Some days, summoning the motivation to work out can be especially challenging. Maybe you've had a long day at work, the rain is particularly relentless or, come to think of it, you've been feeling cramps coming on all afternoon. Bottom line: There will never be a shortage of excuses to skip the gym.
From time to time, even certified personal trainers SJ McShane and Maillard Howell find themselves questioning whether or not their workout is going to happen that day. Luckily, they've compiled some tips and tricks to consider before you skip the gym.
Pick Your Uncomfortable
Skipping one workout won't derail all of your progress and rest days are an important part of a healthy exercise routine, says McShane. But when skipping becomes a common occurrence, it can be difficult to make progress toward your goal.
McShane recommends reframing this internal debate to focus on "choosing your uncomfortable." "You can feel uncomfortable during a training session and feel great after, or you can feel uncomfortable knowing you skipped, and that brings no reward."
She also recommends this approach to those struggling to get started with exercise in general. You can be uncomfortable in your own skin or uncomfortable in working harder to meet your goals, she says. You're going to be uncomfortable no matter what, so pick the lesser of two evils.
Indulge in a Little Vanity
When Howell is feeling unmotivated and tempted to skip a workout, he likes to indulge in a little vanity. "I promise myself I will only go in for 30 minutes or work on 'vanity' muscles or any movements that are easy for me to do and get an easy feel good endorphin rush," he says.
During these quick sessions, Howell typically performs accessory exercises like biceps curls or triceps press downs. Performing these exercises, especially with high repetitions, can help promote blood flow and give these muscles a fuller look immediately post-workout (aka "pump"). Plus, even a short workout is better than no workout. "If I get that bare minimum in, I win."
Think About Your Future Self
Consider whether a missed session will be helpful or hurtful toward your overarching goal. "When goals are on the line, consistency is key," McShane says. "Will this decision impact your future self in a positive or negative way?"
As the saying goes, 'You're only one workout away from a good mood.' Exercise increases feel good hormones in the body and lifts your mood, which can help you make better choices and provide more energy for the day, ultimately benefitting your future self.
Set a Time and Cue Up a Playlist
In order to keep himself on track and motivated, Howell makes sure to carve out a specific part of his day to devote to his workout. Just like any other appointment you put on your calendar, if you free up time in your schedule specifically for exercise, it can help you feel more inclined to work out.
"Taking this intentional break allows me to refocus on why do I work out," Howell says. It also helps him realign his energy and drive when he's feeling ambivalent about his workout.
In addition to be intentional about choosing a specific time, Howell also picks his music strategically. Often, he finds himself choosing a playlist that he's previously used during a strenuous training session to get himself in the right mindset.
Take an Active Recovery or Rest Day
If you still find yourself feeling wishy-washy about the workout you'd planned, a rest day may be in order. Begin by assessing how your body is feeling in general, McShane says. Have you been skipping rest days? Are you lacking sleep? Do you have a nagging cold? All of these are good reasons to give yourself a much-needed rest.
Take your mental wellbeing into account too. While exercise is fun and rewarding, sometimes you need a mental break, McShane says. If you're feeling mentally drained, consider switching up your exercise routine for the day or take an active rest day with a walk or stretch session.