There’s no feeling quite like the one that comes with kicking off a new fitness regimen. Unfortunately, there’s also no feeling quite like the disappointment that comes when we fall off track.
If you’ve ever found yourself lacking the motivation to exercise, you’re not alone. It’s the same reason 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week of February and over $1 billion in gym memberships go unused each year.
Why are we like this and how do we do better? Let’s start by eliminating the word “fail” from our vernacular and dive into the totally relatable, totally human, totally beatable reasons we all lose our motivation for working out—and how to set more realistic and sustainable goals from here on out.
1. Lacking External Accountability
Humans are communal beings. When it comes to working out, simply knowing someone is expecting us can motivate us to show up and keep going. Whether you choose to work with a personal trainer, join a group fitness class or link up with a friend or accountability partner, having someone there for support can help us prioritize fitness among life’s many competing demands. While this has admittedly been tougher than usual in the age of social distancing, remote personal training, virtual group fitness classes and online workouts have helped in the self-discipline department—and made working out in our living rooms a little less isolating.
2. Holding Yourself Accountable to a Fault
Some of us have the opposite problem of the aforementioned—that is, holding ourselves to such an unrealistically high standard that falling short of it can cause us to give up from what we perceive as failure. If you have this level of self-discipline, you have an enormous advantage over much of the population; the key is to actually use it to your benefit, not your detriment. Try to do something every day. If you miss one, don’t waste energy beating yourself up—channel it into tomorrow’s workout instead. And if you miss a lot of days, same rules apply. With some research suggesting muscle memory could last as long as 15 years, there’s no need to psych yourself out; your body will know what to do when you’re ready to get back to it.
3. Setting Ambiguous or Unattainable Goals
According to Statista, eating healthier, exercising more and losing weight are the three most common New Year’s resolutions for Americans. But that 80% resolution failure rate we mentioned at the start of this means a whole lot of us are doing it wrong.
The problem isn’t necessarily the intention of the goals we’re setting, but in how we’re structuring them. Try to create realistic goals with a clear-cut end. “Eating healthier,” for instance, is ambiguous and subjective; prepping an entire week’s worth of meals every Sunday is arduous and likely unsustainable. Something like committing to eating at least three cups of vegetables a day would be a much more attainable target.
Same goes for the nebulous goal of “exercising more.” Commit to what you know you can do and what realistically fits within your schedule—e.g., 10,000 steps a day, a brisk 30-minute lunchtime walk three times per week or a virtual fitness coach who works with your schedule and fitness level. Fitness tracking apps and wearables have made setting and achieving these types of goals more feasible than ever.
4. Not Seeing Progress
First, a disclaimer: the number on the scale does not define you—and it doesn’t necessarily define your progress, either. If you’re not losing weight, you might be gaining muscle, or there are likely other factors at play.
That being said, if you are working out to lose weight, it’s important to recognize that the relationship between health and weight is incredibly complex. Hitting the gym with the sole objective of losing X number of pounds by X date can be a difficult, potentially dangerous journey; you’ll want to first consult with a doctor and fitness professional to ensure you’re going about it in a safe and sustainable way.
Regardless of your motivation, if you do find yourself at a plateau or your workouts are starting to feel stale, a bit of research or the help of an expert can help you switch things up with new exercises, reps, equipment or intensities to get you out of that funk and back on track.
5. Lacking Literal Motivation (i.e., “The Why”)
If you don’t know why you’re working out, then what are you working toward? And how will you ever get there?
Again, we’re not talking about the “need to lose 10 pounds before vacation” kind of why; we’re talking about finding meaningful, long-term and sustainable motivation to invest in your health and well-being. Maybe it’s about improving your mental health. Maybe you want more energy to keep up with your kids. Or maybe it’s the universal benefit of lowering your risk of chronic disease and boosting longevity. Establishing your “why” will help you understand how what you’re doing isn’t just building muscle or burning fat, but rather making you a healthier you overall.
6. Not Having a Plan or Tangible Milestones
Without a personalized and clear-cut plan, working out can feel a bit like being lost in the dark. Not doing enough or doing too much of the wrong kind of training can lead to frustration and burnout at best—at worst, it can put undue strain on your body and cause serious injuries.
While building your own workout routine is an option, a personal trainer can create a plan that is tailored to your fitness level and goals so that you can achieve results safely and efficiently. Of course, not everyone can afford to hire a personal trainer, and recent public health guidelines have made in-person training inaccessible to some degree. Remote personal training is gaining popularity as a convenient, safe and cost-effective alternative to traditional in-person training, providing you with the foundation for your fitness goals, the building blocks to achieve them and the motivation to surpass them.
7. Health Issues or Injury
Dealing with an illness or injury can take a toll, both physically and mentally. Even minor injuries can be traumatic and tempt us to proceed with caution when getting back into the fitness game, making it difficult to see progress or results. On the flip side, pushing ourselves too much too soon can lead to reinjury, which can be deflating—not to mention, dangerous. And with so many people dealing with the long-term effects of COVID-19, getting back to your previous level of fitness can be a frustrating and, potentially, unrealistic, journey.
Unfortunately, there is rarely a quick-fix solution for coming back from a serious ailment; rather, it is a gradual process that requires quite a bit of patience and the guidance of a healthcare professional. As you’re getting back into it, the best advice we can give is to listen to your body and understand that your workouts and progress are going to look different. If feasible, this would be an ideal time to hire a personal trainer who can build an exercise program in the context of your medical history to help rebuild your strength without risk of injury or overexertion.
8. Change in Schedule, Financial Situation or Life
Despite our best fitness intentions, sometimes life just gets in the way. Whether you’ve recently lost employment, changed jobs or work hours, or experienced a major life event like the loss of a loved one or birth of a child, it is understandable that your exercise routine may have taken a backseat—as long as it’s only there temporarily. With so many virtual, on-demand and other flexible (and even free!) fitness options available, finding one that fits your new normal should be as easy as it is essential.
9. Feeling Self-Conscious or Experiencing “Gym Anxiety”
Gym anxiety or “gymtimidation” as it’s sometimes called, has been known to deter people from working out in a public setting. In one study, as many as half of people found working out around others at a fitness club to be a daunting experience. It’s a tough phenomenon to reconcile when the same activity that’s supposed to help alleviate stress and anxiety is exacerbating it instead.
When it comes to gym anxiety, we’re not necessarily saying it’s all in your head, but then again, maybe we kind of are. If you’ve ever been to a gym, how much time have you spent judging the form and physique of those around you? If the answer is zero, then it’s pretty likely you’re not on their radar, either (and if it isn’t, then you are part of the problem).
If you can’t quite shake the feeling, virtual fitness options abound in today’s post-pandemic world—and with a remote personal trainer, the only person paying you any mind will be the one keeping you on track toward your fitness goals.
10. Your Fitness Routine Is Stuck in the Past
The best workout regimen is the one that keeps you motivated to keep moving. If you’ve fallen off the fitness wagon in the past, it’s time for a different approach—one that integrates seamlessly into your life, rather than falling to the bottom of the to-do list.
Remote personal training is bringing much-needed personalization and modernization to the fitness world, providing one-on-one, on-demand coaching when, where and how it works for you. Learn more and discover the fitness solution that finally sticks.