It’s 6pm. You’ve finished work for the day and are looking forward to hitting the gym. You’ve been working hard and the results are paying off. Yet, despite this, the second you leave the office, your commitment and motivation start to wane. You’re tired, you’ve had a stressful day, you’ve got a lot to do at home, you would just prefer a night on the sofa.
While at work, the gym had seemed like a welcome break, but now, when the alternative is a warm house, the sofa and a slice of carrot cake, getting sweaty doesn’t seem the best option.
Demotivation can strike at any point, and very much more so when it’s cold, miserable and you don’t have a goal to work towards
If you’ve ever felt like this, I can empathise. Demotivation can strike at any point, and especially when it’s cold, miserable and you don’t have a goal to work towards. In fact, if you are currently suffering with demotivation demons, you are certainly not alone. Many reports cite the statistic that 50 per cent of people who start an exercise programme drop out within six months. While little research has been done to verify this figure, you only have to monitor gym attendance to realise that motivation wanes after the January rush.
So, is there anything you can do to address the voice in your head telling you to give up, go home, and eat that second cinnamon bun? While some research has suggested that people are “more likely to stick to an exercise programme if the sessions are initially less challenging”, there are certainly other things you can do that don’t require taking it easy.
1. Don’t think too much
Yes, I know this sounds strange, but believe me, you can train yourself to ‘think less’. How often do you complete tasks on autopilot? Getting up, getting dressed, eating food, walking to work; sometimes you simply zone out. Imagine if you could autopilot yourself to the gym. This is what I mean by ‘think less’. Plan to go to the gym and then execute it. If you start thinking of excuses, put on some music, browse ASOS, make yourself a healthy snack, call someone for a chat (on route, of course) – anything to take your mind off the growing list of reasons why you shouldn’t go. The more you do this, the more of a habit it will become. Stop thinking, start doing.
2. Remember why you train
If autopilot doesn’t work, you might need to try a few other options. The first? Remind yourself why you go to the gym. Progress pictures are great for this. Sometimes you need a boost. Remember how far you’ve come, but remind yourself of where you want to go. The trick is to remember your goals and the steps you must take to reach them. Break it down. Don’t scare yourself into inactivity by thinking about the end product (actually, there is and never should be an ‘end product’). You should be making changes that will last a lifetime. In fact, you’ve already made awesome improvements; so think about what you could look like in one/two/three weeks from now, if you stick to the plan and go to the gym.
3. Trick yourself
As with my first point, this requires a bit of mental training, but can be very effective. In fact, I used it just last week. Normally, I love ‘back day’, but on this particular Tuesday, it was cold, raining and I was “hangry” (hungry + angry, in case you didn’t know). I fought with myself as I walked home. Yes I was going to the gym. No, I wasn’t. I hated the gym. I loved the gym. The gym could go f*** itself. I loved lifting. I loved the sofa more.
What did I do? Well, I went to the gym, and felt really great for doing it. How did I get there? I pretended that I was only going to do a light workout, that I’d be out in 30 minutes, and be home in time to watch ‘Death in Paradise’. What did I end up doing? A full 50 minute back workout, working at hypertrophy levels, and I was still home in time for ‘Death in Paradise’. Sweet.
Get yourself to the gym. Once you are there, you’ll most likely want to stay.
4. Don’t overdo it
This is a far more fundamental point than my first three bits of advice, and supports the aforementioned research about overly challenging workouts: don’t feel that every gym session needs to be intense. It doesn’t.
While it’s true that your workout intensity will depend on your goals and when you want to achieve them, for most people, you can make progressive and significant changes without collapsing in a HIIT class, or pouring sweat, or feeling as though your arms are about to drop off.
Don’t put yourself off exercise, by putting yourself through exercise hell
Yes, it’s true, some people love hell. Hell, to some people, is heaven. But don’t feel you have to be one of those people. ‘Go hard or go home’ doesn’t have to apply to you every time you set foot in the gym.
While it’s widely acknowledged that exercise helps improve mental health and well-being, according to some research, in certain circumstances, exercise may also result in detrimental changes to mental health. “Some individuals can become overly dependent on physical activity and exercise to an excessive degree,” one report states. “This abuse of exercise can result in disturbances in mood and worsened physical health.”
Monitor this. If you’re pushing yourself so hard that it’s beginning to affect your mood in a negative way, then give your body, your mind and your soul a break. You’re doing great!