How to Handle Plummeting Motivation to Train

by | Mar 3, 2023 | Mindset

This is a repost from 2021—this is a topic that often comes up as we move from February into March and it feels like resolution excitement is behind us but the racing season is still far away, and if you’re in an area with less than optimal weather, that funk you get into can be even tougher!

Motivation isn’t all you need to succeed at work or in sport, but damn, does it make things a lot easier. Confession time here: I’ve been suffering a serious bout of low motivation / ennui / the blahs the past couple of days. Sure, I’m getting things done—workouts, deadlines, cooking meals and doing my laundry—but it’s feeling a little more drag-y than usual. And let’s be honest, winter in Canada isn’t easy at the best of times. Even if you don’t suffer from SAD, you might still get the Winter Blues—research has found that up to 15% of Canadians will report feeling bummed out during the winter (again, not even mentioning the pandemic-induced depression, anxiety and upset). Everyone has days/weeks/months like this, so I’m trying to kick my own butt through it—and of course, in the process, I’m getting a little meta and thinking through the tactics that I use when I have these moments.

So, here’s my practical advice for getting back to it, whether it is a report that’s due for work, your big training ride for the week, your morning strength or yoga routine, or your healthy eating habits.

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Do a body scan

Before we get into too many hot tips, pause and do a body scan from head to toe. Are you headachey, is your gut acting up, are your legs sore, are your eyes dry and tired? When was the last time you drank water, ate a vegetable or a serving of protein, or stuck your head out in fresh air? Often, most of our mental hurdles can be solved with a small amount of TLC. You might notice some bigger issues: You’re not sleeping enough and you’re constantly fatigued. You’ve had a low level stomach ache for a week. You have the sniffles and while no one moment sucks, the sinus pressure is getting to you. Once you’ve checked in and addressed any acute issues by drinking the water, going for a walk, taking a nap, etc,; make a plan for dealing with any chronic issues. That may be a doctor’s appointment, or maybe you want to check in with your coach or a naturopath to see if they have any insights. Before you can do anything else, it’s important to get your physical health under control. Once you’ve addressed that, it’s time to head into the mental side of motivation.

“Today, I am suffering from ennui.”

Make it easy

I talked before about automating, scheduling and removing obstacles, and I’ve been applying those a lot lately. Not motivated to eat healthy? Get some salads, smoothies, juices, and soups delivered to your door, or make a big slow cooker stew up to have for the week. Not motivated to do your workout? Put your yoga mat in front of the coffee maker and do a quick yoga flow while your coffee brews in the morning.

Skip it… but make it suck

On our ‘why you need bad workouts’ podcast episode, I mentioned that my best trick for getting my workout in for the day is to give myself two options: 1) do the workout, or 2) do something I’ve been putting off instead. This could be a work thing, a housecleaning task I dread, or some other mundane task that I really don’t like doing. Whatever it is, it’s not chilling on the couch reading comic books. Pretty quickly, the workout once again becomes the thing I would rather be doing.

Lean into it

Similar to skipping something in favor of doing a less-desirable to-do list item is to just sink into it and really let yourself get bored. Do absolutely nothing for a couple of days, if you can. If you work a normal job and have, you know, life obligations, then simply take any open pockets of time and do zip. Nothing. Nada. Let yourself get super bored. I’ve found that sometimes, I’m in a weird demotivated phase that’s just motivated enough to semi-go through the motions, but if I just let myself go a little bit deeper, I’ll actually remember why I love doing what I’m doing. Don’t be afraid to skip a couple of workouts to refocus yourself and regain motivation—it’s worth it! (Think of it as letting yourself hit a faux rock bottom. Nowhere to go but up!)

Do a bit of sleuthing

I did this today as I started writing this post, honestly. I had no idea why I was feeling so blah, so I looked back at my last couple of days to figure out what the trigger might have been. There were a lot of calls throughout each day, a lot of admin-ish tasks that I don’t love doing, and not a lot of writing like this, or time spent on morning routines/rituals. I was still meditating, but the bare-bones version of it. Ditto my gratitude journal. Pretty quickly, it became clear that my motivation was lacking partially due to how I was structuring my day, and it was change-able. I just needed to take some time and approach my life like a detective, rather than looking at it as myself. (Consider writing out a view of your last couple of days in the third person—without any judgement!—to see what comes up.)

Picture your ideal day/self

I come back to this one often. It’s a corny manifestation tactic, yes. But it can really work to boost your motivation, or at least help push you out of a slump. Ask yourself, what would your ideal self do, and what would your ideal day look like as that ideal version of you? I’ve written about this before: Often, we’re perfectly capable of doing at least some of the things that our idealized versions of us do. For me, that’s doing my runs and workouts feeling fit and strong and happy to be putting in that time, it’s writing my next book and feeling excited about it. Both of those are things that my current self can absolutely do—and when I remember that the primary difference between my ideal self and me now is that I’m simply not doing those things, I’m suddenly a lot more motivated! (We talk about this a lot in our new book—creating your roadmap from Point A to Point B and how the journey is the goal.)

Revisit your why

I almost didn’t include this because it seemed so darn obvious, but then, I came back to this draft a few hours later because I realized that not checking in with my own WHY lately was a big part of my lack of motivation. Especially right now, with so much uncertainty, it’s really hard to stay on track with your personal why—but it’s still important, and it can still be motivating!

Struggling to figure out where to go from here? Book a call with us to talk through some changes you could make that will make the biggest impact on your health and fitness!



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