The Non-Workout Workout Approach to Overcoming Low Motivation

It isn’t every day that we want to workout, pursue as project or goal. Your goal may indeed by worthy of pursuit. It may be ecologically sound (a way of saying it doesn’t have some adverse side effects to accomplishing the goal that will deter you.) However, even the most goal-oriented people have times they just don’t ALWAYS want to take the next action on your way to that goal. For runners, it may be getting out the door for that workout.

Everyone knows to run a marathon it takes months of training. It requires combinations of quality and quantity of runs. It’s easy to map out the workouts; set the plan; set the road map to your destination. Just as with a trip in your car, it’s easier to map it than do it sometimes. Sometimes there are vehicle breakdowns. Sometimes you run out of gas or have an accident. Sometimes you need to take a break for biological reasons. In the course of pursuing your destination or goal, you will need to find ways to keep the motivation going.

Day-to-day you know you have to do what’s on your schedule. After 32 years of running and almost 46,000 miles, there are still days I just struggle to get a workout in. Most often it’s not physical. In fact if it is physical then it MAY be a good idea to listen to your body. However, most often it is mental. A long day at work typically, for many of us in this day and age, is not physically taxing. But, stress and strain can be emotionally draining.  Who feels like getting it together to get their workout in when you are wiped out? For some of us it’s easier than others.

So what’s a person to do? Commit to a non-committal process. Huh? Ya, and here’s how it works. Motivation sometimes has to be broken down…to the ridiculous sometimes. This is a mind game.

Just how far do you break it down? Let me outline a scenario and the actions and self-talk you need to exhibit to overcome this issue.

You arrive home. It’s been one of those days. You would much rather plop down and watch TV, soak in the hot tub or take a nap.

• First thing to do is to tell yourself, “I’m not going for a run. I’m just going to get out of my work clothes.”
• While changing, you’re not going to remain naked. Tell yourself, “Ok, I’ll put on my running shorts and t-shirt. I’m only putting them on because they’re comfortable. But, I’m not going for a run. I’m just getting comfortable.”
• Barefoot and comfy, walk to the kitchen and get a drink of water. You need to go check your mail.
• You don’t want to stay barefoot. Put your running socks on. Repeat to yourself, “I’m just going out to check the mail. I’m not running. I’m comfortable and just going to check the mail.”
• Put your socks and while your at it, you need shoes. Running socks and shorts look stupid with dress shoes or heels so, put something comfy on… like, say, your running shoes. Repeat to yourself, “ I’m just putting my socks and shoes on to check the mail. I am not going for a run. I am just comfy and deciding not to look for other clothes to put on.”
• As you walk, take deep breaths. Look around, take in your environment… temperature, breeze, sunlight, kids playing outside, traffic. Get your mail, throw away the two-thirds of it that are advertisements. Keep the bills. Notice how many friends didn’t write to you today. Take at least three very deep breaths and slowly exhale. Put the mail away.
• Now, decide to just go out the front door. Stand there for a minute. Tell yourself, “I’m not going to run. But, I’m just going to enjoy being outside.”
• Put one foot in front of the other slowly. This is called walking. Tell yourself, “I’m not running. I am just moving my body outside. I can go back home anytime I want.”
• After a block or so, try moving slightly quicker while telling yourself, “It’s not a workout. I’m just moving my body outside. I can go home anytime I want. Some would call this jogging, but I’m just moving forward easily. And, I can stop anytime…”
Remember, you’re not doing a workout. Now, decide to keep moving just one mile. After one mile you decide if you want to continue. You can turn back anytime AFTER that mile now.

A funny thing happens. After a mile of the Non-Workout. Your body begins to flow. The stress of the day melts away. You are in your element once again. It is amazing how it comes together, piece-by-piece, bit-by-bit, step-by-step… closer to that goal.

Try the Non-Workout approach next time you’re caught low on motivation.


About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
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One Response to The Non-Workout Workout Approach to Overcoming Low Motivation

  1. Jimmy Holub says:

    Hmmmm… Soooo why do the recommended actions sound so similar to the actions that I remember having taken when I was a little too addicted to running and wanted to dodge major responsibilities in order to sneak out for a great sensuous run?

    Dean, great article! Entertaining yet wittingly true for many. We are only human. …That’s right, only humans can lie to themselves, let alone reap the benefits of it! 😉

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