View article

Overcome Your Workout Rut 

Low on motivation to move? When you find yourself regularly skipping or slacking off on your workouts, there’s usually something deeper going on than just a lack of energy. Veteran trainers Chris and Heidi Powell know well the psychological obstacles that many people get hung up on. “If the mental side of getting in shape is not addressed, then most of us see the effort as a chore and, inevitably, we quit,” says Chris, who has studied the emotional component of sticking to a routine. Here, the surprising reasons that could be behind why you bail or fail—and how to turn your mind on to exercise again. 

1. Identify a simple endgame. 

Beware of viewing health and fitness as something with an end date—like losing 10 pounds or competing in a race—instead of as a lifestyle, Heidi says. “Otherwise, once you reach the ‘finish line,’ you’ll be much more likely to slip back into old habits.” Think this could be you? Start teeing up small, easily achievable goals to keep your momentum going, says Michele Kerulis, Ed.D., a sports psychologist at Northwestern University. 

Make sure these doable goals are short term and not based on your appearance—for instance, taking a dance class, lifting weights twice a week, or learning an activity like indoor rock climbing. “These new targets will keep you driven after you’ve reached your long-term goal,” Kerulis says. Checked off that 10K? Go faster next time. Develop a cycle of raising the bar and you’ll not only build confidence but also rediscover your love of exercise, the most powerful driver of all. 

2. Make your workout schedule nonnegotiable. 

Agreeing to every commitment that comes your way may make you look like a superstar to your boss, your friends and your spouse, but it also means less time for yourself, Heidi explains. And when you’re experiencing that squeeze, you’re more likely to skip workouts. “Take pride in telling people that your workout is a priority in your life,” Kerulis advises. “Think about the many roles that you have … you’ll be better able to do them all if you’re physically healthy and mentally clear.” Make your workout a standing appointment in your day planner or calendar, rather than leaving a blank space you could be persuaded to fill with some other to-do. 

3. Add some sweat to social time. 

Instead of letting socializing lure you from your daily workout, harness it as a way to sweeten the workout pot for yourself, Chris says. Suggest subbing spinning class for happy hour, or make date night about shooting hoops and cooking dinner instead of eating out. And if exercise doesn’t hold appeal for your inner circle, then look for backup elsewhere, Kerulis says. Become workout buddies with other regulars at the gym, or hitch onto group rides or runs at the local bike shop or running store. The pull of fun company can keep you motivated, even if they’re not your BFFs. 

4. Become your own cheerleader. 

If a bad day or lingering stress has filled your head with downer thoughts that make you want to quit, you can change the conversation and head off a slump, Chris says. To restructure negative thinking into positive statements, visualize a big red stop sign when you have a self-sabotaging notion, Kerulis recommends. Then think about how you can reframe thoughts like “I can’t do this new exercise, it’s too hard.” Instead, focus on “This new exercise is hard, but learning a new exercise will make me stronger, and soon it will be easy.” 

5. Turn fitness into an identity. 

“When you see yourself as a winner or an athlete, that’s who you’ll become,” Heidi says. “And you will choose actions that support that belief, such as sticking to a workout schedule instead of hitting snooze.” If you want to be a runner and you plan to put in time on the treadmill, repeat after us: “I am now an endurance athlete in training.” You’ll be amazed what that little identity shift can do for your attitude toward exercise. “A runner doesn’t skip runs,” Heidi says. “That’s who you are and what you do.” So go ahead, be a ninja in kickboxing, a Navy SEAL in boot camp, or a professional dancer in Zumba class. In other words, give yourself some props and you’re halfway there. 

© Meredith Operations Corporation. All rights reserved. Used with permission.