5 minutes will elevate your physical fitness and mental wellbeing.

If you’re stretched for time, break your exercise down into smaller sessions or ‘mini workouts’. Squeeze it in when you can - do 15 squats while waiting for the toaster to pop, take the stairs instead of the elevator or go for walks on your lunch break.

The trick is to do perform these exercise 'snacks' regularly to form healthy habits that stick, then build on the intensity.  

Google, Insta and YouTube your way to inspiration

The internet is a world of inspiration – from fitness-focussed Insta accounts to YouTube success stories and tips from personal trainers to keep you motivated and on track.

Get involved with online fitness communities that allow you to connect with and share your fitness journey with others - earning you a virtual high five from fellow recreational athletes when you’ve ticked off another goal.

Just be cautious of falling into the procrastination loop – soak in the inspiration, then get out there and put it to work.

Take action

Acknowledge your feelings, but don’t let negative chains of thought debilitate you or trap you in a spiral of self-doubt. Observe the negative thought or emotion, allow it to sail in and out of your mind like clouds on a breeze, then take action. Choose problem-solving over procrastination.

Negative thoughts like I'll never be able to lose weight can snag you into a workout slump and become self-fulfilling. Instead, rise to the challenge of proving them wrong - channelling negativity into positive changes.

“Winning has nothing to do with racing. Most days don’t have races anyway. Winning is about struggle and effort and optimism, and never, ever, ever giving up.” - Amby Burfoot (marathon runner and author)

Run it out

It’s normal to feel stressed, anxious and disappointed when you can’t shake off your winter workout rut – but you can run it out.

Physical activities like running, working out or practicing yoga are empowering - helping you regain control and providing an emotional release to break out of your fitness funk.  

"Our running shoes have magic in them. The power to transform a bad day into a good day; frustration into speed; self-doubt into confidence; chocolate cake into muscle." - Mina Samuels (Author of Run Like A Girl)

Think positive

Easier said than done, we know!

Although negative motivation (e.g. avoiding an undesirable outcome) may kick-start your progress, positive motivation (e.g. achieving a desirable outcome) is more beneficial to your happiness, wellbeing and creating sustainable motivation in the long-term.

To bust yourself out of your workout blues, tell yourself, I am motivated or I can do this every morning – then act on it. When the going gets tough, let that inner mantra inspire you to unlock your mental strength.

Be your own best fan. In the same way limits are often self-inflicted, motivation can be self-inspired.

Exercise doesn't have to feel like brushing your teeth

Too commonly is exercise compared with brushing your teeth – a habit you need to do for your health, but not for enjoyment.

Your mindset is your biggest hurdle. Thinking of exercise in a different way and shifting your perspective can help jump-start your fitness.

The ‘e’ word may conjure images of sweaty bootcamp and a whirlwind of negativity. If this sounds familiar, don’t think of it as exercise. Instead...  

Turn it into a game

Fitness Apps can put the fun back into your run – whether you’re virtually globe-trotting with Fitbit Adventures, or outrunning imaginary zombie hordes with the ZombieRun app.

Of course, you could keep it simple by racing against your PB – but engaging in virtual fitness challenges may be the motivational boost you need and get you excited about lacing up.

Embrace the outdoors

With the clear, mood-boosting skies of spring upon us, it’s the perfect time to plan active weekends like trail running, hiking, rock climbing, cycling, kayaking, swimming, surfing and horse riding. They don’t feel like ‘exercise’ - more like playing outside and that’s something anyone can jump onboard.

If you have little ones, outdoor activities allow you to rope in the kids and integrate your fitness and family life – busting the common 'no time to exercise' excuse while setting a healthy precedent for your youngsters to enjoy an active life.

Plus, being outdoors makes you feel good! There's so much inspiration and sunshine to soak in - rejuvenating yourself mentally and physically. Just don't forget the sunscreen!

“Surfing has played a major role in my journey, as the ocean is my one escape, the one place where I forget about everything and wash away my worries. It really is a therapy that is so refreshing for the mind, body, and soul." - Brittani Nicholl (Australian surfer and Crohn’s & Colitis ambassador)

Blend workouts with ‘me’ time

If you’re working out indoors, combine your sweat sessions with activities you enjoy like catching up on the latest Netflix dramas to ease you into it.

For extra motivation, tune into your favourite fitness YouTubers or inspirational podcasts while you’re hitting the treadmill, strength training or getting your yoga on.

Listening to music on the run can improve your performance and allows your mind to create a positive association with exercise, doubling up on its mood-boosting benefits. 

Schedule it in

Scheduling your workouts into a planner makes your intentions tangible.

Writing it down – whether it’s in your physical calendar or smartphone keeps you accountable, and it’s more likely you’ll commit to the action as you cement it into your subconscious.

Create fitness cues

You can give your future-self a hand by preparing for your workout in advance. If you plan to exercise first thing, pack your gym bag and leave trainers by your bed the night before to give you that extra nudge to fly out the door.

Instead of giving in to the snooze button, the moment you see your trainers or running shoes you’ll switch into fitness mode – but you need to stay consistent to help the cues stick. 

For coffee lovers, make your morning cuppa a part of your workout ritual rather than using it to procrastinate. Your empty mug can act as a cue to lace up and hit the gym.  

Find the bottom line of your motivation

It’s easy to say you want to lose weight or run regularly. What's difficult is finding the why behind it.

There are so many valid reasons - whether it’s the excitement of fitting back into your favourite jeans, to live the active lifestyle you want to teach your kids or simply to feel fitter, healthier and more energised in your own skin.

Although measurable goals like I want to take 10cm off my waistline have their own merit to motivate, looking deeper and finding the emotional connection with your goals can be the nudge you need to get moving.  

Make your own motivation – wait for it and you’ll be waiting forever

Waiting for the perfect moment or mood to lace up may keep you trapped in a spiral of procrastination - even more so when it’s an activity you initially don’t want to do.

Motivation won’t find you. You must grab it for yourself.

“Stop waiting for things to happen, go out and make them happen.” - Usain Bolt (sprinter)

When motivation isn’t there, fake it till you feel it 

Jump-starting your fitness routine can be a case of fake it till you feel it – get your body moving, put one step in front of the other and the mental motivation will follow.

A little tough love can go a long way. Even though you may virtually have to drag yourself out of bed to force yourself to get on with it - know that your brain will remember the process and with time, this ritual will be second nature and no longer a struggle.

"The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start." - John Bingham (marathon runner and author)

Visualise immediate action and future success

Visualising the immediate process step by step – from lacing up, warming up to hitting the gym or pavement can help prep your mind and in turn, get your body moving and motivated.

You may prefer to focus on your larger goal – a stronger, heathier you, or perhaps the moment you fly across the finish line of your first marathon. Stepping into that ‘picture’ and allowing the positive emotions to flow through you provides a mood-boosting hit to get your first foot out the door.

A dream begins with imagining possibilities. Seeing it in your mind's eye and having belief in your potential, makes your goal that much more achievable.

It’s just 21 days

Studies into human psychology suggest it takes 21 days for a habit to stick. Don’t focus on forever. Simply commit to 2 – 3 workout sessions per week until you hit the 21 day mark.

Fast-forward to 3 weeks into the future - you’ve settled into your routine and your momentum is rolling. It’ll feel weird not to exercise as it becomes the norm, not the exception.

For an extra motivation boost, consider investing in a fitness tracker to monitor your progress over the 21 days and beyond.

Build a goal staircase

Ticking off each ‘step’ or milestone in your goal staircase is super satisfying and lets you track every accomplishment – because we all need a healthy ego boost now and then.

Break up your end goal into specific, measurable and realistic steps, pairing each with a deadline date you’ll aim to complete it by.

Compare your progress to your past self and no-one else. Be ambitious and choose a goal large enough to inspire you.

Dream big, but keep your expectations in perspective to avoid becoming overwhelmed or disheartened if you reach too far too soon. With persistence, positivity and self-belief, your larger goal will become achievable.

Remember it isn’t about perfection but trying, falling and getting up again.

Your half-marathon goal staircase might look like this:

- I will run 3 times a week for the next 3 weeks (continuous goal)

- I will run my first 5km without walking

- I will beat my personal best for running 5km

- I will run my first 10km

- I will beat my personal best for running 10km

- I will run my first half marathon 

"Set daily, monthly, and long-term goals and dreams. Don't ever be afraid to dream too big. Nothing is impossible. If you believe in yourself, you can achieve it." - Nastia Liukin (artistic gymnast)

Be self-inspired! 

Celebrate yourself for completing each workout, discover the power in your body and mind you never knew you had and wear your sweat with pride.

Rather than balking at the sight of a hill or stairs, run faster to show yourself what you're made of. You'll come down the other side out of breath, but beaming with accomplishment. Let each obstacle you overcome exhilarate you.

Be inspired from within. It only takes one step to start a journey and a whole lot of twists and tumbles to finish it, but in the process of falling and fighting on, you'll find the best of yourself.

“I’m so proud of myself. Not because it was a perfect race or a personal best, because it was neither… I fought all the way to that finish line and that feels damn good.” - Turia Pitt (ultra marathon runner, motivational speaker and author).