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Lost Motivation to Hit the Gym? Here’s How to Get Back

Published:
January 2, 2024
December 25, 2023
Getting back into the gym doesn't have to be scary. Check out this article for some practical tips.

I used to believe going to the gym was a chore. Playing sports in high school gave me two to three hours of exercise every day, year round. So I didn’t really need to step foot into one of those facilities. But everything about my health changed once I left for my bachelor’s degree. 

The biggest change was my diet — the downstairs cafeteria was my go-to during my first year since I wasn’t allowed a car on campus. I remember the options vividly: sugar-packed cereal, carb-loaded pasta, greasy pizza, Coke products, and other not-the-best choices. My intake for vegetables and fruits was rare, especially seeing how the salad bar options would stay out for days at a time.

I knew this was not how I wanted to live — depending on my weight and looks to feel worthy. In order to feel better in my body, I needed to start taking care of it again. To do that, I had to get my butt back into the gym. But how and where would that motivation come from? I didn’t like my university’s gym. It was crowded at all hours and most students came to exercise even while they were sick — thanks, but no thanks. I lost motivation just like I lost myself in the process.

And then it hit me: we all start somewhere. Professional athletes, body builders, your friend who’s a regular gym goer — they all started from zero and built their way up. So if you’re in a workout rut or haven’t walked into a gym in a long time, here are some things that I believe could help you that have encouraged me.

Let’s get down to business

I firmly believe the right gym will help you achieve fitness goals while also making you feel more comfortable and confident in yourself. And everyone there supports each other, because we’re all here to improve ourselves. According to Mayo Clinic, there are numerous benefits behind physical activity. And choosing the right gym for you will give you more motivation. Don’t waste your money or time on a gym that doesn’t fit your needs or standards. 

See ya never, gym anxiety!

Yes, gym anxiety is real; I’ve had it myself. Once, it felt like someone was watching my every move when it was leg day (my favorite day!). It became so bad at one point that I needed to leave whatever exercise I was doing and sit in my car to work on my breathing. And it took me almost two weeks to return.

I discussed this issue later with my therapist:

“How long did that person stare at you?”

“Eh, for like six seconds I’m pretty sure…?” 

“So let me ask this, Makaela: why are you so worried about what others think of you?” 

She dug up a deep memory from my past that I was still fighting — I used to always care what individuals thought of me. But why? I didn’t need their approval. 

Everyone you come across will judge you, but you get to decide how you respond to those judgements. Will someone’s words repeat in your head? Or will you have that IDGAF mentality?

And this isn’t the time to judge yourself either! Look in one of the mirrors at your gym and instead of critiquing yourself, look for how you’ve grown and be proud of the body you’re caring for — and stop comparing it to others’ while you’re at it. Actress Emma Thompson said it best:

“Don’t waste your time. Don’t waste your life’s purpose, worrying about your body. This is your vessel. It’s your home. It’s where you live. There’s no point in judging it.”

And if that quote isn’t beneficial for you, try to recite what I say every night before bed

Grab a gym buddy if ya need one

My dad is my gym buddy, and we keep each other accountable when it’s go-time. And ladies and gents, this man is committed to it. He works out with me 4-5 times a week! It’s always fun how people know us as the father-daughter duo. And we don’t even work out together. We do our own exercises and check in with each other once or twice.

Just knowing someone at your gym can calm gym anxiety and push you to work harder. But if you can’t find a “gym bro” or would rather exercise alone, then talk in your head to give yourself more motivation:

“You’ve got this.”

“Come on, push through this rep!”

“It’s just you against you — you’re your only competition.”

Turn up the music

I am in my own little world when I’m jamming to songs. You’ll even catch me dancing a little bit to some tunes. And if you think about it, mostly everyone in the gym is listening to their own music, so it’s like a silent disco.

If you don’t have one already, I’d suggest creating a workout playlist that gets you motivated and feeling like you can take on the world. Music can help increase your stamina and empower you, even if it’s lifting one pound dumbbells. You’re putting in the work — be proud!

And if you don’t think music is your thing to exercise, I have seen people read a newspaper or book or listen to podcasts. Whatever is your jam, go for it, my friend.

Don’t know a machine? Just ask

I have walked up to individuals before to ask them how to use a machine if a personal trainer isn’t present. She or he typically shows me what weight to begin with and the proper form so I don’t injure myself. 

If you feel uncomfortable to ask, YouTube has plenty of videos that help you learn the names of exercises, how to properly use a machine, and what muscles are targeted during workouts.

Take it easy, and listen to your body 

Say it with me: Don’t overdo it! Overexercising has more downfalls than perks. You could injure yourself by doing too many reps or lifting weights that are too heavy. If you tear a muscle, that could cost you a pretty penny — surgery, physical therapy, pain meds, etc. You don’t want to feel like you can’t leave your bed the next day. And don’t target every single muscle on your first day back. Instead, do a low-impact workout.

There will also be days when your body is too sore or needs to take a rest. And that’s okay! Listen to what your body needs. Does it need more protein? Does it need you to use a foam roller to loosen up your muscles? Does it need a break, in the form of a self-care day or a nap on the couch? Does it need you to switch to yoga today to stretch out your muscles instead of doing a HIIT workout?

And a friendly reminder that your fitness goals won’t be achieved within two months — it takes time and that’s perfectly fine! The smallest improvements will add up to result in one big change.

Do it for you

Remember when I said the gym felt like a chore to me? Fast forward to today. My friends can attest to when I say the gym is like my second home. This past year has been filled with heartbreak, loss, and stress. And the gym has always been there for me whenever I needed it. This safe space made me feel like I was escaping from my own life for two hours, six days a week.

Yes, I work out 6x a week. And I’ve been called “crazy” a handful of times after telling others that fact. And yeah, I just might be! But I have also never felt better mentally and physically. I have more energy, and my endorphins make me feel like I’m on Cloud 9. And sure, my schedule is busy, but I make time for my workouts. Because it’s “me” time. So my headphones go on, and the world turns off.

Stretch (I beg of you!)

Stretch like your health depends on it, because it does (even Harvard agrees)! Too many times I witness people walk out right after their workout after lifting heavy. I spend at least fifteen minutes stretching out my body after every workout, even muscles I didn’t target.

In fact, better flexibility can lead to the following: improving your performance in physical activities, decreasing your risk of injuries, helping your joints move through their full range of motion, increasing muscle blood flow, enabling your muscles to work most effectively, and improving your ability to do daily activities.

So stretch like your body depends on it (because it does!).

***

The gym is a place where everyone is trying to be a better version of themselves. You don’t have to go to the gym for your physical appearance. Some go to relieve stress. Or to fight the demons in their head. Or to reduce their chances of genetic diseases. Or to move their body for the day after sitting at a desk and working for eight hours. Whatever the reason, you’re doing this for yourself.

Your fitness journey is a lifelong commitment — give yourself the time and grace you need to get used to being back in the gym again. You got this!

Creators:
Makaela Douglas
Published:
January 2, 2024
December 25, 2023
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