What should I do if I'm not motivated to exercise?

Lazy dog
Lazy dog. Janie Airey/Getty Images

We all have days when we don't feel like exercising and some days it's worse than others. There may not even be a particular reason - You feel okay and your energy level is good. It's just that the thought of doing the same old thing makes you want to skip your workout altogether.

When you're in this situation, what do you do? Do you force yourself to workout anyway and risk being miserable or do you take a day off and risk feeling guilty or worse, getting off track with your routine?

There's no right answer here, but you do have some options for getting through those days when motivation is hard to come by.

Tips for Motivating Yourself to Workout

  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, make it into a game. Make your city a gym, try this Star Wars Workout, or try a Bollywood Dance Workout. Grab your kids and play tag or hide and seek. Have an arm-wrestling contest with the family or play fetch with the dog. Doing something fun may be just what you need to break the monotony.
  2. Do Something Easy. If you're a veteran exerciser, you may not allow the word 'easy' to enter into your workout vocabulary. We know we have to work hard to lose weight or maintain our weight and stay strong and fit. But, if you're having a ho-hum kind of day, an easy workout may be just what the doctor ordered. Instead of worrying about burning muscles or getting your heart rate up, take a long walk or get on the stationary bike for a long, easy pedal. Easy days are great recovery for the mind and body.
  1. Do Something Soothing. If you really don't feel like exercising, stretching will almost always make you feel better. You're doing something productive, but you're also doing something that just feels good. Try an easy routine like this Gentle Yoga Workout or this workout to Strengthen & Stretch the Back. You could even go to the gym and use your workout time to sit in the hot tub before doing some light stretching.
  1. 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 Ball Workout requires only a ball and includes simple moves that feel good and work your body in different ways. You could also try an ab workout or even a simple cardio workout like this Low Impact Cardio Blast which requires no equipment other than a decent pair of shoes.
  2. Test Yourself. 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. 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. Here's a sample:
    1. Run or walk 1 mile as fast as you can
    2. Do as many as you can of the following exercises for one minute each:
      1. Jumping jacks
      2. Crunches
      3. Dips
      4. Pushups
      5. Lunges
      6. Squats
  1. Play Hookey. This is something many experienced exercisers don't do enough. They're often trying so hard to get all their workouts in, they forget what it's like to let yourself off the hook every once in a while. Just like we all need mental health days from work, we also need time away from our workouts.  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, or pet your cat. Taking an extra day off can energize you for your next workout.

Whatever you end up doing, just remember it's only one day and nothing lasts forever. Be flexible with yourself and listen to what your body needs. Sometimes, a workout just isn't in the cards that day.

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