Eight Exercise Suggestions for When You Lack the Mood to Work Out

You are exhausted. The weather is far too chilly outside. The gym is an enormous distance distant. You feel a summons from your sofa. Almost certainly, we have all discovered justifications for skipping the gym when we are not in the mood to do so.

"Lack of motivation to exercise, or simply not being in the mood, is common and normal," says Trainer Academy's Amanda Capritto, an ACE-certified personal trainer and nutrition coach based in Miami, Florida. "Even as a professional in the fitness industry, motivation alone rarely sustains me."

In fact, relying solely on motivation to propel a behavior change is a pitfall, according to Greg Chertok, a certified mental performance consultant specializing in mental fortitude training for athletes and coaches at all levels, based in New York City.

High performers don’t wait for motivation to strike. Rather, they identify actions that align with their values and commit to following through by creating routines that encourage them to do so, he says. "Adults, romantic partners, and professionals would all be rather unimpressive if we only did the right thing when we felt like it," he asserts.

That’s not to say that motivation is pointless or that working out should often feel like a burden.

Research shows that intrinsic motivation in particular — or the drive to do something simply because you like to and not for some far off and notional reward like a “bikini bod” — is key to adopting an exercise routine you can sustain for life.

“Doing something for the sake of the task itself instead of boosting your ego works best,” says Sam Ryan, a master’s-level sports and performance psychologist with the Clontarf Rugby Club in Dublin.

But given that, yes, there are going to be days you don’t feel like keeping with an exercise regimen, so here’s how experts say you can surmount a lackadaisical attitude and get moving.

1. Dig Into Your Why — Particularly the Immediate Payoff

It bears repeating: If you’re only exercising because you believe you should, you’ll rarely be in the mood.

But paying attention to the tangible and more immediate gains (like a lifted mood or feeling a sense of accomplishment or more energized) compared with the longer-term ones (even the very valid ones, like longevity, disease prevention, and weight management) can mean that you’ll be motivated to work out more often than not because you’ll likely reap those benefits during the exercise itself, some research suggests.

“Switch from an achievement goal to an experiential goal, so that it feels like something that is going to nurture you and your day, as opposed to something that feels like a chore,” recommends a sustainable change researcher at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

2. Ask Yourself, Why Not?

Exercising days, weeks and months: How your body changes

Saying you’re not in the mood to work out is often a pretext for procrastination, Chertok says. So question yourself: What am I attempting to avoid? Physical discomfort? Judgment from others at the gym? The necessity of bathing once it’s over?

Once you can identify the actual reason you’re not in the mood, you can resolve it. Maybe you remind yourself that progress only comes from distress, plan to wear something that makes you feel more confident, or simply invest in dry shampoo.

If your reason is more fundamental — you’re not well rested, nourished, or hydrated — address those needs and see how you feel, suggests Domenic Angelino, an ACE-certified personal trainer at Trainer Academy, who is based in North Providence, Rhode Island. “If you feel low energy, try having a healthy carb-dense snack to increase your blood glucose and prime yourself to feel more motivated to work out,” he says.

3. Prioritize Workouts You Genuinely Enjoy

If someone is struggling to come to class consistently, it’s often because that particular workout doesn’t fire them up, explains Cesar Vasquez, a NASM-certified personal trainer and Les Mills national presenter based in Somerset, New Jersey. “I may direct them to something they enjoy,” he says, like a dance class instead of strength training or a mindfulness-centered practice like yoga instead of high-intensity interval training.

4. Focus on Just Getting Started

Identify the first few steps to get started with your workout and commit to them. Maybe you secure your shoes, do a few leaping exercises, or start the car.

“Play music from your favorite playlist or have a pre-workout snack that you enjoy,”. “Build a habit that signals your body into action, staving off the necessity of calling upon willpower.”

Once you get begun, you’ll likely want to continue. “The reality is that motivation often comes after starting something, not before,” Chertok says.

5. But Don’t Push Through

There’s a proviso, though: Building up motivation by taking modest steps is different than compelling yourself to complete a workout you despise. “Going against what you want to do will lead to you developing more negative associations with being active,”. “That’s not ideal and will not serve you long term.”

Even knowing that you’ll feel better after your workout isn’t the greatest motivation if you detest the workout itself, the author of The Joy Choice: How to Finally Achieve Lasting Changes in Eating and Exercise. “Pushing through it is a recipe to develop a greater disdain for exercise.”

So if you’ve begun your workout and still aren’t motivated to continue, attempt a different activity or call it a day. “Give yourself grace and and really honor and be aware of the fact that you're making a conscious choice because of what you're feeling today,”.

6. Switch It Up

Why does exercise hurt? - 9Coach

Angelino recommends devising or following two fundamental workouts: one for the upper body and one for the lower body. Then make four versions of each workout: a long and brief one you can do at the gym and a long and short one you can do at home.

“Instead of forcing yourself to adhere to working out in a specific way, it’s much more effective to tailor the way you work out to how you’re feeling and your life circumstances,” Angelino says.

You can also create options for exercise by cycling through various routines you appreciate or feel in the mood to do on a certain day. Maybe you dance in your living room instead of going for a jog, or you take a lengthy walk in the neighborhood if you miss a fitness class. “When you say, ‘I'm not in the mood,’ what you're saying is, ‘I don't feel like doing what I plan to do,’”. “It’s all about getting creative and rethinking what the options are.”

7. Skip the Workout and Move More Instead

If you don’t feel like doing an official workout that requires a change of attire and a schedule of exercises, you can still enjoy the benefits of physical activity by incorporating more movement into your day. Walk to take care of the errands on your list or do a few burpees in your living room, says ACSM-certified personal trainer Jorge Cruise, the author of the forthcoming book The Hunger Eraser. “It’s a matter of doing something that's realistic, whether it's eight minutes or two hours,” he says.

Research shows that as little as two minutes of vigorous physical activity at a time — totaling just 19 minutes a week — is linked to a decreased risk of cancer, heart disease, and early mortality. More movement is linked with more benefits to an extent (more on this below), but the bottom line is that some is better than none.

8. Take a Rest Day or Week

Sometimes not being in the mood for exercise means you should take some time off. At the extreme, declining motivation and low energy can be signs of overtraining syndrome, a potentially hazardous condition, per the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

“If you’re feeling a deep-set fatigue and that’s what’s causing low motivation, you may be better off going for a walk or doing some light stretching in place of your usual workout,”. “Rest is an important component of a fitness routine.