My Battle with Exercise Apathy

exercise apathy

It’s supposed to be hard. If it were easy, everyone would do it.

– Tom Hanks, in “A League of Their Own.”

I am not new to the fitness lifestyle. I have been doing workouts five to six times a week for the past four years. I find it helps tremendously with my mental health and overall outlook on life. I also enjoy feeling good in my skin and knowing that I am doing the best I can for my body.

Normally I schedule my workouts and I have my routines all set in stone at the beginning of the week. I have never been much of a morning person, but to make it work and find a balance for my family, I need to get up early before work three times a week. That seems reasonable right? It has not been an issue in the past. Right now it seems impossible.

It’s been below zero here in the Midwest for the past 10 days! Lots of Snow. Ice. COVID. Not a lot of planned events or fun things going on. The first early day this week, I had trouble getting out of bed. I heard the alarm go off and was just going to take a minute to snuggle with the cat. That turned into resetting my alarm and another hour in bed. I was just going to skip the one time! It was not going to become a pattern.

The next early day I didn’t even set my alarm to get up. Finally, lying in bed again on day three and feeling that getting up was just an impossible task, I decided I needed a plan to defeat my exercise apathy. It was all about recognizing the spiral. To avoid a complete derailment, I put together a list that has worked for me in the past. Here it is:

1. Set the alarm. The alarm is getting set for my workout time. No exceptions. No more telling myself that I will go later in the day. I know myself and I won’t do it, as past experience has shown. Enough. Time for some honesty.

2. Track your activity. I am getting my Apple Watch out. I haven’t been wearing it or trying to meet my fitness goals. It helps keep me motivated so it’s going back on my wrist. I also use it as a reward system. If I close all my rings for 15 days, I reward myself with a little gift. It will likely be new fitness wear as that always helps my motivation.

3. Call a friend. Make fitness dates with your inner COVID circle. I called my tried and true fitness friends and scheduled dates with them. I may not want to be accountable to myself, but I will never stand up a friend. This works, but takes some forethought and is so worth the planning. Help your future self now. Brainstorm on who will motivate you and what activity you want to do. A class? A virtual work out? Anything to get started.

4. Call a trainer. These people are professionals and are really great at motivation if you listen to their advice and are honest with them. Even if it is once a week, it can really help get back on track. I’m definitely a type-A personality and when I tell someone exactly what I have been doing, I do better with my plan. This approach does not work for everyone, but those of us who don’t want to disappoint others do great with it.

5. Get outside. I know it can suck outside, but it might be time to get out there. Sometimes the gym walls are just closing in. We have all been stuck inside more this year than any other in our lives. In the Midwest we have winter gear available that can get you through any weather. I dug out my balaclava this week, put on my -100 Sorel boots, my puffy winter jacket and took a hike. Yes, it was cold and yes I didn’t last long outside, but I finished my 30 minute goal. It was invigorating and really nice to have a change of scenery. It is also a reminder that better weather and outside options are coming.

6. Try something different. If outside is not an option and inside is it, try to switch up your workouts. If you always do the Peloton or the treadmill, then make a change. Use the elliptical or a stationary bike or any other cardio workout. Look at your yoga or class options which may be limited now due to COVID. However, there are endless streaming workout groups you can do at home. Other great resources are Pinterest and Instagram. There are limitless workout options, including HIIT workouts and weight lifting routines, which can be found online. Just switch something for a change. Think about going out of your comfort zone and maybe attempting something you’re not sure you can finish. It is always OK to stop or modify if needed.

7. Be kind to yourself. Do not beat yourself up about your slump! The fact that you are out there and caring about your health is an immediate victory. It may be that your body needs a little bit of pause right now. Try to really listen to that inner voice that is trying to communicate with you about your needs.

Another important dialogue is paying attention to your mood. Is this a short-term lack of motivation or is there a bigger depression or personal issue that needs attention? If that is the case, it is important to recognize it and get the help you deserve. Remember that both physical and mental health benefits come from exercise. Exercise relieves anxiety and improves the immune system, among many other benefits. Any amount of exercise helps. Don’t worry if you only have 10 minutes today, try and schedule more time tomorrow. Just keep moving the best that you can. I’m here cheering you on.

How do you deal with exercise apathy? I’d love to know what works for you too.

5 thoughts on “My Battle with Exercise Apathy”

  1. That’s a very useful tip Torgersen. Seems lately I too had a demotivation for waking up early morning and exercising. But somehow I try to manage and hit the snooze button a couple of times and try to wake up.

    Thanks again!

  2. Corri Anderson

    Great article, Carrie! You would totally be waiting on me, but I may need to hit you up as a walking or hiking buddy. ;)

  3. Excellent advice on all fronts. Showing up “is” half the battle.
    Thank you Carrie for putting good stuff out into the world!

  4. Great post. I see you included tracking as a way to follow goals, which is super important. I would add also setting the goal of mastering a specific movement or skill. Like doing a perfect push-up or being able to do a handstand. That makes us focus on the activity itself to accomplish the goal.

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