Ever notice how much more active you are in the spring/summer? You’re not alone. Research has shown that energy expended during leisure time activity is significantly greater in the warmer months of the year – at least in areas where a distinct four seasons are experienced. In the winter, when you can’t see past the snow outside your window, you’re more likely to reach for the TV remote (and that box of cookies) than to go for a walk outside. Today, you may look at photos of yourself from last August and wonder what the heck happened over the past 8 months. Unless you’re particularly motivated and bucked the trend, you may find your current self but a pasty and pudgy version of last summer’s. For those of us living in southeast Canada, and northeast US – this winter has been particularly rough. So far, the spring has also been underwhelming.
Personally, when I haven’t been able to get a decent workout in a while, as time passes I become progressively less motivated to get back into the exercise routine. With every day of inactivity I sense as though the hurdle that I need to overcome to be active again becomes greater.
Part of the problem is that I enjoy intense workouts. When I take some time off, I know I won’t be able to bring the same level of intensity I did when I was regularly exercising for some time. And this very thought is what discourages me from getting back into it.
Alas, it is time to get moving again. But how to overcome your feeble motivation?
Whenever I am in such a slump, I allow myself a series of “good enough” workouts. In essence, I force myself to go to the gym or on a run, with a very simple goal: simply to do something. On such days, I will run slower, lift less weight, and generally push very little during the workout. Sometimes I may even do a fraction of my normal workout. It really doesn’t matter. At the end of it, I did something and tomorrow’s workout will be that much better. If I’m in a real slump – I don’t even bother with the gym or gym clothes. In that case, I may go for a long walk with my wife or do some simple calisthenics at home – a few push-ups here a lunge or two there. Every little bit helps, and increases the likelihood of activity on the following day.
I’ve recently found that this change in thinking is just what I need to jumpstart my exercise routine when I’ve fallen off the wagon. While having an intense workout after a week of inactivity seems like a daunting task, merely putting on your gym clothes (or not) and half-heartedly doing a couple push-ups is much more achievable. The added benefit of talking it easy when you try to get yourself back into the swing of things is that you won’t be that sore the following day. If, after a period of inactivity, you go back and immediately try and resume the intensity you had going a month ago, you’re likely to feel terrible tomorrow. This again will work against you in building up your activity momentum.
What tricks do you play on yourself to keep yourself motivated and dedicated to maintaining your activity level?