What do you do if you are not in the mood for exercise?
You probably have the very best intention to exercise. You understand the benefits. You might even have the time. The problem is that it’s just so darn hard to find the motivation…
Rebecca posted a beautiful article on 7 No-Stress Ways to Make Fitness Part of Your Life. I am going to address a more superficial issue that directly affects me and perhaps a struggling athlete (because in the end we are all athletes — just in different states of athleticism). As you will see, there will be overlap with short term and long term goals because they both gets you to the same place.
One of the hardest things for me to do is to overcome the initial inertia of working out, which I shall refer to as the “There is not a chance I am going to exercise syndrome” or TINACIGTES for short. TINACIGTES hits when the primitive brain and the neocortical brain are not in agreement about an activity and energy to be spent.
Side note: The primitive brain is all about saving energy (surviving) at all possible cost. The neocortex is the part of the brain responsible for your loftier plans. When the primitive and neocortical portions of the brain are in conflict with each other, it creates cognitive dissonance, which “we are motivated to reduce or eliminate.” In other words, if the primitive brain sees exercise as an activity without purpose and too costly, it will override the neocortical best intention to go to the gym.
This is why I am boggled to see people plunge right into the pool, just start jogging after their shoes go on, gleefully jump rope, bounce right into burpees and even spontaneously start dancing. Nope, I don’t have access to the exuberant energy gene in my DNA. TINACIGTES is my default.
It takes me a good 15 to 20 minutes in any given activity to overcome the desire find something better to do on my sofa. Even worse, TINACIGTES is true with activities I absolutely love.
So how do you get over this and get the primitive brain and the neocortical brain to connect?
Eleven easy steps to get exercises started…
1. Start slowly. Realize you don’t have to get up to 100% speed immediately.
One of the biggest mistakes is to think you do not have to warm into things. Warming up is “exercise foreplay” and it matters! Warming up is not just about getting muscle ready for an activity, but is also get the mind and body set up for success by establishing vestibular balance, proprioception awareness, and interoception connection. Slowly starting allows the central nervous system to connect to these important systems and establish cortical control. Simply translated this means, it wakes up your reflexes, movements, and memories, and wires them purposefully to your brain. At the same time, tendons and ligaments also have the opportunity to safely open and connect to the reflexes. Easing into movement also ensures circulation to all the extremities as well as important major muscles, while minimizes stress to the heart. Starting slowly does not mean you are not exercising.
2. Move around at your fancy.
In other words, move body parts randomly until you get lost in movement or “controlled wiggling.” Moving around will get you out of your mind and the need for perfection or limitation. The human body is great at creating optimal efficiency — even to our detriment. As you settle into your sedentary work life, the body optimizes energy expenditure based on your limited movement. Simply stated, the body hates waste and will not let you burn more energy than absolutely necessary. If your lifestyle has little physical movement, the body’s metabolism will strongly veto excess energetic use — even well-intended exercise. Moving more than your established lifestyle freaks the primitive brain into restricting what it feels is a useless energetic loss. Just wiggling around will coax your primitive system and metabolism to loosen its death grip on your Caloric account, give you more energy and invigorating all your bits.
Side note: Calories are the monetary unit of the human body. Asking the body to randomly “burn Calories” would be like asking someone to go to their banking account and randomly burn their money. It would take a very strong purpose for to do that.
For those technical people are two types of calories:
- A small calorie (symbol: cal) – 1cal is the amount of energy required to raise one gram of water by one degree Celsius.
- A large calorie (symbol: Cal, kcal) – 1Cal is the amount of energy required to raise one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius. This the one we talk about in fitness when refering to Calories added or burned.
1,000 small calories = 1 large Calorie (1kcal)
3. You don’t have to be perfect in the activity.
Motions that you choose in order to get started do not have to be perfect, balletic, or functional. Perfection actually set you up for defeat. Initial movements are just to get joints and muscles moving and coordinated. In fact, going into complex motion too soon can cause compensation pattern leading to injuries. It would like instantaneous deadlifting your maximum. Initial non-specific movement allows (as mentioned before) circulation to the extremities while warming up the connection to the core. Also, it will eventually help you decided what movements are nonessential and need to be eliminated to safely progress your activity. Cause, nobody gets it right the first time.Progress, not perfectionClick To Tweet
4. Look for one thing you can do well, and make it into a game.
During the very non-specific warm-up movements, focus on one thing that you do really well. It could be a balancing activity or dynamic motion. Either way, repeat it several times in different situations progressing the precision until it feels like play. For example, falling and recovering. Falling from a balanced posture and the few steps it takes to recover can be quite fun to the brain. The primitive brain almost always becomes more generous with play and you will find the energy are looking. Further, the action of play actually causes neocortex development. Mmm smart….
5. As strange as it sounds, pretend you’re in love.
This will release endorphins. The imagination is a powerful ally in exercising. It allows for more neurological involvement and physiological activation. One of the most powerful experiences of the body is falling or being in love. Wouldn’t you climb a mountain for love? Heck, who hasn’t alertly stayed up all night trying to connect with someone. Put that battery to use in your workout. Pretending to be in love allows you to release hormones and endorphins that will help you overcome fear and fatigue, and ride a natural chemical high. Oh, l’amor!
6. Put on a playlist of motivating tunes.
Music is a potent motivator. Melody, beats, and lyrics are a mighty motivating force. Music’s influence gets you to dance all night at a club or march into battle. So, it can easily motive you past the barrier of fatigue and fear. In a study in Journal of Music Therapy, college-aged males and females were able to walk farther and with less effort when exercising to music as compared to no music (Beckett, 1990) Beckett, A. (1990). So bring the tunes. There is nothing like music that gets you in that special mood to get your exercise on.
On iTunes, you can actually choose music that is at the same cadence as your activity. Just type your desired cadence into the search along with your favorite title. Boom…motivation!
7. “Smile up” to active the neocortex.
An article from Psychology Today stated that smiling up releases a peptide in the brain to decrease stress. By the action of smiling up, the brain can reduce stress and resistance to the physical activity you are attempting. So, smile past that initial resistance of your workout. If not for any other reason, it will fool people into thinking you are having fun and encourage them to participate. Plus, if you are imagining that you are in love and you are smiling up, your body can do just about anything for much longer.
8. Capture a positive feeling and try to perpetuate it in your body.
Once you have embodied an exercise-supportive feeling, turn it up! Similar to smiling up, choosing a positive feeling cajoles to the primitive brain into releasing energy and endorphin. Without knowing it, the primitive brain (use properly) is the motor that drives the neocortical portion of the brain. The Neocortex is the part of the brain that makes goals and the primitive brain is what drives you there. Picking a positive feeling gives fuel to the primitive to get things done. (I know it’s old, but I like the feeling I get from the scene from Rocky on the top of the steps. It helps me in many aspects of my life.) This is a form of motor rehearsal and can be quite effective in initiating exercise.
9. Pick a location you actually like.
“Location, location, location.” is the first rule of real estate, and it no less true for exercise. Find a location that inspires you to move. It can be a dance floor, park, running trail, basketball court or even the water. An inspiring location can make a world of difference. There is something magical about a tree that makes you want to climb, or a beautiful trail that make you want to take a few more steps to see around the bend. Choose a location to inspire your inner athlete, stimulates your senses, and awakens you to go a little farther. The 5o Shades of Exercise is vastly improved with the right environment. The Huffing Post can give you six more reasons to play outside if you still need motivation.
10. Bring a motivating friend, take a class…or both.
Although the folks at FitBodyHQ.com have ten great reasons for exercising with a partner. My favorite is that doing things together with a friend or group makes time fly by. We are, after all, pack animal by nature. Working together, interacting and connecting builds bonds, lower anxiety and increases your endurance. It is a chance to catch up, but, more importantly, it is a time to motivate each other to do more and push each other to go a little farther.
11. Finally, give yourself instantaneous gratification.
Instantaneous gratification is not always bad. Feedback is sometimes really good especially if it is meaningful. Having an inexpensive monitoring device can give you timely information on how much energy you are expending while you are exerting yourself. Seeing your heart rate or watching the death of Calories will give you the satisfaction that your efforts are not in vain. It can show you where you can work harder, and also help you discover hidden workout opportunities (such as clenching your butt while standing in line at Costco). Get one and see where it takes your fitness.
Three highly rated monitor on Amazon.com are the Fitbit Charge 2, Smart Band and Towabo Fitness Tracker. They are more that you’ll ever need and pair easily with your smartphone and computer.
Working out is a journey and a TINACIGTES a power deterrent. Having the primitive brain and the neocortex working together in harmony can be the difference between the victory of overcoming resistance to exercise or wallowing on the sofa in defeat. The truth is we don’t get the butt we want by sitting on it. So, just like a comfortable pair of shoes can make a difference on this journey, having eleven tricks up your sleeve will help motivate you off your butt and up the road to your goals. Use whatever combination of these 11 ways to stimulate you into finding the hidden fire of your internal athlete.
The Healing Coaches
Did we leave anything out? Comment below and let us know how you motivate yourself!