Whether you're a gym veteran or a newbie, it's normal to experience down days. Days when the tank is empty without a fume to cling to.
Enthusiasm is tricky. One day it’s got your back, giving you extra energy when you need it most. Other days it’s absent with no trace in sight, leaving you yearning for its return.
Related: Maintaining Motivation - What To Do When Willpower Isn't Enough
When you have nothing to fall back on, enthusiasm to train hard will feel like it will slip away without much effort. What you need is a foundation. Some building blocks of solid motivational tools to help you get out of that training rut and press on. Below are eight ways to get enthusiastic once again about working out. Try one, a few, or all of them on for size. You’ll only strengthen your will to succeed.
1. Write Down Your Goals
Yes, it seems simple, but it’s important. Having a vague goal such as, “I will start working out consistently” is too broad and undefined. You need to set specific, attainable objectives so your mind has something it can actually shoot for. Stating a generalized thought won’t cut it, you need to physically write down what it is you will do to achieve where you want to be.
Try this: Get an actual notebook (okay, if you absolutely refuse to go old-school, I guess an app on your phone will do) and write down at least three things it will take to achieve the above example. So, to workout more consistently you will need to set specific days per week to train. You may write that you will workout for one hour each day. Finally, if you miss a day you will simply workout on one of the scheduled off days.
2. Partner Up
Nothing is more externally motivational than training with someone else. It can build friendly competition, jack up your energy, and keep you accountable. Plus you will have created a unique bond with that person, possibly relying on them to give you that extra push you might need on days your enthusiasm is waning. But be careful.
Try this: Any ole training partner may not do. You will want someone who possesses the same, if not more strength and stamina than you in order to push you past your limits. You will want someone who stays accountable for their own sake as well and who is willing and able to give you the motivation you need without being selfish or needy. Again, you will want friendly competition not a game of jealousy.
3. Try Something New Every Day
Maybe your training program needs an overhaul. Answer this honestly: Have you made significant gains (muscle) or losses (body fat) in the past 6 months? How about the past year? Performing the same old routine week after week, month after month will only garner the same results, if any at all. Have you heard of the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
Try this: The next time you go to the gym do something different. Not some small change such as using an 8 to 10 rep range instead of 6 to 8, I mean something significantly different. Abandon your comfort zone. Shoot for a back workout that is only 15 sets of different types of pull-ups, a leg day that includes 50 or 100-rep sets, or even a full-bodyweight training day. Whatever you decide, just be sure to make it a big change forcing you out of your tired state of mind.
4. Don't Think
This is a bit related to the above. When you think too much about training and if it’s the perfect plan or not you will eventually suffer from analysis paralysis leading you to a not so enthusiastic dead end. Yes, designing an effective training program takes thought – it takes a good bit of it, but don’t fall victim to ruminating over every nuance until you become so defeated that you’ve lost all semblance of energy and enthusiasm to even make it to the gym.
Try this: Get through the gym doors without a specific plan of action. Do you normally plan to work chest? Do you usually start with a form of bench press and then move on to some dumbbell work? You can either perform your entire routine for the day backwards or train something you didn’t plan such as lower body. Try an entire workout of endurance type training full of farmer’s walks, sled pushes and pulls and box jumps. The key is to go with your gut.
5. Put Your Results in Someone Else's Hands
Training alone has its advantages. It allows you to call all the shots, you can switch your training on a moment’s notice without any debate, and you don’t have to rely on someone showing up or not. However, the negatives can be just as impactful. The pros of a training partner are seemingly endless, but let’s take a different perspective on the whole partner-up thing.
Try this: Whether it’s a training partner or hiring a trainer, try wiping your slate clean and rely completely on them to provide you with your workouts. This reduces stress and allows you to focus on your training. It may be difficult at first, but let your mind go and put your faith in that other person. And here’s the trick: you must do what they say. It will be tempting to take control, but let them call the shots.
6. Set a Time Limit
Let’s admit it, going to the gym and performing your old routine can get a bit boring. Skipping a workout or two is normal; life happens and we all need flexibility to live a balanced life. Also, we must not forget to forgive ourselves when we miss a day. But does this feeling of apathy creep in a bit too often?
Try this: Give yourself over to the clock. During those low-energy days set a specific time limit and go for it. Don’t worry about number of sets, exercises, or anything else, just get as much done in the time allotted as possible. Be sure to set the time limit to less than you're used to so you feel a healthy sense of urgency to get going. Giving yourself too much time will only keep you on the path of boredom. Choose something like 25 minutes.
Related: Time Frame Training for a 15 Minute Total Body Beatdown
7. Set a Rep Goal
With the time limit trick you most likely will be keeping track of sets and reps. You may put into practice the traditional cadence of several sets of moderate rep ranges. Setting a rep goal is a little different in that you won’t have to worry about sets, time, or even the amount of weight to a certain extent.
Try this: On days when you just don’t have the mojo to leave it all in the gym, set a total rep goal for your next workout. For example, you could decide to work your entire lower body using a total of 100 or 150 reps. It could be 100 reps of one exercise or 10 exercises. Don’t keep track of sets, only the amount of reps you’ve completed. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, it's better than not even going to the gym in the first place.
8. Break and Journal
So, you’ve possibly tried a few of the tricks above but to no avail. The fact of the matter is that you may just need some time away to ponder (or maybe forget) things a bit. Step back, take time to rest not only physically but mentally as well, and reevaluate your purpose. Sometimes we get stuck in the weeds of what we are doing and lose sight of the bigger picture. This is the perfect time to take pause and refocus.
Try this: Take a few days or a week off from your workouts. Now, this isn’t the greenlight to go lie on the couch with a bag of Cheetos. You still want to remain active by participating in some recreational activities such as a favorite sport. They key isn’t to become lazy and aimless.
Next, write down a few things you want to accomplish by training at a gym. Write down an overall goal and then a few points about how you will get there. Write it down, put it away, and then take your break. At the end of your break open up those notes and review them. Do you still feel the same way? If so, are you now refreshed and ready to hit the gym with new gusto and enthusiasm?
I thought so.
How do you get motivated?