I have been thinking a lot about motivation lately. I have been having a hard time getting motivated for my workouts. If you have been following my blog you probably know how crazy and out of character that is for me.
I love working out. I love sharing my workouts on my blog, and hearing about the progress of those of you who follow my workouts. This is my passion, and my hobby. So where has my motivation gone?
The first step to getting your motivation back is pinpointing the cause of de-motivation.
1. Exhaustion: If you are not getting enough sleep your body may be lacking the energy required to workout, or engage in other activities that you normally enjoy.
2. Feeling Over Whelmed: Have you ever had so many obligations at one time that you feel pulled in multiple directions? Eventually you may start to feel that you aren’t as successful as you would like to be at any one endeavor, because you are spread to thin. There isn’t enough of you to go around.
3. Stress: This can be caused by a variety of things. Change, both good and bad, can be stressful. Major life events (birth of a child, marriage, job change, move, graduation, etc) can lead to increased stress, anxiety, and cortisol levels.
4. Lack of Enjoyment/Reward: Perhaps you aren’t motivated because you just don’t enjoy the task at hand. Instant gratification is short lived, but it can be very tempting, even if it is at the cost of long term goals.
5. Depression: There are several types of depression. Some depression starts in response to a specific event or experience, and other types of depression seemingly appear out of no where. Many studies have linked depression to decreased functioning of serotonin receivers in the brain, reduction in chemical reactions which allow serotonin transport in the brain, or decreased serotonin production in the brain.
Once you have identified the cause of your decrease in motivation you can take steps to rectify it.
Sleep is the easiest cure. Sometimes you just need to take a day off and let your body rest. When I don’t get enough sleep I get a double whammy: I don’t want to workout, and I crave high calorie foods that I normally don’t even like! Studies have shown that getting less than 6 hours of sleep per night leads to an average increase in caloric intake of 360 calories per day.
If you are overwhelmed it may be beneficial to prioritize. Try to decrease the number of obligations you have, or the amount of time spent on less important obligations. Remember, your mental and physical health need to be on your priority list. Without these two things the rest of your to-do list is going to suffer.
Stress is a part of life. Sometimes you need to recognize what is causing you stress, and find ways to cope. Some things you can’t control, but you can control your reaction to stress, and how much time/energy you dedicate to it. For example, if you get road rage and someone cuts you off you may find yourself still angry about it long after the offending driver is gone. If you’re still upset it may help to take a minute and realize you are giving them more time and power out of your life than they deserve. Your anger does not affect them in any way, but it’s still affecting your life and mood. Are they worth it?
Lack of Reward. Instant gratification vs. long term results. Sometimes vegging out on the couch sounds more satisfying (and easier!) than a hard workout. Or perhaps that piece of cake looks better than a nutritious and healthy meal. Sometimes having long term goals is disheartening because it takes a long time to get there. This is why I am big on celebrating all of your victories along the way! Is your goal to run a 5K? Maybe you can’t run more than 2 blocks without walking. Celebrate and give yourself credit the first time you run 3 blocks! Is your goal to go from a size 18 to 12? Don’t beat yourself up because you are only down to a size 16, that’s progress! A new outfit can be a great motivator.
Depression: This can be the hardest one to deal with. Sometimes depression can be a cumulative effect of all the things listed above. Sometimes it seems to come out of nowhere. If you find that you are having suicidal thoughts it’s time to see a doctor. Exercise and nutrition have been shown to decrease depression, but sometimes you also need additional intervention.
So what has been the cause of my lack of motivation? It’s a combination of many things.
1. I have been tired. Staying up to late, and getting up early. My body requires sleep and I wasn’t listening.
2. At times I have a tendency to take on to many projects. I don’t believe in limitations, which means I want to do a little bit of everything! Normally this is okay, but with my increased tiredness I felt that I wasn’t giving all of my projects my full effort. I want to do things successfully. Set a goal, achieve it, set a new goal. The last two months have been very busy and I felt like I was “fitting in” the things that are important to me. Things that I love seemed to fall by the wayside of obligations.
3. Stress. Remember, even positive changes create stress. I switched jobs, my sister got married and is now having a baby, and Jesse and I are house hunting. I thought house hunting would be fun. Turns out not so much! We found a house that we loved, and it didn’t work out. I’m still not over the disappointment.
4. Normally I find exercise intrinsically motivating. I love how it makes me feel.
5. Depression. I found myself feeling moody, down, and negative. Plus, I was angry at myself for feeling that way because it is so out of character for me. Jesse was doing everything he could to cheer me up and it wasn’t working, so I also felt guilty for bringing down his mood.
End result: me lying in my bed with the lights off and curtains drawn, moping and feeling sorry for myself. I started to think about two things. First, that I was making a choice to lay there and pout. If that was my choice I had to accept the responsibility for walking in that room and deciding to be stagnant and doing nothing to change the situation. Second, I thought about neuroscience and chemical reactions in the brain (yes I am a nerd, and honestly I like it that way). Science has shown that exercise increases the amount of serotonin in your body. My normal amount of exercise has been significantly decreased lately. Could this have created a “deficit” of serotonin in my body, as compared to what I have become accustomed to? Could part of my moodiness be a chemical reaction that I was feeding through inactivity?
Decision time: Lay in the dark or do a workout? My body felt heavy and exhausted, walking upstairs to my room had felt like maximum effort so working out didn’t sound good. I decided to go for a run. I gave myself permission to go as slowly as I wanted, or even take walking breaks if I needed to.
End Result: I strapped on my i-pod, stepped outside, and started to run. I found myself thinking “Today running is my therapy.” I went at a pace that felt good to my body. I tried to combine running and yoga and exist in the moment. When my watch beeped to indicate my first mile was done I glanced down and was surprised to see that I had done it in 7 minutes and 41 seconds. Slower than race pace, but faster than my normal running days. Mile 2 of my loop is almost all uphill so again I focused on the physical feeling of running. My second mile was 9:19. For the third mile I found myself thinking about how comfortable this run felt, I was putting in some effort but not giving 100%. I clicked off mile 3 in 7:26. I glanced down again at the 5K point and saw that I did an “accidental 5K” in 25:15. I still had half a mile to get home, but I took a moment to think about how fast my body must actually move during a 5K, and I wondered when this became a comfortable pace for me.
I walked into the house and Jesse asked me how I felt. I had finished my 3.6 mile run in 28:52. I felt strong, I felt healthy, and I felt grateful for what my body was capable of. Even if I had completed this run 10 minutes slower I think I would have felt grateful that my determination and will power were strong enough to get me moving when I felt like moping. I was faced with a decision, and I chose action. Suddenly I felt like myself again.
I am heading out for a trail run with Jesse, and there will be a new workout posted tonight. Let’s keep motivating each other! I would love to hear what you do to get motivated.