What to Do When You Don’t Feel Like Exercising

We all have days when we don’t feel like exercising. Maybe some of us feel like that every single day, but if we lived life solely by how we feel, would we ever get anything done?

For example, what I really feel like doing right now is sitting in a hammock reading a book while a lovely shirtless man fans me with palm fronds and feeds me peeled grapes.

I don’t happen to have a hammock, palm fronds, or a shirtless man (well, except my husband and he’s at work, presumably wearing a shirt). Even if I did, I would still have to do what I have to do every day. And that includes exercise.

Part of what drives us to exercise has to do with habit, but making exercise a habit is hard. It’s just plain old hard to create a habit where you’re doing something that, at least initially, is uncomfortable. It’s not comfortable to move your body in a rhythmic fashion or lift weights up and down if your body isn’t used to it.

So, because we know it’s probably going to be uncomfortable, we might say this to ourselves: “I’ll just do it tomorrow!” Because tomorrow you’ll feel like it, right?

Nope. Doesn’t work that way.

So, let’s deal with the ‘I don’t feel like it’ problem. What do you do when you’re about as motivated to exercise as you would be to get your gums scraped?

Short answer: You do it anyway.

Longer answer: Negotiate with yourself. It’s like getting your dog to come to you. If you say, “Come!” she probably just stares at you like, why the hell would I do that? But if you have a treat in your hand? Now you’re talking.

Getting yourself to exercise starts with my number one rule of exercise:

Never tolerate being miserable.

With that in mind, here are some ideas for you.

Getting Yourself to Exercise

1. Do Something Fun. Sometimes a workout seems like one more obligation on top of all the other responsibilities we have. When it starts to feel like drudgery, breaking the routine can be just what you need to remember the simple joy of moving your body for no other purpose than to have fun. Rather than do the same old workout or, on the other hand, nothing at all, just move around. Put on some music and dance or power up the Wii. Play fetch with the dog or just wander around the neighborhood and look into people’s windows (okay, don’t do that – that’s stalking). Go out and toss a tennis ball against the garage door. Just mess around.

2. Do Something Easy. Easy exercise is one thing many veteran exercisers simply don’t allow. We know we have to work hard if we want to maintain our weight and stay strong and fit. But, if you’re having one of those ho-hum kind of days, an easy workout may be just what the doctor ordered. Instead of worrying about burning muscles or getting your heart rate up, take a slow walk or go for a bike ride. Get out your mat and do some stretching. Easy days are great recovery for the mind and body.

3. Give Yourself a Reward. This is by far my favorite negotiation tool. Promise yourself something you really like – Reading a book in a hammock, for example, or a glass of wine while you play iPad games. Give yourself some guilt-free pleasure in exchange for moving your body.

4. Do Something Simple. When you’re low on motivation, even the idea of changing your clothes sounds like a lot of work. Instead of doing something complicated, try a simple workout that doesn’t even require you to change your clothes. This Feel Good Workout is perfect on days like this. You’re basically sitting in a chair stretching. Simple, right?

5. Take a Fitness Test. Another interesting thing to do when you don’t feel like the same old workout is to take yourself through a little fitness test. You’ll get in a workout while seeing just how strong and fast you really are. Here’s a sample:

  • Run or walk 1 mile as fast as you can
  • Do as many as you can of the following exercises:
    • Squats
    • Lunges
    • Pushups
    • Dips
    • Crunches

Keep track of how you did and keep it handy for the next time so you can see how far you’ve come. End the workout with a relaxing stretch.

6. Play Hookey. This is probably my favorite thing to do when I don’t feel like exercising. If you’re worried about getting off track with your routine, you may want to do some type of exercise…but if you know you can get right back to it tomorrow, why not savor an extra day off? Use your workout time to do something you never have time for – read a book, take a bath, take a nap, pet your cat or just stare out the window. Taking an extra day off can energize you for your next workout.

Being unmotivated doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. You just need to give yourself the right incentive and that will change from one day to the next. Give yourself permission to NOT feel like exercising…and then go do something anyway.

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