Usually my top tip for getting fired up for workouts is to sign up for a race and commit to a training plan. Because even if you don’t end up following it to a T — let’s face it, life happens — I figure that a compliance rate of, say, 80 percent will still net you good results.
But what happens when there’s NO race on the horizon or NO looming goals to keep you in line? Whether you’re on a temporary hiatus (like me) or your motivation is flagging for another reason, I promise there’s still hope for getting (or staying) in shape.
Here are the three tricks I’ve been using to keep myself going during pregnancy in the absence of training plans and racing adrenaline; the great part is that they apply universally when it comes to avoiding any kind of fitness slump:
1. Define your “why”
Maybe you want to play with your kids without feeling winded. Or you want your wardrobe to fit like it did before the holidays. Whatever the reason, figuring out what lights a fire in your belly will help you stay strong when you’re at a crossroads and in danger of making poor decisions (i.e. the couch is calling).
For example, running goals usually keep me inspired — either challenging myself by time or distance — and workouts are geared accordingly. Instead, I made it my mission to stay active during pregnancy in the hopes of having a smoother labor and healthier baby, which tugs at my heartstrings and gets my butt to the gym on days where I’m feeling more ‘meh’ than motivated.
2. Take a week at a time
While a great idea in theory, sometimes a goal like, “I’m going to work out five days per week this year,” is just too daunting. Especially if you have an ‘off’ few days and end up scrapping the whole thing in frustration. Instead, biting off a smaller chunk — like planning just a week’s worth of workouts at a time — will allow you to celebrate frequent victories instead of agonizing over intermittent defeats.
While I happen to be the opposite (I thrive on making a plan and sticking to a schedule), I was concerned about not having any kind of big-picture structure during my pregnancy. But having ClassPass has come in handy; you can only reserve four classes at once and are limited to scheduling one week out, which means I plan workouts just a few days advance and they end up fitting better into my ever-changing schedule.
3. Piggyback your workout
Take a page from Katy Milkman’s book and try bundling your temptations, as described in this study. The idea is that by pairing “instantly gratifying but guilt-inducing ‘want’ experiences (enjoying page-turner audiobooks) with valuable ‘should’ behaviors providing delayed rewards (exercising)” you’ll be more successful in the long run.
It was only after I’d read about this concept that I realized I’ve been applying it to my own workouts for the past few months. You see, I’ve gotten hooked on a few podcasts (Serial, anyone?), but will only allow myself to listen to each week’s episode if I’m at the gym on a piece of cardio equipment. And you know what? All of the sudden walking on the treadmill got a whole lot more appealing!
Similar to “piggybacking”, I try to remove as much unpleasantness from my workout as possible. This will mean different things for different people. For me, I try to keep my music collection up to date and high energy, but I also keep a pair of ear plugs in my gym bag, in case I just want to work out in quiet. I replace my workout shoes often, any time I think they’re not supporting or cushioning the way I need them to. I buy fancy cushiony insoles and have a pair of weightlifting gloves to avoid callouses. (Occasionally) I buy some cuter workout clothes. Anything to help improve my experience! I’m still working on applying these principles to more healthful eating…
Yes, great pointers & I totally agree! There’s nothing quite like some good gear to get you psyched up for a good workout (and in less discomfort after). Re: the healthy eating, maybe finding some restaurants that offer healthy, delicious options as a way to treat yo’self? That’s what I try to do around here with green smoothies, whole-food bowls, etc.