Today is the day!
You told yourself you’d hit to the gym after work. But work was more hectic than you thought. Now you’re drained. You drive home, clean up a bit, but then you make the mistake of sitting down. You can feel your energy fading – along with your motivation.
You know you should get that workout in.
But the idea of dragging yourself to the gym is quickly turning into a pipe dream. You feel like you just can’t get yourself to get up. So then you decide you’ll workout tomorrow instead. But this too is questionable.
This cycle can go on for days… weeks… even months. And it’s frustrating because part of us wants to work out, and knows we’ll feel so much better once we do – but another part of ourselves would rather just crash on the couch.
So why do we procrastinate workouts?
Let’s look at three culprits:
1. I’m Too Busy
2. I Don’t Feel Like It
3. I Can’t Wake Up In Time
1) I’m Too Busy
Have you found there are “more important” things to do than getting to the gym?
Maybe there’s paperwork to catch up.
Maybe there are clothes to fold.
Maybe you have to make dinner.
The tricky part is all of those might be valid. All of those might be important. But those reasons can quickly turn into excuses. Especially if those same reasons stop you day after day.
2) I Don’t Feel Like It.
Some days we just aren’t in the mood.
We’re stressed out.
We’re not feeling motivated.
Because we’re not in the right mood, we wait until a “better day” or when we’re in a “better mood”.
Behind this reason is often the belief that, “I need to be motivated before I act” – which is FAR from the truth. I’ve met many fit people and some days they are gung-ho and super-motivated but sometimes they aren’t – but they work out anyway. Lack of motivation doesn’t stop them.
3) I Can’t Wake Up In Time
Mornings can be rough.
The alarm disrupts our perfect slumber. So we hit snooze once… twice… a dozen times until finally we frantically have to get ready for the day.
Maybe the bed is too cozy
Maybe it’s too cold outside
Maybe you’re too tired.
It can be tough waking up, especially if you’re a night owl. Or if you’re in the habit of snoozing your alarm clock. Sure – exercising in the morning has benefits. But if the mornings don’t work, find a time that does. For some people, lunch hours or evening works much better for them.
So it could be any one of these or combination of these. Whatever the reason, let’s look at two ways to prevent this cycle of procrastinating workouts.
Imagine The Finish Line
As you imagine your next workout, what comes to mind?
Do you imagine how pleasant and enjoyable it’s going to be?
Do you think about how happy you’re going be while doing it?
How much fun you’re going to have?
Probably not. When most people imagine working out, they picture all sorts of unpleasant things. Their focus zooms in on the painful exercises… how hard it will be… how tired they’ll be… how sore they’ll be… everyone watching them…
It’s easy to see how they talk themselves out of it.
Focusing on these things will make anyone unmotivated. But just like a photographer, you can adjust and shift your focus to other qualities of a landscape. More beautiful aspects. More inspiring aspects.
In fact, let’s take a lesson from the Navy SEALS on this.
Years ago, the Navy SEALS were in a dilemma, 76% of their top candidates were dropping out.The Navy knew these recruits were more than capable, yet few were making the cut. So they called psychologist, Eric Potterat to figure out how to boost the recruits’ mental toughness. Potterat created four habits (called The Big Four) that worked so well, it increased graduation rate by 50%!
One habit was known as “Imagining How Good It Will Feel”.
When recruits needed a boost to keep them going through a brutal workout, he taught them to imagine successfully completing a workout. This allowed them to tap into powerful emotions like feeling successful and accomplishing something. And this allowed them to power through it.
Here’s how you can use this:
Visualize A Successful Workout
Imagine yourself successfully completing the workout.
Think about how good that will feel at the end.
Feel that success and that accomplishment.
Even if it’s just one workout, it’s still an accomplishment.
Even if you can’t perform as well as you used to, it’s still an accomplishment.
Visualize it as best as you can.
Bring in as many senses as you can.
And you don’t have to focus on the completing the entire workout. You can use this for certain parts of your workout; using something Potterat calls “segmenting.”
In an interview with Business Insider, Potterat states:
“If you’re thrust into a seemingly overwhelming, stressful situation, the best thing you can do is just kind of manage one step at a time and focus on what’s controllable.”
Pick out certain exercises and how they will feel once you’ve accomplished them.
For me, I don’t enjoy doing pull ups. If I imagine doing pull ups, it’s not very motivating. But if I imagine what it’s like after completing pull ups, it’s very motivating. Use it for certain exercises.
When you break it down like this, it’s somewhat like crossing off items on a checklist. You can give yourself a surge of accomplishment by finishing each of those small steps.
Here are some additional aspects you can focus on:
When you’re done how much more alert and energized will you feel?
How much more peace of mind will you have after the work out?
How much better will the rest of your day feel?
Do you think that feeling of accomplishment will carry with you the rest of the day?
Working as a fitness professional, I learned that the most successful clients had certain things in common.
One of which was the quantity of workouts they did on their own (called “off-day workouts”). In many cases, these would make or break people. You see, when people need to show up for a session with a trainer, they have accountability. So it’s not too difficult to show up.
But it’s a different story when they have to show up on their own.
So I gave them a challenge.
Even if you’re tired.
Even if you don’t feel like it.
Even if you’re not motivated.
Even if you’re not in the mood.
- Workout for 5-minutes
- If after five minutes you still aren’t feeling it, then go home.
Well, guess what?
In most cases, they’ll finish the entire workout. Instead of waiting for motivation to strike them like lightning, they acted their way into motivation. It’s similar to the quote by William Butler Yeats, “Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.”
Commit yourself to just five minutes.
Worst-case scenario, you still accomplish a small workout.
Best-case scenario, you finish the entire thing.