12 Ways to Power Through a Workout When You’re Not in the Mood

5 minute read

By Selena Singh

Whether you’re a total fitness buff or someone who works out as little as possible just to remain healthy, there are days when you’re just not in the mood. Start a search today to learn more about overcoming that urge and getting to the gym.

Sometimes, it might just be a hassle to motivate yourself.  Other times, you may legitimately be feeling ill and your body seems too weak to move. Here are 12 ways to power through a workout when you aren’t exactly feeling it.

Distract yourself mentally

If the type of exercise you’re doing is simple enough that it doesn’t require you to be mentally present, you can take the opportunity to let your mind wander and get some things done. A recent study showed that we can regulate the amount of physical pain we feel. So, not only will letting your mind wander distract you from the toughness of the workout, but it can save you a lot of time.

While running or doing repetitions, you can put on an audiobook, watch a TV show, or plan your week. The time will fly by a lot faster than it would of you were focusing intensely on your every move.

Have fun with music

Music is another distraction you can turn to while working out. Studies have shown that music makes you less aware of the exertion, thus allowing you to go on longer. It also makes you work harder and actually want to move.

Think about it: if you put on your favorite song, doesn’t it just put you in a good mood? If it’s upbeat, it probably makes you tap your feet automatically and want to get up and dance. Upbeat music simply gets your brain excited and allows you to enjoy even the things you may be dreading.

Focus on how you feel, not how you look

We all know looks can be deceiving and this applies to working out as well. You may look amazing but be unhealthy on the inside (or you may not look as great as you’d like but technically still be healthy). It’s also important to realize that the benefits of exercise on your physical appearance aren’t immediate. For example, it can take up to two months to see muscle definition, depending on how hard and how often you work out.

If you focus on the physical results, you’ll be frustrated and less motivated to continue working out. However, if you focus on the (immediate) health benefits of exercise and the way it makes you feel, you’ll be more willing to push yourself to work out.

Find exercises you’re passionate about

Why force yourself to do something that you don’t like?

Working out doesn’t need to be a chore; you just need to find exercises that get you excited or find a sport you’re passionate about. Workouts don’t always have to consist of the typical push-up or weight-lifting routine; if dancing is your thing, do that instead!

You’ll have a lot more fun and actually look forward to working out. You could even take on a physical sport competitively, giving more meaning to your workouts. There are also countless benefits of competitive sports, especially for youth.

Work out with others

Not only is working out with others fun, but it can also help you in many ways. For example, your workout buddies may provide support and encouragement when you feel quitting.

Turning your workout into a little friendly competition can also provide motivation and you can learn a lot from your partner such as new techniques, new exercises etc. Changing up your workout causes your body to respond positively. After all, your body becomes used to routines, adapting to the exercises you repeatedly do.

Set attainable goals

It’s likely daunting to think you have to run an entire 5k marathon, but it’s much easier to think of the marathon in segments (that is, 5 small 1k runs). When working out, you should always break down your larger goals into smaller, more attainable goals. This way, you’ll avoid injury, burning out (both mentally and physically) or ultimately failing to do what you set out to accomplish.

It’s motivating when you achieve something, and if you break your goal into segments, your motivation and feeling of success of each segment will carry you out until the end.

Reward yourself

Basic psychology tells us that if a behavior is rewarded, that behavior is encouraged. This theory, known as operant conditioning, can be applied to working out. Of course, working out is rewarding simply because it results in a healthy body. But sometimes, we want more tangible rewards.

In our society, it’s a common practice to reward ourselves with a box of decadent truffles, a fancy dinner or a bottle of alcohol. Instead of opting for one of these options, reward yourself with a massage, new fitness equipment or a refreshing (healthy) smoothie.

Visualize the end

Visualization is a psychological technique used by many athletes, including the great Muhammad Ali.

Studies have shown that these mental practices are almost as effective as the actual physical versions. Athletes swear by visualization to train their brain and enhance their performance. You can also employ this method to give you that extra push by picturing crossing the finish line, or a team of cheerleaders screaming your name at the end of your workout.

Know when to stop

If you’re feeling ill, you should be careful about working out. If you only have a cough, then you should be fine to exercise, but go slow and don’t overexert your body.

However, if you have a fever, you shouldn’t work out since doing so could cause your body temperature to rise further, making you feel even worse. Of course, if you’re injured, you should speak to your doctor before exercising as you don’t want to further harm your body.

We all have different limits when it comes to working out, so while you should try your best, don’t push yourself too far. The negative experience will only deter you from working out in the future.

Build endurance gradually to avoid burnout

If you put all your energy into the first 5 minutes of your workout, you’ll experience a burnout. You should always start off slowly (remembering to warm up by stretching) and gradually build your endurance. It’ll be much easier to keep going until the end of your workout. And in the long run, as your endurance builds, you will be able to do more intense workouts.

Do light and slow exercises

If you’re sick and really not in the mood to break a sweat or do an intense workout, you can always opt for the lighter exercises such as yoga or going for a walk. Running and walking are both great sources of decongestants, so they can actually clear your head and make you feel better. This is due to the release of epinephrine, a natural decongestant, which occurs when you are active.

Even if you don’t feel like exercising intensely, a little bit of physical activity can go a long way. Studies have shown that just 15 minutes of exercise per day can improve your heart’s health.

Repeat a mantra

A mantra is a word or phrase that is repeated, training the mind to think positively. Like visualization, mantras are a psychological technique used to motivate athletes and enhance their performance. Mantras also help you to keep focused on your goal, while distracting you from the pain of the workout.

Your mantra can be anything, as long as it motivates you. It can be as simple as “I can do this.” You’ll find your confidence and energy building with each repetition.

Selena Singh