Many people are confused by why their motivation for exercise is tanking during this quarantine. I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit, and I believe I have some good solutions for you.
But in order to implement the solutions, you have to first appreciate what is the cause of this lack of motivation during these unprecedented times.
Many people think that since they are quarantined and working less or unable to get out, they have much more time to exercise.
Yet the exercise still isn’t happening.
So if it’s not the lack of time, then what is the problem?
You can blame the gyms being closed. But there are plenty of workouts you can do at home without equipment. We’ve posted many options on our Facebook page and have a free resource for you coming out soon.
Maybe it’s the lack of accountability, support, and instruction that you relied upon from a trusted expert. Now that we have successfully implemented virtual training online that clients love, you can have all the support and guidance you need right at home. You can see for yourself at www.myfitnesstherapist.com.
So if it’s not time, equipment, or support holding you back, what is it that’s zapping your motivation?
Honestly, I’ve had a hard time understanding this at first. I’ve long ago learned that I need exercise to be productive, happy, and healthy. It’s more of a habit than a conscious decision at this point. For folks like me, motivation even under these circumstances isn’t an issue.
But many people aren’t like this. Even some fitness enthusiasts are hitting a motivation lull right now.
If that is you, it’s actually completely normal under these circumstances.
It turns out that there are plenty of reasons why your motivation is lacking right now. Fortunately, there are solutions for these issues.
Here are a few potential reasons and how you can overcome them:
1. Draining of resources
When you are mentally taxed, you are less likely to exert the will power to exert self-control or initiate novel behaviors. As you can imagine, those who have yet to establish exercise as a habit are more susceptible to this.
Many of us are draining our cognitive resources more now than ever through figuring out how to adapt to the constantly changing recommendations surrounding this damned virus. Coupled with the worry about how this affects our freedom, our economy, our health and society as a whole, it’s no wonder why we are drained. If you’ve questioned why you feel tired, even though you haven’t really done much, this cognitive burden is why.
Related to this is a well-studied phenomenon called decision fatigue. In short, the more decisions we make, the more errors we make overtime.
We are constantly making decisions that we are not accustomed to making during this pandemic: do I still go to work, how do I help out my elderly family member, do I order food now since delivery won’t likely be for 12 days, how to I make a mask, should I wear gloves when I go out, etc. After so many novel decisions, the decision about what to do for a workout and what to cook for dinner can seem overwhelming.
Don’t beat yourself up over this. We’re all getting our collective butts kicked in by this virus in some way or another. Have some self-compassion. Doing so is one of the key emotions that correlates with increased self-control according to research performed by David Destanos at Northeastern University.
And that self-control will help keep you away from eating and drinking too much, and perhaps make it more likely that you exercise more as well.
Focus on the controllables. In the face of uncertainty a good way to re-establish a sense of control is to focus on the things that you can do.
The legendary basketball coach John Wooden has a great quote that applies here: “don’t let what you can not do get in the way of what you can do.”
You can get a good workout, even without equipment. I have a resource coming for you soon that shows you what to do. So that will eliminate another decision, and make it easier for you to get your exercise in.
Finally, be more aware of your need for recovery. Meditation and sleep will be vital under times of increased cognitive load that we are all in now. Don’t discount the power of sleep under these circumstances.
And if you are struggling to sleep due to stress, be sure to write down your thoughts before you go to bed. Getting them out on paper is a proven strategy, and quite helpful for unloading them from circulating in your head
2. A lack of routine
When your routine changes, your system for how you do things can go haywire. Often times, when one part of our system falters, it can set of a chain reaction of events, often called the domino effect. You’ve probably noticed this happening.
For example, since you now work from home, you don’t wake up early and pack your bag for the gym. Since you aren’t going to work, you don’t hit the gym on the way home. And since you are too drained (see above) you don’t make diner and instead grab some chips and ice cream. You’ve already blown your diet, so” might as well skip the workout for the day”.
The fix for this is to start a new routine. Since motivation ebbs and flows throughout the day, find a point of the day where you are relatively clear and positive. Use that time to plan a schedule out for the next day. After assuring for proper sleep, schedule in a quick breakfast followed by a workout to start your day.
A study in 2001 at the university of Bath showed that those who wrote a plan naming the time and place for their workouts were 91% successful in sticking with a workout routine, compared to 35% of people who merely tracked their workouts and read about exercises benefits. So that means you need to schedule when and where you will be exercising.
Then, schedule your work or home tasks by blocking off chunks of your day. Be sure to schedule in intermittent walking or meditation breaks, as well as time for meals. This should make getting back into a new routine much more likely.
3. Relative Privation Fallacy
In the face of something dire, like a global pandemic, it’s common to render other less urgent things trivial, such as your fitness. “how can I focus on working out when people all over are dying from this virus” so the logic goes. This is an example of the fallacy of relative privation that in times like these many people fall victim to. It makes the following errors of thinking:
- That it’s not possible to simultaneously care about bigger and smaller problems,
- That venting a relatively lesser complaint is evidence that the major issue is considered less important
- That because there are worse problems, people should not complain about any frustrations of challenges
The reality is that you can still regard this pandemic as urgent and dire, while also attending to less urgent, yet still important, issues like fitness. You can still understand the importance and severity of the effects of this virus, while also feeling frustrated over things like being isolated or being unable to go to the gym.
I’ve found it helpful to identify and name this fallacy of thinking which absolves the guilt of paying attention to things like my own personal wellness even though many others are suffering far more than I. You aren’t helping the fight against a communicable disease by failing to treat noncommunicable diseases (which is done through working out and staying healthy).
Hopefully this realization will shake you from this disordered thinking and get you back to focusing on your wellness.
4. Nirvana fallacy
There is a tendency that since the circumstances are not perfect, and you haven’t found the best option for a workout at home, you continue to put off taking any action at all.
This is something that was affecting many patients and clients as the fitness studios closed and getting to the clinic wasn’t possible. Many were of the mindset that since the optimal situation wasn’t possible, then they were going to hold off on treatment or training all together.
While we are certainly not in ideal circumstances, there is still much that we can do. And even doing 80% of an effective routine will have significant improvements on your health. Having a perfect plan only works under perfect conditions, which rarely happens. The conditions now are far from perfect, so we must adapt accordingly and move forward with an imperfect, yet still effective plan.
The solution for this is to lower expectations for perfection. Instead, consider that any action you take is productive and far better than waiting and taking no action at all.
Focus more on what you can do, and less on what you cannot do. Stay tuned for a great resource that lays out an example of some great home workouts without any equipment that will help.
Even better, go here to learn about how you can get the support, instruction, and accountability you need to make sure that you are doing the right things right, and actually getting it done!
Research shows that those who have accountability through a coach are far more successful than those who do not.
Hopefully this helps explain why you might be struggling with motivation to exercise and will give you clear solutions that you can turn things around.
As always, we’re here for you if you need help. Click here if you’d like to learn how. Now, more than ever, staying healthy and fit is so important.