We all know the benefits of exercise. People who work out regularly have stronger hearts and bones, less stress, more energy and sleep better, among other benefits. Once people start working out, it can become a great habit. But even the most dedicated exerciser can have lulls where they don't want to work out. When that happens (and it WILL happen), how do you re-find your mojo?
I experience this myself from time to time. As a runner and triathlete, currently training for a few half marathons and my first half-Ironman distance triathlon (70.3 miles), I aim to workout 6-7 days a week. Every day is either a swim, bike or run day. I also try to incorporate weights into my routine for extra strengthening, although those workouts are the first to go when I need to balance working out with the rest of my life. I recently got into yoga as well, and try to attend one class per week (wish I could do more, but time is an issue). Most days I get up early in the morning to work out; as a mom of two young kids, my life is very hectic. I rarely have time to exercise during the day, and I definitely don't want to exercise at night after the kids are in bed. I'm too tired by then! I find if I get up early and hit the road or the pool I'm most likely to get it done.
But sometimes I just don't feel like working out. I'm not talking about days where I am physically sick, or have a migraine, or am injured....I'm talking about days where my mind just isn't into it. Maybe it's due to stress, or burnout, or boredom. Regardless, there are days where I just don't want to get my sweat on.
So what's a dedicated athlete to do when they've lost their mojo? Here are some tips that have worked for me in the past:
1) Set a new goal. Make a goal to lose a certain amount of weight. Make a goal to do 10 pull-ups in a row, or to be able to run 5 miles nonstop. My favorite motivator is to sign up for a new race.When I have a half marathon or a triathlon looming in the future, I know that in order to finish it strongly I need to train hard for it.
2) Blab your goal to the world. When I sign up for a new race, I tend to post it on Facebook. Announcing to the world that I am training to run 13.1 miles or run, bike and swim 70.3 miles motivates me to get it done.
3) Change up your routine. If you are a runner, try biking or swimming on off-days (that's how I got into triathlon, by the way!) Take a pilates or Zumba class. Do yoga. Get on the elliptical or rowing machine. Play tennis with a friend. As long as you're breaking a sweat and raising your heart rate, it's all good.
4) Add variety into your old workouts. I can get bored pretty easily swimming 50 laps in a row. I have found that using paddles or doing various drills for some sets breaks up the monotony. While running I may do some speed work, or hill repeats. Just this morning, I explored a new route on my bike because my old route was getting mind-numbingly boring. Keeping it fresh is key to avoiding burnout.
5) Get new music. I am a huge music fan, and love to listen to it while I'm running. About once a month I go on a little shopping spree on iTunes and by myself some new music. I then make a "new music" playlist and only listen to it on my runs. Knowing I get to listen to some great new music is very motivating to me. And you don't have to spend money to change things up. Flip through your old cds, borrow some tunes from a friend, or check some cds out of your local library to burn onto your mp3 player.
6) Buy new gear. Few things excite me in life other than having new gear to play with. New running shirts, a new water bottle, new compression socks, new goggles, a new flavor of Gu to try...it doesn't matter what it is, if it's new I can't wait to try it.
7) Workout with a friend. Even if you've lost your mojo, having a friend waiting on you to run or bike can be powerfully motivating. Ask a friend to go running with you or meet you at the gym. You won't want to leave your friend hanging, and you'll be forced to meet him/her. You may even want to join a local running group. And nothing makes the time pass quicker than chatting with a friend.
8) Fake it till you make it. Even if you don't WANT to go for a run, just put your shoes on and, in the immortal words of Nike, "Just Do It". Sometimes I tell myself I only have to run (or bike or swim) half as far as I actually had planned, just to get myself out the door. Almost 100% of the time, I end up completing my originally planned mileage.
9) Get encouragement from other athletes. Because few of my real-life friends are as crazy about running/biking/swimming as I am, I have found an amazing community of athletes on social media sites such as Twitter and dailymile. My friends in real life don't want to hear about how great (or sucky) my 8 mile run was...but my friends on Twitter and dailymile do! And when I'm in a mojo-slump, they are the first to encourage me, motivate me and sympathize with me. It's great to have a support group, whether in real life or online, to help each other. Sometimes I've been known to scroll through the dailymile feed, looking at my friends' workouts, until one in particular will catch my eye and motivate me (for example, hearing how one friend plowed through her long run even though she wasn't feeling up to it, etc). It's like athlete porn for me.
10) Do it now for the feeling later. Sometimes when I have no mojo, I think about how good I'll feel when I get home. To me, nothing feels better than coming back in the house all sweaty, flushed, and exhausted from pushing myself. It's an indescribable feeling that you have to experience to understand. In order to get that feeling, you need to get out the door in the first place.
11) Take a break. Sometimes, you really DO need a break. Taking a few days off isn't going to hurt your fitness level, and just might be what the doctor ordered to re-energize your mind. But be careful not to take TOO much time off...more than a few days can lead to inertia and laziness, and THAT will decrease your fitness level.
I hope these tips help you reclaim your mojo, as they help me. Remember, losing it happens to everyone. It's making the effort to find it again that will define you as an athlete.