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Episode 20

No Exercise Motivation?

outdoor gallery painting in berlin germany

Not motivated to exercise at home or at the gym?

We all feel this way sometimes. This walking podcast episode covers you why you can’t get motivated to exercise and shows you how to get started again. Slip on your walking shoes and let’s head out.

Highlights: Healthy habits are hard. Change your personal goals.

Start. Stop. Start. Stop. You try to make exercising a habit, but then you stop. Other healthy new habits seem easier to fit into your life. So why can’t you stick with working out?    

  • Exercise has many moving parts. It’s a series of steps to even get started.
  • It’s harder to create a habit out of something that’s more complex.
  • Do habit triggers work?
  • Our supply chain issues can help you relate to what’s stopping you from being consistent with exercise.
  • What to do when things get in the way of your workouts.
  • Create an exercise backup plan.
  • What exercise can you fit into your life that will work for you?
  • Doing the same workouts all the time and going through motions the can sabotage your motivation.
  • When you throw exercise at the wall without an actual, tangible reason you may not reach your goals.
  • Pick a physical event or exercise goal to train for.

Why you don’t have motivation to work out

Exercise has many moving parts. It takes a series of steps to even get started. Making your morning coffee, brushing your teeth, or washing your face are all ingrained in your mind and part of your day. You do them and you’re done. You don’t even think about it.

Exercise is more complex and requires more actual thought to carry out. It’s harder to get motivated when you have to do x number of things before you start. (Change your clothes, put your hair in a ponytail, fill up your water bottle, put on workout shoes, grab your gym bag, set up your equipment or drive to the gym…)

Exercise habit triggers can help

You can build habit triggers that will help you get moving. Lay out your workout clothes, set your shoes by your bed, fill up your water bottle in advance and place it on the table, block the door with your gym bag, set an alarm for when you want to start, lay your yoga mat on the floor, etc. We’ve talked about these habit triggers before. You start to associate the trigger with the habit, and that helps get your mind ready for exercise.

Make a work out back up plan

Shit happens. Make a backup plan. If you plan to go for a 30-minute run in the morning and your child is up vomiting all night, just squeeze in 10 minutes of squats or stretching. If you can’t do the one thing you planned, do something…anything. Don’t do nothing just because your original plan didn’t happen.

Listen to your body

We go, go, go. Tell ourselves we always have to work out really hard. Our high expectations can get in our way. Sometimes we just don’t want to do the hard thing. And because we don’t allow ourselves other easier options, we end up doing nothing. Our habits and consistency go out the window. Listen to your body and give it what it needs. If you’ve had very little sleep, don’t go at 110%.

Plan for a physical event or goal to train for

Doing the same workouts all the time makes you bored and unmotivated. You go through the motions, and don’t put your heart into it. Give yourself a physical goal or event to “train” for. If you want to run consistently, sign up for a charity 5K and train for it. Looking at yourself as an athlete – and training regularly – will help you stay motivated and consistent. Break down what you want to physically do into steps, and train for each step, each building on top of the other.

Exercise motivation quotes from the episode

“I guess that’s determination. Running until my toenail falls off.”

“Staying consistent with exercise seems like something that’s totally easy. But it’s not totally easy for most of us.”

“Exercise is harder to make a habit because of all those moving pieces, all the variables and things that are out of your control.”

“We go hard and push ourselves. We have all these really high expectations of ourselves. And then sometimes we just don’t want to do it. We’re not up for it. So instead of doing something easier, we just don’t do anything.”

“You’re just throwing everything at the wall to see what will stick but in your mind you don’t have an actual, tangible reason to work out.”

“Because if you were an athlete, you would not miss your workouts.”

Photo: Outdoor art – Berlin, Germany

Podcast Transcript

Start stop. Stop, start, start, stop. Stop. Start. That's the story of my life with exercise. I start and then I stop. How can I be more consistent? And how hard can that be?

We are going to talk today about why we cannot stay consistent with exercise. And there are so many factors that are involved in that, because it seems like something that will be so totally easy. But it is not so totally easy for most of us, unless maybe it is your job.

Now it is tricky to stay with exercise for a lot of people. One of the reasons why I taught spin, aside from the fact that I adore teaching spin and I loved just coming to class and seeing everybody, was that it forced me to exercise because the class was waiting for me. If I didn't feel like it, well that was just too bad because a whole room full of people were waiting for me. So I had to show up and that was actually a good thing because I never wanted to go before I got to class. I was like, oh, I don’t want to go, I have to teach.

But then when I got there I was so happy. It was a great way for me to force myself to exercise, but not everybody wants to or can teach a group exercise class. And I'm going to give you some tips on how you can make yourself exercise and, and maybe even enjoy it. What? Yes, it is the truth.

We have habits that we do every day or they're actually not habits. They're routines. Our routines are, we get up in the morning, we make coffee, maybe we make breakfast. We brush our teeth, we get the kids off to school. And those are routines that we do every day. We call them habits, but they're really not habits. They’re things that we've done for so long that we think of them of being habits, but they’re more of a routine.

So you think, I really want to make exercise like one of those things that I do every day, but there's so many things that get in the way of that, because exercise is more complex. It's not just one thing. It's a series of many steps.

If you're working out at home, you’ve got to get dressed. You have to get your gear together. You want to make sure you have your water, find a quiet spot, put on whatever the YouTube video you're going to be doing. Or if you're just going to work out on your own, get on the elliptical or the bike.

If you're going to the gym, you’ve got to get everything ready, get in the car, go make sure you have a change of clothes or whatever you need. So there are all these steps that can get in your way, because somewhere along the line, something could fail.

Think of it like as your own supply chain. We're all familiar with the word supply chain now aren't we? Although I'm going to say two years ago, none of us had any clue what a supply chain was. So, almost think about this as your own supply chain, even though you’re not supplying anything, except the steps to get where you need to go.

That is why exercise can be hard to ingrain as part of your life. Like making coffee is part of your life. Exercise is harder to become that part because of all those moving pieces and all the variables and things that are out of your control - and things that are within your control.

We're going to talk about how you can make them a habit and how you can kind of make yourself do it. And the things that you can do to make it easier for you to try to create a new routine in your life that includes exercise.

The number one thing that you can do is to not beat yourself up if something does not go according to plan. That is the first thing that you're going to think about. Things happen. Shit happens. It's okay. But you want to make that backup plan that I'm always talking about. Make a backup plan that if this doesn't happen, I can do this instead.

If you have it in your mind that you're going to go for a 30 minute run and that 30 minute run can’t happen that day, well, maybe you can do a 10 minute walk instead. Maybe you can do some high intensity interval training, some burpees. Yay! I'm just kidding. I hate burpees. Do squats, something to get your heart rate up and so that you incorporate some kind of exercise as your routine, but it's not something that's going to be impossible for you to keep up with.

The backup plan is what will help you make exercise a routine or a habit, something that you would do all the time. Because that way, if you can't do what you want to do, you're still moving your body.

And that's the whole point. What can you fit into your life that will work for you? Something that will give you some exercise, but yet is not going to be so impossible that you're not going to do it.

You can build those habit triggers that we've talked about before, like laying your clothes out, setting your gym bag by the door, grabbing your spin shoes, getting your water bottle or our yoga mat. You can build those triggers, but sometimes you just still are not going to do it, especially if you have set your expectations really high.

That's why having a backup exercise that may not be quite as challenging is really what can help keep you on that course of consistent exercise. The very first gym I worked at had the spinning program, the original Spinning program by Johnny G – Mad Dogg Athletics.

The original program was set up with three different class formats: what we called all terrain, which was an interval ride. We had a strength class, which was a lot of climbing. And then we also had an endurance ride, which was 70% to 80% percent of our heart rate.

And what was really cool about that is that if you were feeling kick ass and you wanted to conquer the world, you could go to the all terrain class.

Or if you felt like a good climb, you could work hard and hit some really good climbs. But if you were feeling a little bit tired, or maybe you didn't sleep as well, or you were just out of sorts, you could go to the endurance class. The endurance class was still a good workout, but it wasn't insurmountable, or it wasn't something that you dreaded. And that was really great because you could plan which class we're going to take based on how you're feeling.

We've really gotten away from that. We just always go, go, go. We have to work really hard. We have to give, like I say, 110%. Technically it is not possible in math, but I'm not a good math whiz. We go so hard and we push ourselves and we have all these really high expectations. And then sometimes we just don't want to do it. We're not up for it. So instead of doing something a little easier, we just don't do anything.

And then our habits and consistency go out the window. Give yourself option A and option B, depending on how you feel. And yeah, sometimes we're just not feeling like exercising. But then when we go to the gym or we do something hard or we go for that run, we feel amazing afterwards. Listen to your body, learn what works for you and how your body feels, and the difference of when you really can do something hard and when you can’t.

Now, have you noticed when you do the same workouts all the time and you just are kind of going through the motions because you don't really know why you're doing them? Like you're doing this class, you're taking that class. You're just throwing everything at the wall to see what will stick but you don't have an actual, tangible reason to exercise. Yeah. You want to get fitter and you want to, you know, be able to do things when you're older, but make a goal for yourself. Set a goal. Set a goal for maybe you want to walk for a breast cancer awareness event. So train for that train with walking, train the strength in your legs, train your endurance, train to pick up speed.

Give yourself that goal. If you want to - I think I mentioned before, one of my clients wanted to go paddle boarding again, so we got her to the point where she had her balance back and strengthened her legs and she went paddle boarding. What is it that you can do? What is it that you want to do that you can train for?

Make it like an athletic event. Treat yourself like an athlete.

If you want to run, but you just don't think you can consistently motivate yourself to run, sign up for a 5K. If you've never really run one before a 5k will give you the goal that you need to train towards in order to keep you consistent with running. It's all about tricking yourself, which I know I've said before, but if you treat yourself like an athlete and you imagine that you're an athlete and you're training for a specific goal, then you're much more apt to keep up with a routine.

Because if you were an athlete, you would not miss your workouts. I did a 5k once. It was one and done because I discovered I am a spinner and not a runner. And I used to cycle a lot but I did train for the 5k. I started running, which was different because I spun. I spun. Is that even the right verb, spin, spin, spun, spun? I was spinning all the time and my legs were strong and my cardio was strong, but I did not use those same muscles when running as spinning.

So that was interesting because the first run I went on, I was so sore, my poor legs. They were dying, even though they were strong. Because it was a whole different use of muscles. And then the day of the 5k I was running. And I didn't realize that I just had the wrong shoes either because I just, you know, I just bought whatever. I didn't know.

I didn't know there were different shoes for running. Better shoes to run in. So I ran the 5k and everybody pretty much blew past me, but then when we got to the hills and I gained a little bit of speed because I was a spinner. I was a climber. I loved to climb on the bike. So I was able to gain speed on the hills because I guess that's my jam, the climbing.

I remember we were passing Krispy Kreme, and they were handing us water and I'm like, no, why can't you hand us donuts? I don't want water. I want donuts. So we ran and I got to the finish line. I think I finished like 26 or 27 minutes, which was good for me because I'm exceptionally short.

And some of these women had really long legs. But I made it and I was so happy when I crossed the finish line. I never ran another one. I never had a desire to run another one. It was like one and done. It was on my bucket list of things I wanted to do. So you could make a little bucket list of physical things you want to do that are reasonable and feasible, like a mud run, for example, or some of those all obstacle courses.

There's so many things that you could do physically and that you can train for, and it will really help you. Have a reason to work out because sometimes we just all need a reason.

Oh, that's one thing I forgot to tell you about is that I lost half of my toenail on my right foot.

I lost half of the toenail and then my ex - my then husband, but now ex – and the kids were going to Maui. And so I put an artificial half nail on my toe, because I was going to wear sandals. I guess that's determination. I'm going to run until my toenail falls off. But that's just, you know, a story of my life and it is a battle story and a story that I can tell. You can tell stories when you do things, too. Think about what it is that you could do that you could train for.

Charity things are great. If there's any kind of event, and not just a 5k. A triathlon where you can team up with other people and you could take the leg that you're strongest in. If you're not a good swimmer, you could do the run or the bicycling. Check for any charity events near you that have some kind of activity and then train for that.

Every walk, you get stronger. Every walk you get more motivated. Every walk becomes more of a habit.

Remember, you can always reach me on my website, walkingandtalking.show. Wouldn't be funny if I gave you some, some different website that's not mine because I've been known to do that. You can send me a message. Join my Facebook group and imperfectlyhealthy.group.

I would really love it if you would share this podcast with other people, maybe people want to walk or people who love to walk. The more we can share it, the more people we can help.

If you have an idea that you would like me to cover in the podcast, I will be happy to get new ideas - especially finding out what it is that you need. What do you need? What can I help you with?

Let’s keep kicking ass.



Helen is an author, entrepreneur, certified personal trainer, and lifestyle coach. She lost over 80 pounds and kept it off for 16 years. She loves travel, chocolate, and cats.