I'm no stranger to sweat therapy: I hit the gym on the regular. My running shoes are practically a second set of feet. I've never been one to turn down a chance to get down (dog) — heck, I even teach fitness for a living!
I'm well aware of both the physical and mental benefits of getting my heart rate up regularly and consider fitness more of a lifestyle habit than a to-do.
Why, then, do I wake up some mornings feeling like the last thing I want to do is get moving?
According to catchy headlines and fly-by-night trends, we're supposed to sweat it out the same way no matter the season: with intensity, with drive, and with an all-or-nothing mentality that promises slimmer thighs, better sex, and brighter moods. Yep, we're supposed to do this 365 days per year.
We force ourselves into routines for the sake of routines, not taking into account that we are living, breathing, changing beings who experience enough physical, emotional, and spiritual shifts in a mere day to fill up a week's worth of SoulCycle classes by 12:01 p.m. on a Monday afternoon.
Study after study shows that exercise can boost our mood, help our bodies clear out toxins, and make even the most everyday of activities seem a whole lot easier (hello, five-story walk-up apartment).
But when you're feeling fatigued, uninspired, or just plain down in the dumps, scientific facts don't help all that much. And the "accountability" factor of having a class to make or a trainer to see isn't always a surefire recipe to get amped up.
The solution? You've got to make your workout work for you.
Feeling blah? I feel you — and there's no need to let negative self-talk stand in your way.
Here are four ways to motivate yourself to exercise, no matter how you feel:
1. Give yourself options.
Ever notice that the more often you do something extreme, the more your body starts to want its next hit? Fitness is similar.
When it comes to working out on a down day, it's important to feed your cravings, not your addictions. That could mean forgoing your usual 5-mile run for a meditative walk in the park. That could mean modifying your burpees in your HIIT sesh so there's no push-up involved.
That could mean trading in plank for child's pose. Knowing you have options within the workout you choose removes that all-or-nothing feeling and gives your body what it actually wants (feeds the craving) versus what you think it SHOULD want, which feeds the addiction.
2. Have a Plan A, a Plan B, a Plan C, and a Plan D.
I love to run. But I know myself, and there are certain situations in which even the most persuasive person I know (hi, Mom) wouldn't be able to convince me to haul you-know-what out in the open air. If you've learned how to psych yourself up to run in brutal heat, icky rain, or I-can't-feel-my-face cold, more power to you.
Me? That's a big old NOPE in my book.
In the past, I'd either force myself to brave the elements or skip out altogether. Not only was the former potentially dangerous and the latter a surefire way to make me cranky for the rest of the day, but neither of those options had to be the solutions.
Now I know to always have a Plan A, B, C, even a Plan D for making my workout work for me. Running outside not an option? Use the treadmill. All the treads already taken at the gym? Hop on an elliptical. No cardio equipment available whatsoever—or it's just too miserable to leave the house in the first place? Say hello to my favorite customizable self-confidence boosting workout. Having multiple options at the ready, I've found, ensures I can make a decision that's right for me no matter the circumstance.
3. Wear what makes you feel good.
Many fitness pros and motivational coaches say that a surefire way to get amped to work out is to wear a rockin' piece of activewear. And that's solid advice. Heck, a whole activewear revolution is happening because of that exact school of thought.
The problem is, sometimes that's not what actually makes us feel our best — especially if we're feeling uncomfortable in our own skin. When I'm feeling down on myself and physically uncomfortable, I wear clothes that have a little more "give" to them. Sometimes, I throw on my boyfriend's old T-shirt and call it a day.
The point is, if your activewear makes you feel rockin' in one moment, rock on. But if an old concert T-shirt and Lululemon leggings from 2008 make you feel great, that works too. It's much easier to get a productive — and pleasant — workout in when you're less concerned with the way it looks and more invested in the way it feels.
4. Make playlist presents for yourself.
When I find music I love, I become borderline obsessed.
In fact, I'll listen to an entire album or playlist on repeat for weeks, then move on to another set of songs for another few weeks after that. And so on, and so on. The first time I listen is always the most exciting — so what I've learned to do is create a playlist for myself (or download an entire album on Spotify) and promise myself not to listen until my next workout. This works with playlists, genre "stations" on Spotify or Pandora (I'm all about the "'90s Smash Hits" right now, no judgment), and podcasts.
Giving yourself something to look forward to within the workout setting is a great way to trick yourself into putting the work in and having a blast in the moment.