Working Out When You Just Don't Want To

First world problems - the usual cause for missing workouts.

First world problems - the usual cause for missing workouts.

You may not realize it, but like you, there are times when I have trouble finding motivation to work out.  Yes, it happens to everyone, even those who love (and I do mean, love) to lift heavy things.  But, let's not get crazy, as the number of workouts I've missed over the past year can be counted on a single hand.

So, how do I manage to drag myself into the gym and under a stack of weights even when I'm not feeling "in the mood?"  Here are a few of my tips, and they're all pretty simple.  But believe me, they're not easy.

First, it's important to point out that not every workout is meant leave you absolutely exhausted.  In fact, I'm not sure anyone should ever workout to the point where they're lying on the floor, gasping for air, and trying desperately to keep their lunch from joining them down there.  Training sessions should give you MORE energy, instead of running you down.  Now, this is a hard concept for many to grasp, and it took me years to fully understand it.  Your body only has so much ability to recover, and all you need is the minimal effective dose.  After all, you wouldn't run your car into the ground every single day, so why do it with your body?

Dan John, one of my favorite authors and notable strength coach, often talks about the value of the "punch the clock" workouts.  These are the days when you go to the gym, and like the name, simply "punch the clock" on your workouts.  On those days, be content with where you are and the fact that you're not going to break any records.  Tomorrow is a different day, and some days, just showing up is a goal in itself.

Next, even if I've resigned myself to a "punch the clock" workout, how do I manage to get my butt off the seat and actually under some weight?  I look at my "fire starter" list.  As the name says, this list is meant to light a fire, harnessing any fleeting sense of motivation.

What goes on this list?  Well, anything that usually gets me motivated.  Here are a few, and feel free to judge:

  • Listening to any of my previous "Squatting Anthems" ("Kickstart My Heart" by Motley Crue, "Downeaster Alexa" by Billy Joel, etc.)
  • Looking at my lifting journals and seeing how much stronger I am from one year/one month ago.
  • Going back through my goals that I outlined at the beginning of the year (if you don't have goals, then you should probably get some).  Specifically, they are to overhead press 200 pounds, and conventional deadlift well over 400.  There's really nothing quite like having your goals stare you in the face, secretly whispering to you that you're not making progress by sitting on the couch.
  • And, of course, this video:

Lastly, I'm a big believer in the fact that everyone needs to be held accountable.  Look for a training buddy, make friends with others at the gym, and pay money for classes that you'll need to take.  I'm lucky enough that I'm held accountable by each of my clients and coworkers each day.  If I suddenly start to slack and find myself out of shape, I may also find myself out of a job.  Just like a hairdresser with terrible hair, no one is eager to train with an out of shape personal trainer.

So, there you have it.  You will miss sessions in the gym, this is a fact.  Sometimes, this whole thing called "life" just gets in the way.  But like anything else, how do you respond?