9/18/15

Workout motivation - when the mind says go but the body says no


We all know that it's hard to regret working out after the workout is over.
The hard part is always getting started. 

Many times, we are told by others that we just need a little motivation to get started. But what if motivation isn't the issue? Is it possible to be highly motivated to workout but your body is not interested in the activity at the same time? 

 I can assure you that there were many times in the past when I would see a PM run on my schedule, and my mind was "all in" but my body was not interested.
Consequently, this would result in two situations; either me skipping the workout all together or me trying to execute with a body that was not energized (which often left me with frustration during my workout followed by uncomfortable niggles post workout). 

For me, running in the evening (as a second workout for the day) was always tough on my body. The stress on my body from sitting all day combined with the weight-bearing activity of running was not welcomed by my hips, glutes, lower back and legs. I have no trouble working out twice a day and love an evening bike ride or swim but for the longest time, I couldn't develop the same energy for running in the evening like I feel when I run in the morning. 

I'm a firm believer that we should love what we do when it comes to physical activity. If I didn't like running, I wouldn't be a triathlete. But just because I don't love running in the evening, this doesn't mean that I am setting myself up for failure as a triathlete - I can simply plan my training accordingly and put all my energy into running in the mornings. 

But over this past year, I have welcomed the opportunity to run in the evening....well, I kinda had to because almost every week this entire summer, from Tues-Thurs, and then once on the weekend, I had two workouts on my schedule (AM and PM).
Although I can certainly choose when I do my workouts, I would often have a planned evening run workout on my training plan. 

All of my evening runs are designed to be very low stress and intentionally very slow. Sometimes an evening run would come on the same day as a morning run or brick and some days I would swim or bike in the morning and run EZ in the afternoon. I typically do no more than 2 evening runs per week (and not every week) but I have learned to set myself up for a quality evening run. Even if a workout is designed to be slow, there is still a purpose and it is imperative that the body performs with good form throughout the workout. 

Maybe you struggle with evening workouts or you have trouble getting started in the morning. Maybe you are simply trying to make exercising part of your lifestyle. 

Whatever the case may be, I promise (from my own experience) that with a little effort, you can set yourself up for a great workout - no matter what time of the day. 

A proper warm-up
I will always spend up to 15 minutes warming up my body with dynamic exercises before a run. A proper warm-up includes mobility exercises as well as movements that increase the HR and blood flow. Many times, I will perform a 15-20 minute strength session of core, glute and hip exercises before any run workout just to help wake-up my body.
This is one area that time-crunched athletes often neglect  - warming up before the warm-up. Not only will a proper warm-up help reduce risk for injury, but it also helps to loosen up the body when you feel stiff and can make for an easier transition from your "real" cardio warm-up before your main set. 
I suggest to dedicate 5-10 min of mobility work and dynamic exercises before all workouts to help your body warm-up. It's amazing how much better you will feel after the warm-up is finished. And the more tired you feel before a workout, consider adding a little more time to warming up the body.  

Music
Whether you can tune-out thoughts with a podcast or pump yourself up with the beats of techno, hip hop or alternative, there is research to support that music can affect motivation and mood. Next time you are feeling tired, consider turning up the radio or spending a little time before your workout to pump yourself up with music.
The simulating effects of music also help with controlling anger, minimizing depressive thoughts and helping to fight fatigue. 
Although I never listen to music when I bike or swim, I prefer podcasts for my evening runs and techno music for my morning runs. And I always have my music jamming on the way to the pool.

A good state of mind
Many times we can bring too high of expectations to a workout which can cause us to loose joy for the simple act of working out. Although it's normal to have anticipations about a workout, especially if it's with a group, in an unfamiliar environment or if the main set looks challenging on paper, but don't allow yourself to get overwhelmed by the perceived paces, watts or speeds that you are told to focus on (or think you should be able to hit), especially when you are feeling a little tired, fatigued or just off. 
Remember that performance gains come through consistency and even the most fit and accomplished athletes have to modify a workout every now and then. I've modified many workouts this summer based on how I felt and it's only helped me train harder.

If we get too focused on the outcome, we can often lose the ability to adjust to allow for a smooth fitness progression. Without this ability, not only can you find yourself lacking self-esteem before a workout even starts but you may find yourself pushing too hard for one epic workout yet, unable to recover or repeat that effort.
I suggest to look at your workout and then ask yourself "what is the best way for me to execute this workout on this day" and consider things like your mood, sleep, stress, diet, fatigue, weather, terrain, training environment, hormones and anything else that may positively or negatively affect your workout. 

Diet
It seems quite obvious but you have the ability to set yourself up for a great workout simply by focusing on the food that will help fuel your upcoming workout. Whereas on one hand you want to be mindful of foods, like fiber and fat (and any other chemically-made products with artificial ingredients - that shouldn't be consumed regularly in the diet anyways) as well as large portions that may disrupt normal digestion in the 2-4 hours before your workout but it's not just about what you eat but also what you don't eat.
Not eating enough or timing your snacks and meals appropriately with a morning or evening workout can also put your body at a physical disadvantage with energy levels remaining low alongside dropping blood sugar and possible dehydration to combat as you try to push your body.
To help you out, don't start your day without thinking about your planned workouts and what you will eat in the hours before the workout, what sport nutrition you will consume during the workout and what you will recover with post workout. If you do this often, you will likely find yourself boosting fitness and who doesn't want this?

Of course, there are also things like working out with a buddy, changing up your workout environment and making sure that you understand the purpose of the workout (instead of just chasing miles/time) to help set you up for a better workout experience. 

So next time you struggle with motivation because your body is not excited to workout (but your mind is ready), start with a warm-up, pump-yourself up with music, keep a positive mindset and make sure your diet is helping you maximize your fitness. 

Soon enough, you will find yourself with a body that is ready for whatever workout you throw at it.
And like usual, when the endorphin's start rushing, you will feel amazing and you likely won't regret the workout when it's over.