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10 tips if you have zero motivation

We’ve all been there: you planned to exercise, you know you’ll feel better after it, but no matter how much you try, you can’t muster up the energy to start moving.

You’re not alone in that. A 2023 YouGov poll found that lacking motivation (38%) and feeling too tired (35%) were the top reasons preventing UK adults from living a healthier lifestyle. Finding motivation is tough, especially when you’re at the beginning of your fitness journey.

When motivation is lacking, we often come up with reasons why we can’t exercise: we’re too tired, we’re too busy, we’re not feeling up to it. And that’s okay – no one is raring to face a workout every single day of the week. But sometimes, the real reasons we’re struggling go deeper than that, and the first step to getting moving is to work out what they are.

So, how do we do that?

Nicola Vanlint is a BACP-accredited therapist and coach who helps athletes overcome performance plateaus and achieve their goals. She helps them with psychological transitions and stressful life events – delving deep into the topic of their brains and motivation to help them overcome barriers.

If you feel like you have zero motivation, these are Nicola’s top 10 pieces of advice to get yourself up and moving.

1. Begin with smaller, manageable goals

Big goals can feel overwhelming and unachievable. Did you set the intention to exercise 5 times this week? Why not make it 3? “Begin with manageable goals,” says Nicola, “even just 10 minutes of exercise a day can make a difference. Gradually increase the duration and intensity as you build momentum.” (Try Joe’s 10-minute workouts here!)

With any goal you set yourself, it’s worth sense-checking that it is achievable and realistic, as well as measurable. This can help you track progress and stay motivated.

2. Find an activity you actually enjoy

Let’s be honest, if you really don’t enjoy running then no matter how much you tell yourself you’re going to go out on a run that week, it probably won’t work.

Many people assume exercise should take a specific format: in a gym or outside for a jog. But the truth is, you’re more likely to be motivated if you’re moving in a way you enjoy. “Choose activities that align with your interests,” says Nicola. “Whether it's dancing, walking, swimming, or playing a sport, finding something you love makes it easier to stick with.”

3. Create a routine that works for you

“Establish a regular exercise routine by scheduling workouts at the same time each day,” suggests Nicola. “Consistency is key in building a habit.”

Remember, there is no “right” time to exercise, but it’s more about when you feel best able to do so – and when you can fit it in. Perhaps that’s at 6am before work, or maybe it’s 8pm after dinner.

4. Find a workout buddy or community

Moving your body can be more enjoyable when you’re with others, and that social aspect can keep you coming back.

Try to exercise with a friend or join a group class to make workouts more fun and hold each other accountable, says Nicola. If you’re working out online, you could get a friend to do the same workout at the same time and talk about how great (or hard!) it was afterwards.

5. Track your progress

“Keep a log of your workouts and progress to see how far you've come,” says Nicola. You should use this to celebrate your achievements along the way. How you track your progress will depend on what works for you, and what means the most.

On The Body Coach App, for example, you receive badges for the amount of workouts you’ve done. If you’re doing your own home workouts, or exercising outside, you might want to log how many times you exercise in one week, or one month. Reflecting back on this tracking will make you feel good and give you a feeling of wanting to do more.

6. Change your perspective

Moans and groans are commonly associated with an impending workout. But what if you reframed that entirely? What if you focused on what you will get out of the workout, rather than how hard it will be? “Instead of thinking of exercise as a chore, reframe it as an opportunity to invest in your health and wellbeing,” says Nicola.

One way to do this is to focus on the benefits, reminding yourself of your improved mood, increased energy levels, better sleep and reduced stress you’ll get from committing to moving your body.

7. Always show self-compassion

Don't be too hard on yourself if you miss a workout or don't see immediate results, says Nicola. Remember that progress takes time, and every step towards a healthier lifestyle counts – even those 10-minute workouts.

“On days when you struggle to find motivation, be kind to yourself, acknowledge your efforts and remember that setbacks are a natural part of the journey,” she says.

8. Focus on how you feel

Motivation will often come at the end of a workout, so take five minutes to pause and check-in with yourself after you’ve moved your body. “Pay attention to how exercise makes you feel during and after each session,” says Nicola. “Notice the immediate benefits, such as increased energy or a sense of accomplishment.”

It is that great feeling that gives you the incentive to go again. And again (and again!).

9. Connect with people who will support you

If you really want to commit to a healthier lifestyle, don’t feel like you have to do it alone. As well as finding a potential workout buddy, it can be helpful to surround yourself with supportive friends, family members, or online communities who can offer encouragement, accountability, and motivation during your fitness journey, suggests Nicola.

Having someone to congratulate you on your achievements or spur you on when you’re feeling lethargic can be a great motivating force.

10. Mix it up as much as you can

Keep your workouts interesting by trying new activities, exercises, or workout routines, says Nicola, adding: “Variety prevents boredom and challenges different muscle groups.”

It’s good to be open-minded about trying new things. This can feel daunting to begin with, but by doing this you might open your world up to new ways of moving. What about barre? A long hike outside? A calming yoga routine? Using weights for the first time? Find what makes you tick – and what makes you feel good.

“By incorporating these tips into your routine, you can gradually build motivation and make exercise a more enjoyable and sustainable part of your life,” adds Nicola.

It’s worth noting that sometimes, consistent and prolonged low motivation can be a symptom of a mental health issue. While self-care may help, you may find it useful to seek professional help.

This article was written by The Body Coach content team.

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