13 Ways To Get Over The Mental Dread Of A Workout
You know that feeling when you want to exercise, but dread the thought of actually working out? If so, you're definitely not alone. This is something plenty of people struggle with, whether they're new to exercise or not. But the good news is it can be overcome, even if you fight the feeling on a daily basis.
"It’s totally normal," Celeste Currie, advanced trainer and nutrition coach, tells Bustle. "[And yet,] as with any other activity, the more you do it, the more natural it becomes and the feeling of dread dissipates. Plus, once you find something you enjoy, and you know why you’re doing it and what you’re working towards, you’ll want to go get it done."
While it may be tough to believe in the moment, you'll likely find that once you push past the initial mental block, you'll actually find workouts fun — and may even begin to crave those sweet, sweet endorphins.
Whether you're struggling with a lack of energy, time, or motivation, there are ways to push past it all, so you can finally lace up those running shoes and get to it. Here are a few tips for getting past the mental dread of a workout, according to experts.
1. Only Do Things You Enjoy
You'll definitely dread working out if your go-to regimen includes things you hate. So if you despise lifting weights, can't stand running, or feel unhappy in yoga class, find something else to do.
"Always pick a workout activity that you know you’re going to enjoy doing," Currie says. "We get too wrapped up in the ‘gym’ mentality and forget that as long as you break a sweat, then you’re working out."
So don't be afraid to experiment, until you find something that feels right. "If you’re not sure or new to exercise, try things out and find something you enjoy," Currie says. "If you enjoy it, then you won’t dread it."
2. Try Group Workouts
For extra motivation, sign up for a group workout class, or ask a friend if they'd like to tag along for a run.
"Group workouts are a great environment to be in as you naturally feel motivated by the people around you," Currie says. "Plus, it’s more fun to do things with others."
Not to mention, if you know your friend is waiting on you, you'll be less likely to bail at the last second.
3. Exercise In The Morning
You might find that working out first thing in the morning — before you get too tired or busy — will help you stay motivated. "Plus, you’ll leave on an endorphin high and go about your day knowing you’ve already done something beneficial," Currie says.
4. Start With Just A Warmup
If the thought of doing an entire workout seems daunting, play a little mind trick on yourself and commit to doing the warmup only.
"Often your workout is never as bad as you think, so start small and tell yourself just to get the warmup done, then you can see how you feel," Currie says. "Usually once you start, you’ll keep going and get it all done."
5. Find Your Motivation
If you find yourself dreading a workout, look for the deeper reasons why you want to exercise. And focus on that.
"Motivation comes and goes, but real desire and passion for your goal doesn’t," Currie says. "If you have that fire, then you’ll get it done. So what you really need to ask yourself, is 'why am I doing this?'"
Do you want to feel stronger? Have better health? Work towards a fitness goal? Reduce your stress?
"Once you shift your mindset away from ‘working out’ to ‘taking care of yourself’ or ‘getting stronger’ or ‘feeling better’, whatever your reason may be, you have your power, because you have your why," Currie says. "Always have a why."
6. Try Something New Each Time
If your dread seems to stem from boredom, then it's time to switch things up.
"Incorporate a new element into each workout," Demi Dee, fitness trainer and health coach, tells Bustle. "This could be a new playlist, a new gym outfit, a new exercise, etc. The key is to keep it fresh in some way."
And yes, you can make it new and different every single time. "It doesn't have to be a big change," Dee says. "But make it something that piques your interest and gets you excited."
7. Put It In Your Calendar
If you're someone who sticks to a plan, it may help to schedule your workout into your day. "Just like how you would remember to go to a doctor’s appointment, make your workout an appointment," Marisa Kochnover, owner of CycleBar Fort Lee and CycleBar Closter, tells Bustle. "Mark it down on your phone or calendar." And view it as just as important as everything else.
8. Incorporate It Into Your Day
Working out doesn't have to mean hitting the gym, going for a run, or sweating it out to a YouTube video. If those things have never worked for you, and contribute to your dread, go about it a different way.
"Incorporate exercise into your daily routine so that you get the exercise while accomplishing your tasks," Dee says. "For example, walk part of the way home after work. You could also plan an active outing with your pal rather than meeting for drinks." There are endless ways to make it happen, so it feels more natural.
9. Make An Upbeat Playlist
One way to get yourself up and moving is by playing motivational music. So if you don't have one already, create a playlist that feels inspiring.
"The power of the words and beat of the music will keep you in good spirits," health and wellness expert Nadia Murdock, tells Bustle. And it'll make getting through your workout all the easier.
10. Create Positive Associations
From now on, start to "associate physical activity with something you really enjoy," clinical and sports psychologist Erin Haugen, PhD, LP, CMPC, tells Bustle. "Only watch your favorite show, read your favorite magazine/book, or listen to your favorite music or podcast when working out." You could even plan to meet up with a friend, or find a way to exercise with your dog.
"[You'll] begin to associate something you don't look forward to with something you do look forward to," Dr. Haugen says. And who knows? It may even become your favorite part of the day.
11. Have An Emotional Goal
The next time you're feeling stuck, motivate yourself with a goal. But try not to focus on the usuals — like physical results — if that doesn't do it for you.
"Make it an emotional goal, as in something you are very passionate about," Ashley Stewart, owner of Kardiá Personal Training, tells Bustle. "Maybe your goal is to work out because you know you will feel better afterward."
If it's something that's meaningful to you, it may help you to push past the mental block.
12. Remove All Obstacles
The fewer obstacles standing between you and that morning run — or whatever it is you'd like to do — the less likely you'll be to give into the dread.
"Leave your workout clothes out as a reminder, set an alarm on your phone, invest in an activity tracker so you are reminded to keep moving," Currie says. Anything that'll remind you, and get you moving in the right direction.
13. Just Do It
If all else fails, view your workout as something that needs to be done — like putting away the dishes or taking out the trash — and just do it.
"It is a part of life," Cary Williams, CEO of Boxing & Barbells, tells Bustle. "Even though this doesn’t seem like a fun way to make yourself workout, the end result will feel great! Of course, we can try to remind ourselves how great it feels when we are finished with the workout, but it is sometimes hard to keep that memory alive."
Because let's be real, that sinking feeling you might experience before a workout can be intense. Exercise can be difficult, and time-consuming, and it can be so tough to get out of your comfy bed and run out into the cold.
But if you'd like to move more often, or push through a workout, these tips may be just what you need to feel motivated. And get it done.