How to Motivate Yourself When You Don’t Want to Work Out

Motivating yourself to work out is as easy as following these three simple steps

It’s Sunday night. You’re winding down from a fun weekend that consisted of a few fancy cocktails, maybe one too many decadent desserts, a rather large brunch (with more cocktails) and a whole lot of inactivity.

You’re feeling a little out of shape and therefore planning a quest to start a full-on overhaul of your fitness routine, starting tomorrow.

You promise yourself that you’ll work out every day, you vow to eat only salad for lunch and insist that you won’t consume one drop of alcohol for an entire month.

You successfully follow all of your rules on Monday, but come Tuesday morning, as your alarm clock buzzes loudly, all the motivation you had mustered up the day before seems to have dwindled away and suddenly your bed  and that extra hour of sleep seem much more precious than a workout ever could.

Let’s face it; we’ve all been here before, whether having experienced some iteration of the above scenario or dealing with the battle of getting yourself to the gym after a long day of work.

The bottom line is that everyone struggles with finding the motivation to work out. But whether it’s an ongoing battle or a struggle that emerges every once in a while, there are a few simple steps you can take that will help you to overcome anything that might derail your motivation.

In order to collect some expert motivational tips, I talked with Dr. Simon Rego, Director of Psychology Training at Montefiore Medical Center and Associate Professor of Clinical Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

He explains that motivating yourself to work out is as easy as following these three simple steps.

-How to Motivate Yourself to Work Out-

1. Put action before motivation.
“Many people think that motivation must precede action,” says Rego. “In actuality, motivation often increases after you start doing something! So the task is to remember how you've felt after finishing something (e.g., exercising) rather than before starting it. (How often have you regretted a workout after you're done?)”

2. Break a task into bits and start small.
“Based on point number one (above), breaking a task down and focusing on just the first and smallest step you need to get started (e.g., get into your gym clothes) is often easier than imagining doing the entire task,” says Rego. “Then, once you get started, your motivation will often rise and create a momentum towards doing the next step (‘Now that I am in my clothes, let me grab my iPod!’), and so on.”

3. Challenge negative thoughts.
“Negative thoughts have a tendency to creep into our minds, especially when we ‘don't feel like’ doing a task,” says Rego. “If you can catch, challenge and change these thoughts, you can often feel better about doing the task, as they are often distorted in unrealistic ways. (e.g., ‘I don't have time’ or ‘I am too tired’ can be challenged and changed into ‘Doing something quick and easy will make me feel better than doing nothing at all’ and ‘I always feel energized after I am done!’)