Do you sometimes hate working out?
You know those people you see on Instagram who are wholly committed to their daily workout and always smile through the sweat? They are freaks of nature, we cannot help you reach that level of enthusiasm for exercise!
What we can do, however, is tell you how to stick to an exercise routine and nudge yourself to workout even when you do not feel like it.
Using theory from the field of behavioural economics, which is concerned with the process behind decision-making and what influences our choices, we will first look at how to design a manageable training programme before considering how you can influence your future self to make good choices.
How to stick to an exercise routine
Whether your thing is treadmills or multigyms, there are two main reasons why exercise programmes fail – vagueness and impracticality. Before starting anything, you should ask yourself what your end goal is. Are you looking to lose a specific amount of weight?
To fit into a clothing size? To lift twice your bodyweight? To complete a marathon? Pick an end goal that is achievable and then design a programme to reach it (perhaps with the help of a personal trainer or other professional).
Setting exercise goals you can stick to
End goals are important because they give us a touchstone to measure progress, this provides the fuel of motivation.
The next consideration is how you are going to reach your goal. We all live busy lives, fitting in training is not easy. You must create time in your schedule and make sure that you actually use it to workout.
If you find yourself skipping your evening jog because you are too tired from the day, you need to address that by creating time earlier in the day. Get up and run before work or, if you work from home, juggle things so that you can use your lunch break to lift weights.
You know your own times of peak motivation – or your times of least resistance – so make sure you plan accordingly.
Help! I’ve got no motivation to workout at home
Our brains love rewards and hate losses
Understanding this can be a powerful motivational tool. For rewards, we know that workout progress is not linear. Some weeks you will lose weight or your lift capacity will surge, others you will plateau even though you put in the same amount of effort.
Get around this by creating your own milestones that depend on your dedication and effort, rather than physical results. Things like celebrating attending 50 spin classes or putting a big tick on the calendar when you have trained as planned are small ways of giving your brain a dopamine hit.
The other side to motivation is loss aversion. Funnily enough, our reactions to losses are typically stronger than our reactions to gains.
Using negative consequences for skipping training will actually be more effective than rewarding yourself for going.
Some ways of doing this include:
- Donating £10 to a charity (ask your partner or a friend to hold you accountable).
- Giving up control over the TV remote for the evening
- Doing a forfeit of some kind if you have friends who are also getting fit (giving away money, buying a round of drinks, paying for the others to get their nails done, posting an embarrassing/unflattering photo on social media etc).
Doing forfeit challenges with your friends can add an element of competition too, which will spur you on even more. Make sure to focus on sticking to the exercise plan instead of the physical results though to keep it fair, as everyone’s body is different.
Tips for staying motivated to workout at home
One of the pitfalls of training is that our effort does not always pay off in our bodies. As already mentioned, progress is not linear. So, what happens when we smash our workouts but do not hit our goals?
The temptation to throw in the towel and walk (not jog) away from your routine can be overwhelming. There are a few ways of handling this.
Here’s 3 tips to keep you motivated to train
- Check your progress less – Only check-in with your stats a maximum of once a week.
- Keep a record of all your progress to date – so that when the scale or the session does not have the results you want, you can calm yourself down by looking at all the progress already made.
- Discuss how you are feeling with someone – let your disappointment out and get rid of the negative energy instead of storing it inside yourself.
How to Stop skipping workouts
There are also a host of other de-motivating factors that will be specific to your life. Anything that poses a minor barrier to working out will have a negative effect on your motivation.
It can be as simple as having to drive to a park to jog or having a blister on your toe. Identify the things that make you stop before reaching for your runners and attack them. Likewise, make the good choice the easier one to make.
If you find you’re skipping your workouts more than you’d like, try these simple tips:
- Make your workout a bit easier – One problem I see is people doing huge workouts that half kill them and then next session, they really don’t want to do it. Reduce the time you train for, or the amount you’re doing so it’s easier to get motivated and get there. You can always crank the difficulty up later.
- Do it at the exact time – Especially if you’re training from home, set a time each day, or every Wednesday, or every other day at 12pm when you know that’s your training time. Make habits work for you and know that at that time, it’s game on as far as your training goes!
- Schedule it like any other essential task – Whether you’ve got a diary, or a spreadsheet, or a detailed life-planner, add your exercise time to it. Your brain will start to accept and then expect that you’re doing your exercise then.
- Put your workout clothes out ready – One great tip I have found super-useful is to set out my gym clothes (or running clothes) before it’s time to exercise. Getting that but of momentum is often all it takes to break the slump and get that next exercise session underway.
Do you have your own workout motivation tips? We would love to hear them. Be sure to leave a comment on this post.
References & Further Reading
- Medical News Today – Endorphin release differs by exercise intensity
- BMC – Exercise motivation: a cross-sectional analysis
- Frontiersin.org – Theories to Explain Exercise Motivation
- How To Not Get Bored Running on a Treadmill
- Study Finds – How many people quit their treadmill and other training early on in life?