Lost Your Fitness Mojo? 4 Reasons Why You May be Struggling with Exercise Motivation

Apr 08, 2021

 

Exercise mojo. 

It can be a slippery feeling to hold onto, can't it?

During the moments we are in full possession of it, we’re often flying high. In fact, it can seem quite ludicrous in those moments to imagine we would ever NOT be exercising. 

 

 I feel so good!

 

 I’ve taken control of my health and my life!

 

 I’m strong and capable of anything!

 

Riding the highs of exercise motivation in a culture that abhors soft bodies and props up the “hustle” can feel a lot like sitting atop a false throne. You’ve usurped the enemy (that lazy body of yours) and will now rule your commonwealth forever more.  Just like in every other empire in history however, rulers eventually fall.  A plucky new up and comer sets their sights on the kingdom or those who have been ruled grow tired of the oppression and decide it’s time to push back. 

 

As quickly as we can find ourselves duly committed to regular exercise, that seemingly steadfast motivation can crumble beneath our feet. 

 

Illness, family obligations, fatigue, hormone fluctuations, work projects, death, divorce, a move, burnout, anxiety, depression; there are hundreds of things that can shift the focus of our time and energy.  And while most professionals in the fitness industry would say that regular exercise supports us in navigating those challenges and transitions (something I would agree with in the right context), the motivation solution is actually not at all what they believe it is.

 

Most articles written by fitness experts about exercise motivation discuss the various ways that you can avoid having your life disrupt your workout schedule (heaven forbid!) and there is quite often a not-so -subtle undertone of shame layered into those messages.

 

Make it a habit. Automate it so your body, feelings and life’s surprises never have a say.

Schedule it within an inch of your life. NO EXCUSES! (gosh, I hate those memes)

Sign up for attendance challenges or programs that demand you be accountable and punish or shame you if you are not.

You will never regret a workout. Or will you….? I know I have regretted many in my past.

 

The message here is typically exercise at all cost. Which I fiercely disagree with.

 And

Sometimes we do need a bit of help getting past our own inertia.

 

I believe we can shift from park into first gear by meeting ourselves with compassion and connection as opposed to blind commitment, automation and shame. In fact, the current research (along with our own exercise histories) shows us that the latter simply doesn’t work with any lasting success.

 

 We must locate the motivations that have personal meaning for us. 

 

I fully believe that if we invoke the right WHYs for Movement, we free ourselves from the on again/off again fitness game that often leaves us feeling so darn demoralized. This is exactly what the Meaningful Movement Motivation Tool was created to help you do. 

 

Recently I posed a question on FB and Instagram asking what exactly folks struggle with when it comes to exercise motivation and unsurprisingly there were a few common themes. Here are the top 4 reasons you may be struggling to move your body consistently along with my shame-free, compassion filled suggestions for working with them. 

 

1. You are comparing your current fitness level to a level of fitness you’ve had in the past. 

My gosh, this is a tough one. As a woman who will be leaving her forties at the end of this year, I’m intimately familiar with this comparison game. In my mind, I see absolutely no reason why I shouldn’t be as fit as I was in my twenties and thirties. Yet my life isn’t even nearly the same as it was then. And nor is my body. The role of Movement in my life has shifted from what it was during those earlier decades and it benefits me greatly to recognize and honour my own evolution and change.

 While I believe it’s just a part of human nature to travel backward in time in our minds and attempt to re-create perceived high points, the fitness highlight reel does absolutely nothing to support the wellbeing and happiness of the you that is here in the present. How does the current you get their needs met by Movement? What is realistic for the life you currently lead and the body you inhabit? What fits in best? Gives you the most joy? Feels like nourishment? Trust that whatever it is, it will be just right for you even if it looks nothing like it did in years past.

Allow yourself to evolve and let your Movement practice evolve with you.

 

2. You have difficulty putting yourself first and feel like taking time to move your body is selfish.

This was a REALLY common response to my question. Most especially from womxn. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Womxn in our culture are socialized from a young age to be martyrs, taking care of everyone else’s needs before their own. Our culture doesn't even recognize the VAST AMOUNTS of emotional labour shouldered by womxn and the energy drain it creates as a result. We’re overwhelmed and exhausted a lot of the time. So how do we find a way forward? 

I think we can begin by recognizing that "Movement" can often be a much better fit for our lives than "exercise" can. It’s a subtle language change, yes, but for those of us juggling many different roles and responsibilities on a given day, the concept of Movement can feel a great deal more approachable, accessible and nourishing.

What would it feel like to embrace more Movement throughout your day as opposed to trying to fit exercise in?

 

 (Valuing oneself and one’s needs, in the realm of fitness and beyond, could be an entire blog series of its own!  If this is something you struggle with, I very highly recommend the work of Mara Glatzel. This is her zone! Her brilliant and beautiful explorations around self value, self care and human needs is work that dovetails beautifully with Meaningful Movement.)

 

3. You have preconceived ideas about what constitutes a workout. 

 Just to be clear, this is not your fault! The industry of fitness has been dictating what “counts” as exercise for a very long time. Fitness participation has also been getting increasingly more complicated, prescriptive and specialized over the last few decades. All of which make it more difficult to access. It’s a kind of capitalist, classist gate-keeping. What would happen if we knew we could access Movement without spending any money? Or without getting ourselves to a specific setting in which we need to perform it?

 Clothing, tech, equipment studios, the frequency, duration, and type of activity itself . All of these things require resources in the form of more time, more energy and more money.  And while shiny incentives like apps, fitness equipment or organized classes can often bring short term bursts of increased participation, the long game can actually be a much easier and less expensive one to play. It’s A OK to bring it back to basics.  Just move any way you like to move, especially at first. Walk, garden, dance, swim, stretch, hike, find a free or inexpensive class on YouTube. 10 minutes, 20 minutes, once a week, twice a week, whatever works in that moment in your life. If you have the means and the desire, please do go ahead and try out other things but just know that it’s 100 % not necessary in order to move your body.

The more integrated into our lives and accessible Movement becomes, the easier it is to stay consistent over longer periods of time. 

 

4. You're setting the bar too high.

Most of us want to go from 0-60 once we get that first hit of desire to exercise. Yet often bursting out of the gate like that can set us up for something that simply cannot be sustained. Staying tethered to the sacred nature and medicine of Movement through more challenging times is not about "30 minutes of exercise 5 times a week". It's not a formula that comes from something or someone outside of yourself. 

 My incredible creativity mentor and teacher, Anna Lovind, speaks in her book The Creative Doer about “not making plans with your best self in mind”. This applies to exercise as well. When we imagine ourselves committing to a particular fitness routine in moments of high energy or an uncommon spaciousness in our schedule, we tend to set the bar higher than what we can realistically reach moving forward. And by setting that bar too high at the start, we quickly find ourselves mired in feelings of failure and shame.

Start off small and trust your body to ask for more.

 

 

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