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Motivating the Mind

Struggling to feel motivated?

Most people find it difficult to take action when they realize they need to begin working out, and most of them find it even more difficult to stick with their workout habits once they start to get bored, aren’t seeing their desired results, or stop having as much time. If you look back to the first word of this paragraph, you’ll notice that I used the word “most.” I didn’t say “many,” I didn’t say “some,” and I definitely did not say “just you.” I used “most” because it is more accurate than the others, and I am emphasizing it because people tend to feel alone in these situations, but they are completely not alone. All people struggle with a lack of motivation at times, and there are steps that we can take to overcome this lack of motivation.

Digging to the Root of the Problem

There are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is the type of motivation that means that you do something simply because you like the activity. All benefits that happen to come from that activity are set aside and play no role in your reasoning for liking the activity. This isn’t necessarily the most common outlook in the case of exercise but it does exist among some people. Extrinsic motivation is motivation that stems from the benefits of doing the activity as well as the damages that may occur if the activity is avoided. In the case of exercise, some sources of extrinsic motivation could be that you like to spend time with your friends by coming to an exercise class, you want to be able to keep up with your grandkids, or you want to minimize your risk of poor health in the future. Whatever the case may be, it is important to identify which kind of motivation you have and develop a plan for maintaining that motivation. Exercising with intrinsic motivation is most beneficial and safe because you can always rely on it. Simply reasoned, if you like to exercise, then you will exercise. Extrinsic motivation requires accountability, unchanging interests, and possibly assistance from others. For example, let’s say that your motivation comes from the social aspect of your workout sessions. To rely solely on extrinsic motivation, you have to hold yourself accountable by choosing an active way to be social such as exercising with your friend rather than watching a movie with your friend. You also run the risk of your interests changing such as you possibly wanting more time to yourself. When you lose the interest that had been the baseline of your motivation from the beginning (in this case, being social), you’ll need to be able to find a new interest that will act as your new foundation of motivation. And lastly, what happens if your sidekick loses interest in exercising? It is best to have a contingency plan for moments like this when the person you rely on to hold you accountable backs out. In conclusion, extrinsic motivation should be relied on only for the short term until you find enjoyment and fulfillment from exercise alone. This should give you enough time to find exercises and workout plans that you genuinely enjoy and to create the foundation you need to establish healthy habits.

How to prepare for lapses and how to recover from them

The first step to preparing for a lapse in your progress is accepting the fact that they are going to happen. No matter how many days you have been training, how many of your goals you have reached, and your level of commitment to your program, something is going to come up and you need to be ready for it. A good way to prepare is to make a list of all your goals. These should be your exercise goals as well as every other thing you wish to accomplish in a set amount of time. Many people tend to put the biggest/most important goals at the top of their lists. If you struggle with exercise motivation, putting your exercise goal at the top of the list may make it seem big - too big for you to accomplish. If this is a familiar situation for you, try hiding it within your list, somewhere near the middle or end. Grouping your exercise goals with other, smaller goals makes your exercise ones seem less intimidating and you’ll be more likely to be excited to do them. Another reason for doing this is for a case in which you do not reach your exercise goal. Yes, you may have not accomplished that one exercise goal but everywhere else on that very list, you are able to see all of the other goals you were able to check off. This will help you to maintain your self confidence and be even more inclined to try harder the next day. It is important to take pride in the little things in life - don’t let small failures discourage you. Let them be lessons, and let the successes be reasons to be proud of yourself.

Strategies for finding baseline and continuing motivation

Start out random

Some people like to have a routine when exercising that way they can be sure that they have accomplished everything (and more than everything) done the previous workout session. Yes, it is much easier to track your progress this way but until you find your intrinsic motivation, it can cause a development in negative feelings about exercise as well as oneself. This can happen if you don’t reach very many of your goals (whether you set too many or set too high of goals). It will lead to pushing yourself harder out of frustration with yourself rather than simply out of motivation for bettering yourself. Eventually, this process results in a negative association placed upon exercise and an even lower level of self-esteem and motivation. To prevent this chain of events, try to keep your exercise schedule regular but feel free to make your exercise routine random. In other words, don’t even make a routine. Do what you feel like doing, try new exercises each time you come in, and stray from any and all paths you may begin to develop. Your only real focus here should be to stay until you feel like you’ve gotten a good workout in. This strategy may seem a little backwards but at this point in your exercise journey, it is only meant as a means of establishing and preserving a healthy relationship with exercise.

Find something new before you get bored

If you feel like your interest in a certain activity is beginning to falter, it is best to move on and find something new. Don’t continue doing an exercise out of habit if it is causing you to dread going to your exercise sessions. Speak with a trainer about your concerns and work out a solution with them to prevent the problem before it happens. Again, having negative feelings that stem from exercise may cause long term disinterest in exercising in general. Furthermore, stopping that now-dull exercise that you used to enjoy may become enjoyable for you again if you discontinued that activity before you really began disliking it. There are multitudes of healthy activities available to the world and you shouldn’t ever feel like you have to stick with the same old things just because you have grown accustomed to them. At WellBound Fitness, we are more than happy to work with you to find what your interests are to make sure that you are happy and receiving the care you deserve.

Remind yourself of your reason for starting

Once you are far into your workout journey and you begin to reach a plateau, you may feel like you are losing progress. You may have the mindset of “if I’m not getting increasingly better, I must be getting worse.” This is not true. Once you have reached your point of optimal fitness, you most likely will not have more significant advances because all of your time and hard work has finally brought you to where you had first dreamed of being. There comes a point where you cannot keep up your goal of adding one more sit-up during each workout session, and at moments like this, you have to remember that your original goal wasn’t to be able to do x amount of sit-ups, it was to be active and live a healthy lifestyle. If you have begun to plateau, it is due to the fact that you have accomplished this goal.


Getting and staying motivated is somewhat of a challenge for everyone but it can be overcome if the will is there. The strategies listed above are suggestions that have proven to be very successful in my personal experience as well as others around me. If they do not work for you, do not be discouraged. Everyone’s mind operates differently and there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to accommodating to all needs. There are many other ways to cope with and overcome a lack of motivation. Just know that you are capable of anything you set your mind to and that your goals are worth it.

Go out and accomplish great things!

Laura Toennies

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