Some Advice on Motivation

Motivation can be a struggle on a good day, let alone living under quarantine. It’s OK not to feel motivated right now but there are ways to help you find your motivation again.

Picture this: you had a long day at home, doing paperwork, jumping on Zoom calls, trying to school your kids, managing your finances, cleaning the house, and, before you know it, it’s time for your at-home workout. Or maybe it’s time to prepare that new dinner recipe you had planned on making. (Maybe this WAS your day and you don’t have to try to picture it at all!) After a mentally & physically exhausting day, you just don’t feel like doing any of it. You want to throw in some Easy Mac and relax and watch Tiger King. We’ve all been there, and we’ve all felt ashamed for feeling this way.

We feel pressured to get certain things accomplished, to learn something new, to get on those home workouts because suddenly we supposedly “have nothing but time.” But time isn’t all we have. Time is still a finite resource and on top of that we still have responsibilities and stress and the emotionally taxing task of processing what is happening to us as a society under quarantine.

And yet, a quick scroll through your social media feed will turn up some message that if you don’t learn a new skill, start a new side hustle, or pick up a new hobby at this time, then you are somehow inferior and lazy. This mentality not only ignores the reality before us, it’s also harmful to our mental , emotional, and physical health. No one—and I mean NO ONE—is always motivated and that is OK and it is NORMAL.

So first and foremost, as the article linked above explains, we are processing a lot of big emotions right now, so be gentle with yourself and take what you need at this time. Instead of feeling down on yourself, please remember that not being motivated is okay. Likewise, feeling overly motivated is OK, too. We all process these things differently. Before anything else, you need to listen to your intuition and follow what feels right for you here and now.

If you do feel that you are ready to get moving on some goals now, there are things that you can do to get you started.

4 Ways to Find Motivation

  1. Reevaluate your goals 

If motivation has been a long-time struggle for you, it may be a good time to reevaluate your goals. Make sure you have solid goals, and, if not, change them. But how do I know if my goals are “solid”? Ask yourself the following questions: Is this goal feasible for me to accomplish? How will I know I have accomplished it? Does this goal still resonate with me? What will accomplishing this goal do for me/for my life?

  1. Ask yourself if you are happy with the way you are tackling your goals.

I often remind my clients to take into account their personal preference when it comes to working towards goals. If you don’t enjoy the process, you won’t adhere to it. I take a more agnostic approach to diet and exercise, because the best option is the one you’ll do. You do not exist simply to suffer now in order to be happy later. Choose a form of exercise that you enjoy enough that you don’t dread doing it every day.  Cook recipes that you find tasty as well as healthy. Allow yourself treats from time to time. Whatever you choose, it has to work for you or it won’t work at all.

  1. Look back at how far you have come and celebrate the goals you have already smashed.

We all love to look at how far we have yet to go to reach our goals, but how often do you look back at what you have already accomplished? Don’t be afraid to give yourself a pat on the back. You are doing amazing! Recognize that. When you feel good about what you are doing, you are more likely to see it through.  No matter what stage of change you are in, there’s always something positive to look back upon. If you are still at the very start of changing your lifestyle habits, realize that coming to that decision to make change is often the hardest part for people – so that’s a huge accomplishment in itself! Focus on working towards small goals and build on them over time. Then you can look back and remember that you never used to take time for self care. Or you never used to drink enough water. Or you just started enjoying veggies with every meal. Those are all HUGE wins to celebrate! Don’t deny yourself these victories.

  1. Remember the definitive reason “why” you started

Perhaps most importantly, remember your big “why”. If you don’t already have a definitive “why”, take some time to determine yours. Your “why” should be the deepest and most important reason for changing your habits. It goes beyond things like getting abs or fitting into an old outfit.  It must be specific and have an end result that is meaningful to you. Ask yourself why you want to accomplish your goal? Why does it matter? What impact will accomplishing that goal have on your life? Why is that impact important to you?

Understand that your definitive why should be specific to you. Some examples of powerful whys include: “I want to begin exercising and eating healthier so I can keep up with my kids”, “I want to improve my eating habits so I can help my daughter develop a healthier relationship with food than I had”, or “I’m tired of the way my chronic pain has impeded my daily life and I want to change that.”

When it comes down to it, motivation is a deeply personal force and it requires a lot of introspection to develop it. It also is important to recognize where it’s coming from and why it’s not happening. Listen to your inner voice to do what is best for you.

Coping with an Injury

Back in February, I took a nasty fall down a flight of stairs. Being rather clumsy, I thought “wow, that really sucked,” made sure no one saw it, and tried to stand up, only to be met with the worst searing pain I’ve ever felt in my life. I truly thought that at the ripe old age of 31 I had broken my hip. I used the snow and slush I was stuck seated in as an ice pack while I waited for my fiance to come home from work (fortunately closeby) and pick me up off the ground and get me to the hospital (sorry, to stubborn to pay for an ambulance).

Long story short, I spent several days mostly immobile followed by almost 2 weeks out of work. I had a lot of time to sit and think…about how much this sucked, about how useless I felt, about how I didn’t know how long it would take to get better, about what the loss of my income would mean for us, about all the progress I had made in fitness that was being undone seemingly with every hour I laid on the couch. Your mind goes to some dark places when you’re laid up and home alone with a cat who runs away when she so much as thinks you’re about to cry.

This was a depressing time for me. For someone who relied so heavily on their fitness to make a living – to teach barre, to visit health coaching clients, to wait tables part time – I had to recognize how quickly and easily all of that could be taken away.  Not to mention that my major source of stress relief, exercise, was not an option.

Don’t get me wrong, I was very, very lucky because I could have been must worse off. Nonetheless, this was a challenge for me and I know there are others out there with even bigger obstacles. So I wanted to share some of my tips for getting through situation like this.

8 Tips for Coping with an Injury

1. Ask for help

I don’t mean just with your physical limitations. Have someone you can call when you’re wrapped up in those dark thoughts. Better yet, have a couple different people. Sometimes it helps to have someone outside your family give you the pep talk. I’m so happy that my mother was around that week and could come to my house to keep me company. And one night when I was really wallowing in self-pity and I didn’t want to trouble my fiance with it again, I had a great call with my best friend. Having a support network is key.

2. Focus on what you can do

It is literally too easy to focus on all of your limitations when you’re on the injured list. As corny as it sounds, try to refocus your thoughts on the things you CAN do. Even better, write them down so you have that concrete reminder. I couldn’t go to work, but I could hobble my butt to my desk and get it organized. And, later on, I couldn’t demo the exercises in my barre class, but I could do a damn good job describing every exercise to my students in detail so they could do them (PS thank you to all my students for being to supportive and bearing with me through that!).

3. Keep an eye on your progress

Celebrating the little victories was key for my motivation and spirit. I walked around the house without crutches! I didn’t take a muscle relaxer today! I figured out how to stand up without triggering an excruciating spasm! These were all mini victories that I proudly proclaimed to my fiance every night like a toddler who just went potty for the first time. Instead of dwelling on how down and out you are, look for those little victories and celebrate them.

4. Don’t be discouraged by ups and downs

At the same time, know that progress isn’t linear. You are going to have a couple great days and then one day that feels like a huge step back. It’s normal and it’s still part of your overall forward progression. Take it in stride, listen to your body, and stay focused on your goals.

5. Find some outlets for your stress

Got a hobby you’ve been wanting to pick back up? Or maybe a new one you’ve been wanting to try? Or maybe, like me, you realized you hate where all of your pictures and art work are hanging and want to completely rearrange them. Whatever it is, find something that you can do to keep your mind occupied release some stress.

6. Keep it in perspective

I don’t have a real statistic to back this up but I would say from my own experience that 9 times out of 10, there is some way that whatever is going on could be worse. And sometimes the only way to calm those voices in your head is to to remind yourself that you are grateful it wasn’t worse. There were many times when I had to say to myself “at least it wasn’t broken. Be grateful you still have both legs. You could have hit your head but you didn’t.” Kind of dark, yes, but it did help me realize that I had a shorter road to go than I felt like I did.

7. Feel the gratitude

For every little thing that someone does to be helpful or supportive, really take a moment to think about it and feel genuinely grateful for their help. You might be out of work and have no money coming in, but you’ll feel much richer just by taking 5 minutes to really feel thankful for that phone call from your best friend, or the dinner your neighbor dropped off, or that hug from your significant other when you were having an irrational meltdown… again.

8. Take care of yourself in the ways that you can

Exercising was out for several weeks, and I knew that. And as much as I wanted to smother my sorrows in a bottle of wine and a bag of salt and vinegar potato chips, I didn’t. Well, I had a little bit, but not the whole bottle or the whole bag. I knew my body needed my support to heal fast and I had every reason to want to heal faster, so I did all I could in my power to help it. I focused on good nutrition and hydration, I got plenty of rest, and, as soon as I was able to, I started with chiropractics and physical therapy.

When all was said and done, I “graduated” from physical therapy 7 weeks after my fall and I’m able to run and teach barre again. Still doing some strengthening exercises on that side and I need to be careful I don’t go too crazy, but I’m beyond happy to be back at it again.

10 Tips for Keeping Yourself Motivated to Work Out

We all lead very busy lives and it can be all too easy to find a reason to skip the gym for the day. I think we have all been in the place, though, where one excuse becomes many and before you know it, you haven’t exercised in weeks and have 0 motivation to get back into it. Taking that first step to get to the gym or hit the road for a run can be the hardest part, but if you can get that momentum started and keep it going, it gets loads easier from there. So how can you get yourself started and keep yourself motivated? Here are some tips that have worked for me and for my clients.

1. Find a workout you enjoy.

When it comes to fitness and weight loss, everyone has an opinion or story to tell. “Oh well, I ran 5 mi a day 5 days a week and I lost 30 lbs without changing how I ate!” “My cousin started doing Zumba twice a week and she has had amazing results.” It’s wonderful to try to share your success tips with others, but, here’s the thing, every body is different so what works for one person may not work for another. This isn’t just a physiological fact – it’s a psychological fact as well. If you hate running, then you are not going to get the same results as your friend who loves running and does it religiously. Why? Because you’re going to be miserable doing it, you’re unlikely to push yourself as much through it, and, chances are, you’re going to find any excuse not to do it because you hate it. If you find a workout that you have fun doing, then you are far more likely to stick to it and you’ll see better results.

2. Like your fitness clothes.

Fact: if you are uncomfortable with your body, you are not going to want to work out. Period. However, if you can invest in fitness clothing that you are comfortable in – that cover the spots you want covered, that fit the way you like, that breathe and allow flexibility – then you will be much more comfortable working out. Plus, I don’t know about you, but, if I have a fun new workout outfit I just bought, I’m way more excited to workout in it.

3. Track your progress and praise yourself.

It can be really easy to get discouraged and want to give up for a number of reasons. My advice, then, is find something about your workout that you can be proud of or makes you feel good and focus on that. For example, maybe you didn’t run as far as you wanted to or you struggled through your workout the whole time. Instead of focusing on the things you wish were different, high five yourself for getting out there when you weren’t even feeling it in the first place or for sticking it out even though you were struggling. Hold onto that self-praise and set a new goal for you to meet the next time.

4. Reward yourself.

Now, I don’t mean go out for a burger or ice cream here – not only will that defeat the purpose of your workout, it will also start you on a very unhealthy cycle. What I mean here is set a goal for yourself that you will continuously be working towards – maybe it’s running 5 miles or dropping a pant size – and pick something that you will reward yourself with once you reach that goal. It can be a pair of shoes you’ve been wanting or a new Fit Bit or a massage. Having something that you are working towards will help keep you motivated. The trick here, though, is that you can’t give in to the temptation to say “good enough” and treat yourself before you reach your goal.

5. Once you get that momentum going, don’t stop.

I think we can all agree that once you take a couple days off from working out, it is really hard to get back into it. To make sure that doesn’t happen, try to stay active regularly to keep that momentum going. You don’t have to keep at your regular workout routine every day, but commit to taking a 30-minute walk or doing some yoga while you watch TV. The goal is just to have something that keeps you moving so you don’t lose that momentum.

6. Find a workout buddy.

Accountability makes a huge difference when it comes to motivation. Find a reliable workout buddy and set a regular schedule to work out together. Make sure they are reliable though! I often see people declare themselves gym buddies and they just make excuses for each other to skip the workout.

7. Don’t make it a project.

If you have to drive 30 minutes to your gym or rush to and from commitments to get your workout in, you aren’t going to do it. Maybe you’ll do it a couple times, but it will fall off. Your workout doesn’t have to be a huge to-do. Take a run around your neighborhood or do a fitness video in your living room. Working out doesn’t have to include a gym membership and a commute.

8. Don’t compare yourself to others.

Comparison isn’t just the thief of joy; it can also be the thief of motivation. Constantly comparing yourself to others can make you feel self-conscious and defeated. Too much of those comparisons and negative self-talk can quickly slide into thoughts of “I will never be like that so why should I bother trying?”. Who are you exercising for? Yourself or them? I hope the answer is for yourself so you can live longer and healthier. If that’s the case, then who cares about anyone else at the gym or on Instagram? You’re in this for you, so focus on you. Confession: I get really self-conscious when I’m out running. My solution is to wear my sunglasses and listen to good music so I can drown out the rest of the world (but still hear traffic. safety first, after all) and focus on myself.

9. Find some music you like.

Music is an amazing motivator. It shifts your energy and affects your mood. Put on some music that makes you feel happy and energized and get out there!

10. Change it up.

If you do the same workout or run the same route every day, not only will you stop getting the same benefits from it, you’ll get really bored with it, too. Keep yourself interested in your workouts by switching it up and trying something new every once in a while, whether it’s running somewhere new or trying out a new fitness class like Zumba or kickboxing.

Your health is simply too important to let excuses get in your way. Follow these tips and get yourself moving so you can feel your best and live your best life!