How To Work Out When You Don’t Feel Like It

Have you ever noticed that on some days it’s easy to motivate yourself to exercise, while on other days even the thought of a squeezing in a workout seems overwhelming?

There are so many factors – including sleep, stress, food, and others – that impact how inclined you will be to get you workout done. Nobody “feels like exercising” every single day, BUT there are ways to get past those feelings to stay active and fit no matter what your mood.

Here are 5 effective strategies for how to work out when you don’t feel like it that have worked well for many of my clients. How To Work Out When You Don't Feel Like It

Set a Goal and Remember It Each Day

What’s the real reason you want to exercise? Is there something specific that you’re working towards or something that you are aiming to accomplish? Remembering the “why” behind your exercise makes getting it done much more likely.

Here’s a really effective trick: Write down your goal on a sticky note and place it somewhere that you will see each morning. Read it and start your day with your goal in mind.

It doesn’t have to be something big. I actually recommend using small goals that are very achievable. For example, your sticky note might say, “My goal this month is to go for a 30-minute walk 3 times each week.” This is very much within your control (versus a goal like, “I will lose 20lbs this month”, which is not as actionable).

Remember why you want to exercise and use this as your daily motivation.

Get Social With Your Exercise

Exercise is always going to be easier when you do it with a friend.

Imagine waking up and looking at your sticky-note goal: “Today I am supposed to go for a 30-minute walk.” It’s cold outside and you’ve got a busy day planned. Maybe today you’ll just skip your walk and “do it tomorrow” (yeah right!)

Now imagine the same scenario except you have a friend meeting you at the park at noon so that you can walk together. Are you going to show up OR are you going to leave your friend waiting for you? Obviously you’re going to be there – There is a social obligation that reinforces your exercise goal.

Not only will having an exercise buddy help you avoid skipping your workout when you’re feeling unmotivated, but you will also work harder during your exercise when you are doing it together.

Find a friend, schedule a couple regular workout times each week, and use each other for accountability and motivation.

Visualize Yourself Getting Fit

This might sound a little “out there” but visualization is an effective technique that is used by many athletes to help improve their performance. It’s also one that I have my clients implement each and every week.

Athletes picture themselves winning their race or scoring the big goal. Imagining themselves succeed makes success much more likely. The same principle will work for you.

Try this: Close your eyes and visualize what you will be doing in your workout, whether it be running, lifting weights, or participating in a yoga class. Do this for just 2 minutes uninterrupted. What movements are you doing? How does your body feel? What enjoyment or benefit are you getting from the exercise?

This one might take a little practice, but it is a great way to “feel” the benefits of exercise before you even get started. Often the most challenging hurdle of exercise is simply beginning your workout – Once you get going, the rest is easy. Visualize what your exercise will look like and you are much more likely to begin.

Let the Music Motivate You

Think of a song that makes you want to get up and move. When you’re not feeling motivated to exercise, this type of music can make all the difference.

Not only can enjoyable music improve your mood, but it can also distract your brain from the effort of exercise. Research has actually shown that the right music can make your workout feel at least 10% easier!

Create an awesome playlist consisting of songs that have a quick tempo – A faster beat is a good mental distraction and will subconsciously push your body to keep up with the pace of the music. Exercising with the right soundtrack will feel easier, you will end up working harder, and your results will be that much better.

Reward Yourself

A really challenging aspect of regular exercise is the fact that the end goal (e.g. losing weight, being able to fit into certain clothes, getting stronger, etc.) is far removed from the exercise itself. Seeing results takes time and it can be easy to get impatient and give up.

That’s why it is so powerful to build in rewards that provide instant gratification throughout the process. Treating yourself with a relaxing bath or soothing cup of tea after a workout can be a nice way to recognize your hard work.

It can be tempting to choose food rewards since food is so instantly gratifying, but this is not something I advise even if the food is a “healthy” choice. The pattern of eating a treat after each workout session is a dangerous one that can undo a lot of your hard work.

What other types of rewards would you enjoy after successfully completing your daily exercise? Keep these in mind when you don’t feel like getting started.

There are going to be days when exercise just doesn’t feel like your top priority. Using some simple strategies like these can help motivate you to get moving despite how you initially feel. And remember, nobody ever said, “I really wish I didn’t do that work out” after they got it done!

Which one will you try next time you don’t “feel like” exercising?

73 thoughts on “How To Work Out When You Don’t Feel Like It”

  1. Robin Rue (@massholemommy)

    I just do it. I workout every day because I know if I don’t, all the food I eat will go straight to my saddle bags.

  2. I totally write my sticky note goals down daily. It’s amazing that I let a sticky note hold me accountable, but I really do follow it. Yesterday I wanted to hike and I wrote it down and did it!

  3. Fantastic tips! One of my big motivators came when I put songs I love on a special playlist that I can only listen to when I’m working out or on my way to the gym. Sounds stupid, but it really helps. Whatever works, right? LoL! – Jerusha,

  4. Oh how I needed to read this. I am struggling with finding enough time to work, raise the kids, hang out with my hubby and have time for myself. I will definitely be using some of your great ideas, such as rewarding myself after a great workout!

    1. Oh yes, I had to force myself to have time. I finally figured out, for the most part, I’m going to have to get up early to get it done, so that forces me to go to sleep earlier. When school was in session, I’d take all three kids right after I picked up my eldest before I went home. I was very consistent.

  5. I worked out every other day last week and on the days I didn’t work out I was so sore and so tired. I’m just starting to really get into being really much more active so it’s going to take me a while before I can start to get on routine. I am signing up for jazzercize and man do I ever feel it after the next day. I even feel like I have some kind of werid sinus stuff happening because my body is freaking out saying what are you doing to me lady?

  6. Ann Bacciaglia

    I am going to try these tips. I have trouble staying motivated to work out. I will have to get a friend to join me.

  7. These are great tips! I change into my workout outfit and wear my workout shoes even if I don’t feel like working out. When I’m all dressed up, it won’t take long and I will proceed with working out.

  8. Great tips Dave!

    The thing I struggle most with is getting started but once I get into it, I’m okay. I think it’s important to have goals and visualize ourselves achieving our goals, it’s what keeps me motivated, that and great music :).

    Thanks for sharing these tips here. Have a great week.


  9. My oldest child is just amazing at working out every single day without fail. I’ve seen him work out with the flu, even. Crazy, right?

  10. These are great tips as I am avoiding working out at this very minute lol. 🙂 I know I need to but for the life of me this morning I just don’t want to.

  11. I go through this a lot. I have two small kids and sometimes dont get enough sleep. I try to remember how much I better I feel when the workout is over.

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  13. Listening to music while exercising is so great. It takes my mind off the pain in my muscles and joints. I agree with you that goal setting is really important! Write own your goals and post it in a place where we can easily see it.

  14. These are all great tips to keep you on track with your exercise program. I have found that as I get older I need exercise more but want to do it less…

  15. I decided to stop thinking of my workouts as a means to losing weight. Instead, I am looking at them as a way to feel better, stronger and more fit. It helps with the motivation. Some days I workout longer, other days shorter. For me motivation also comes with variety. I get bored easily.

  16. I definitely know what it is like to work out when you don’t want to. I have many of those days even though I enjoy it. Meeting someone else and setting small goals definitely do help

  17. Motivation is key when you’re trying to be fit and healthy. I make sure I get enough rest so I’m energized for the day. These tips are helpful too, they are definitely effective.

  18. I can remember when I used to teach aerobics. The best workouts were the ones that almost didn’t happen because I didn’t feel like it but pushed through and did it anyway. Thanks for sharing.

  19. Ah, the music really works and that’s always worked for me. Getting social with it is one thing, I’ve never really thought about doing it with others. Thanks for the tips, it will surely help me do it regularly!

  20. I totally agree with you that whenever you are doing your exercise together with a friend is very motivating and exciting at the same time. I usually run in the park together with my friends and I always feel good doing exercise with them.

  21. These are great tips. What I do when I don’t feel like it is still get on my workout outfit and wear my sneakers. Once I’m all geared up, I would end up working out.

  22. This is such a wonderful post. I think it’s very important to exercise daily. I know I don’t always feel motivated either.

  23. I got out of the habit when I had surgery. I need to get back with it now, it’s just a mater of starting.

  24. This is a great list, sometimes I just don’t feel like being active at all. These are easy ways to work out even when I don’t feel like it!

  25. I grumble every day that I have fitness class and try to talk myself out of going. However, I do force myself. Once I get there, I end up having a great time. I don’t know why it’s so hard to get motivated to go since I have so much fun. These are all great tips!

  26. I go through this a lot. Mainly just not wanting to go outside because it’s so darn hot here in Florida. I try to find indoor activities and turn up the music!

  27. Ann Bacciaglia

    Music is a great way to get me moving. When i need some motivation i will put on some loud music and it always works.

  28. I absolutely love being in the gym, but still have plenty of days where I do not feel like making the trek or putting in the effort. Remembering my overall fitness goals and listening to good music always serves as great motivation!

  29. Almost a year after it’s publication, these tips still ring true for all. That goal tip definitely worked for me, what I did was I made sure I wrote down everything I need to do on a particular day and measured the time spent.

  30. Chrysa Kieke Duran

    Rewards for getting active and reaching workout goals are so important. It’s the little things that can keep you going.

  31. Music is always my motivator. However, even it doesn’t work for 100%. That’s why I try to diversify my workout from time to time. Lately I’ve been in Zurich and tried It was fun and I recommend veryone to try it. It distracts you from thoughts like “how hard this training session is” or “omg, when will it end”

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