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How to Get Your Butt to the Gym When You Really Don't Feel Like It

Woman working out at gym

You know those people who absolutely LOVE working out? The people who happily train for marathons or enter fitness competitions for the sheer fun of it? I both admire these people and question their sanity given that working out isn’t something I consider “fun.”

Don’t get me wrong, exercise has been an integral part of my life for decades now—and sometimes it’s a wonderful source of stress relief for me, too. But other times… oh, the other times. There are days when the sheer thought of working out makes me just want to get in my PJs and crawl into bed!

And yet, working out isn't something I consider to be optional. After all, not only does exercise make you feel happier, it also helps with weight loss and managing blood sugar levels (among many, many other benefits). It’s for these very reasons that I’ve been consistently working out for 3+ days a week since December of 2017 without fail, no excuses.

So, how do I continue motivating myself to work out so consistently? Read on for some clever strategies and tips.

  1. Find an addictive Netflix show… and only watch it at the gym.

shakira making concerned face

When willpower isn’t enough, you can take the masochistic route like this one. Find a show you’ll inevitably become obsessed with, download the episodes to your phone or iPad, and only allow yourself to watch an episode when you’re at the gym. Is this a form of torture? Yes. Will it get your ass to the gym? Also yes.

2. Punish yourself for poor habits.

jim carrey

This is an approach that’s equally as masochistic as it is effective. In fact, I used this strategy when I returned from a week-long vacation in Arizona, which was characterized by indulgence in every sense of the word. To get myself back on track, I made a pact to avoid eating ANYTHING processed or unhealthy for a full month… or else I’d have to donate money to an organization I’m completely against. No crackers (processed), cereals (processed), pizza (junk food), or anything that I hadn’t made myself.

Start by finding a cause or organization you’re completely against. Then, set your price (i.e. a donation of $5 every time you eat junk food). Next, set the time span (i.e. healthy eating for one month). And if you need some extra help, there’s actually a site called “SticK” that’s based on this very premise. Now, every time you do that unhealthy thing, you'll be sending money to something or someone you hate. Yikes!

3. Create a challenge with friends.

harry potter hermione and ron friendship

This involves creating a point system where each person is allotted points for doing healthy things and docked points for giving in to an unhealthy vice. So, you might create a point system wherein you get 2 points for every half-hour workout but are docked 2 points every time you have ice cream.

Some tips: make sure you pick an unhealthy habit you’ve had a hard time breaking on your own, and make sure you get pretty detailed with the point system. (When I did this, we had various levels, like 0.5 points for a 30-minute walk, 1 point for a 30-minute workout, and 2 points for a 1-hour workout). At the end of the month, the winner gets a pre-determined prize like a gift card to a spa or lump of cash, such as $10 from each member of the challenge. This is a great approach for people who struggle to hold themselves accountable and have a bit of a competitive side!

4. Listen to a podcast.

man listening to podcast with headphones

Listening to stories are a great way to pass the time, and you can similarly make an agreement with yourself that you’ll only listen to the next episode when you’re at the gym or doing something active. My favourite podcasts are “Homecoming” if you’re in the mood for a fictional psychological thriller or “Where Should We Begin?” which let’s you listen in on real couples therapy sessions.

5. Use a pre-workout.

man excited to workout

Pre-workouts are supplements—usually in powdered form—that are taken before a workout to help enhance your performance. The powders come in a ton of different yummy flavours that you stir into your water and guzzle down on your way to the gym. Typically, they contain ingredients like caffeine, amino acids, creatine, and more to increase energy, endurance, and more. While not all preworkouts are made equal, I’ve found that finding a good one from a trusted brand can really help put some pep in your step when you’re really dreading going to the gym. If preworkouts aren’t your jam, then try having some coffee beforehand given that this might be enough to energize your workout. For more information on which pre-workout is best for you, check out's list of top pre-workouts (I use “C4”).

The Bottom Line

While more often than not I do enjoy working out, I’m not immune to feeling like going to the gym is an absolute chore. My main advice is to play to your strengths. If you’re a competitive person, recruit some friends for a fitness challenge. If you’re motivated by money, donate to a cause you despise when you do something unhealthy. Or, use positive reinforcement by putting away a small amount of money every time you do something healthy so you can treat yourself later. Find out what motivates you at your core and get creative from there.

For those of you who find one-on-one support most helpful, don’t hesitate to contact me about my nutrition services.


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