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How To Stay Motivated To Exercise During COVID-19

Ashleigh Atkinson MHK

Ashleigh Atkinson obtained her Bachelors of Physical Education from Brock University, followed by her Masters of Human Kinetics from the University of Windsor. Ashleigh works as a health promotion specialist, runs a successful online coaching business with her husband, and is a national level figure competitor.

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How To Stay Motivated To Exercise During COVID-19

Motivation is an important concept in psychology. It’s widely used by the fitness industry – it seems like everyone is looking for motivation or is looking to be motivational for others. With a background in sport psychology, I fully understand the impact, application, and benefit of motivation as a construct. However, it’s not the be-all-end-all when it comes to accomplishing your goals.

If these past few months have taught us anything, it should be the importance of discipline. As a coach, I have had numerous reports from clients citing a lack of motivation over the last three months. Gyms have been closed and competitions have been cancelled, leaving a lot of people feeling lost and unmotivated. Let’s be honest, for a lot of people, replicating your training sessions outside a gym setting is impossible. We can continue being active with a little creativity, but without the extensive equipment and weight, it can seem pointless. This is where we need to look past motivation and rely on our discipline.

Motivation During COVID-19

Due to its popularity online, motivation is an easy word for people to use. When you’re motivated, you feel likedoing the “stuff”. You’re excited by the thought of the work, you feel energetic and pumped up about everything to do with your goal. Motivation can be internal (wanting to improve your strength or appearance) or external (wanting to win a competition). In either case, there’s something that makes you excited, that is driving you to push hard in each workout, to sweat through cardio, and to eat your meals.

On the other hand, discipline is a much less glamorous concept. It’s the ability you have to stay on track and do what you need to do – even when you don’t feel like it. Being disciplined is often described as saying no to what you want immediately, for what you want in the long run. Athletes who have spent many years dedicated to their sport will likely tell you their workouts and meals are simply part of their day, like brushing their teeth. Even the most successful athletes have days where they feel unmotivated, but they fall back on the discipline they’ve developed to get the work done.

With many of our usual motivators recently removed from our reality, staying on track may have proven challenging for people. For anyone who needs to hear this – it’s normal. Now, it’s time to focus on discipline to ensure that you can keep moving towards your goals, whatever they may currently be.

Build Your Discipline During COVID-19

If you’re looking for help in developing stronger discipline, here are a few tips you can incorporate:

Love the work. Simply put, the more you enjoy the work you need to do, the easier it will be to stay on track. Why? Because it won’t feel like work (yes, I’m ashamed to have even typed out that cliché). However, there’s a lot of truth behind it. When you love the feeling you get from pushing through workouts, and know that you’re benefitting your health, it’s easier to stay discipline.

Stick to a schedule. If you’re constantly flipping the time of day you workout, it’ll never feel like a habit. Consider your workouts and meal times to be appointments in your day. Keep them as consistent as possible, and everything will start to run on autopilot.

Start slowly. Don’t expect to just dive into being the perfect picture of health right off the bat. Gradually develop more habits that lead you in the right direction, keep them consistent, and enjoy them all. Notice the combination of tip one and two, here?

Remove temptations and distractions. When you’re just starting to focus on discipline, you’ll be better off if these factors are minimized. Remove junk food from your house, get your workouts done before life events can distract you, and designate a space specifically to your training. Also, make sure you have a structured plan to follow so you don’t feel aimless once you start. 

Cut yourself some slack. Now, this may seem counterproductive, but it isn’t. Have scheduled days off to give yourself time to do other life things, include a free meal once or twice a week. Also, if you have an off-day, be ok with it. Life happens and sometimes you need to deal with things outside of your control. That doesn’t make the entire week a wash, and it doesn’t erase the previous work you’ve done. Control how you talk to yourself when things go off plan.

While these may all seem like fairly simple steps, they’re imperative to building the foundation of strong habits and discipline. Some people may be past these things already, or they’re already doing them without second-thought, and that’s great. Once this foundation is in place, it’s up to you to make it part of your life – even when you don’t quite feel like it. 

Discipline Is The Key To Fitness During COVID-19

Inevitably, there are going to be days you don’t feel like working out. How you handle those situations is going to let you know how your discipline is doing. A long, tough day at work can easily make you want to lay on the couch eating chips instead of sweating. Do you succumb to those feelings, or get the work done and feel immensely better because of it? Even a quick workout can be enough to relieve stress and release the endorphins needed to make a tough day feel better.

It’s important to note that these situations of not feeling motivated to workout are different than feeling run-down, injured, or sick. Testing your discipline against those factors is counterproductive to your health, and only you can know what the root of the issue is.

What I’m saying is this – motivation is great, without a doubt. It’s fun to be pumped up and excited about your goals and the work involved in reaching them. But, in the long-term, discipline is a necessary component. Discipline will carry you through the days (or weeks, or months) where motivation is low. These lows are bound to happen, they’re truly unavoidable in life. However, if you have strong discipline, you likely won’t even notice these dips, and you will continue to make progress towards your goal. 

To read more by Ashleigh Atkinson click HERE and follow her on Instagram @iron_forged_fitness