If working out were easy, everyone would do it. But in reality, only 20 percent of American adults get the recommended amount of exercise, according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The truth is, the probability of physical discomfort is often much less of a deterrent than a lack of mental motivation. Even the most committed of exercisers have the occasional day when they’re just not feelin’ it — me included.
So how do I get out of my funk and into a better frame of mind — not only to start a sweat session, but to actually stick with it long enough to make it count? Here are a few of my dirty little tricks for fooling myself into (and through) those I-just-don’t-waaaanna workouts.
1. Buddy up. It may take some time, but finding a set of solid workout partners is key. If you’re close in pace, have similar goals and you can push each other through the inevitable ups and downs of each workout, you’re golden. For example, Pavement Runner and I would meet up while marathon training last fall, which not only kept me motivated for those early wake-up calls, but also kept me from wimping out mid-way through many double-digit runs.
2. Try something new. Sometimes a new adventure can be invigorating. I knew I’d need a little break from pounding the pavement after said marathon, and trail running seemed like a great way to stay in running shape while letting the legs bounce back, so my friend Vivi and I signed up for a 30K. Our runs are challenging, yes, but when you’re learning new skills, exploring scenic routes and getting a different kind of workout, they become something we not only look forward to, but also appreciate as novel experiences.
3. Get specific. Workouts can feel overwhelming when you’re trying to tackle too many things at once — be it mileage, pace, terrain, etc. So on those days where you feel like you’re spreading yourself too thin, plan a purposeful workout where you work on only one thing. Fix your form, run hill repeats for speed, or map out mileage and leave the watch at home. Instead of multitasking, distract your brain by focusing on the pleasure of accomplishing a singular task.
4. Find the fun. Hubby is great at this, so I am try to take a page from his book with this one. Whether it’s splashing in puddles on a rainy day, racing to the next stop sign or stopping at a jungle gym for an impromptu set of pull-ups, making a game of it can put a smile on your face and help you find a little fun in something you were otherwise dreading.
5. Bribe yo’self. There’s a reason why most of my morning runs end near a coffee shop: I am not above a good bribe to get myself out of bed. There’s nothing better than capping off a good morning workout with a hot cup of joe. You’d be surprised at how much a little ritual like that helps.
6. Embrace the suck. Let’s face it, some workouts are just going to be crappy, for one reason or another. If it’s one of those days, don’t waste your time or energy fighting it. Just accept it, try to find the humor in the situation, and realize that this too shall pass. I had a run like this during marathon training where everything seemed to go wrong; I ended up calling one of my oldest girlfriends on the way home as I slogged my way up the final hill, and we had a good laugh at it, which always keeps things in perspective.
One final disclaimer, of course: There’s a big difference between “that voice” in your head and a gut feeling that something’s wrong. Experiencing a few aches and pains during training is common, but if you’re in significant pain, always be sure to listen to your body.
Knowing the difference between discomfort (which you can push through) and pain (when you should stop) is important for being able to train effectively and prevent injury.
What are your tricks for tackling tough workouts?