When your exercise feels ho-hum, it can sap your motivation. Here’s how to spice up your activity to get you back on track.
You’ve heard all the reasons you should be exercising — better heart health, improved mood, deeper sleep, higher bone density, the list goes on and on.
But when the thought of tackling your very next workout leaves you cold, here’s how to put the fire back in your fitness routine.
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Tip #1: Revisit Your Personal Reasons for Exercising
You’ve likely seen plenty of news reports and studies about the health benefits of exercising. And maybe your own doctor has encouraged you to increase your physical activity.
That’s all good. But have you taken the time to think about your own reasons, suggests Kansas–based trainer and coach Garret Seacat, C.S.C.S., owner of Absolute Endurance.
“When your motivation to work out starts to slide, this could be the time to take a moment for internal reflection on your goals and motivations,” Seacat says.
His recommendation: Grab a pen and paper, then ask yourself: Why am I doing this?
“Repeat this same ‘why’ question four or five times to get to the root of your motivation,” he says.
Here’s what that might look like:
- Why do I want to work out? To get healthier.
- Why do I want to get heathier? To lower my blood pressure.
- Why do I want to lower my blood pressure? To live longer.
- Why do I want to live longer? Because I want to be here for my family.
“Your root motivation may surprise you, and light a new fire to keep you going, because now you know why you’re doing what you’re doing,” says Seacat.
Tip #2: Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
A major aspect of feeling bored is familiarity, says Seacat. There’s certainly nothing wrong with taking the same class, at the same time, with the same instructor, every week.
Yet, even if you still enjoy being with that group, it’s possible you’ve gotten too comfortable with the routine. “That can take the excitement out of it,” he says.
Luckily, the remedy is simple: Take a class you haven’t done before — and might feel uncomfortable about.
When you switch it up and try SilverSneakers Yoga in place of your normal SilverSneakers Splash class, for example, you’ll do new movements. The unfamiliar sequences will keep you guessing about what’s next — keeping you interested along the way, Seacat explains. Win-win!
Tip #3: Chat Up Your Instructor or Trainer
When your SilverSneakers instructor says, “This is your workout,” they really mean it. They’re not immune to fitness slumps and workout doldrums. And they’re uniquely qualified to help you get past yours.
Many times, the key is to find new ways to make exercises more challenging and mentally stimulating, says Jake Harcoff, C.S.C.S., a trainer and certified kinesiologist. Here, your instructor or a trainer can really help. They’ll be able to suggest new modifications or alternate exercises that feel fresh to you yet are still safe.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is that there are other ways to make an exercise more challenging without lifting more weight,” Harcoff says.
When it comes to making exercises more challenging, most people typically try to increase resistance with heavier weights, he says. While that does make exercise more intense, it can also lead to a breakdown in technique and potential injury if you boost weight too quickly.
Instead, you can slow down the workout or change the type of exercises you’re doing. Asking an instructor or trainer for ideas can be a great starting point for figuring out what would work best for you, Harcoff says.
Tip #4: Set Specific Goals That Are SMART
One of the fastest ways to get bored is to lack clear goals, Harcoff says. Without a direction in mind, it’s easy to get complacent.
“Many times when workouts become stale, what’s actually missing a goal,” he says. “Not only do goals give you something to strive for, but they also guide your workouts to keep you moving in the right direction.”
The gold standard for creating fitness goals is the SMART method, he adds. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.
For example, you might set a goal of walking in an upcoming 5K with your grandkids. That’s SMART because it’s:
- Specific: Walking in a 5K
- Measurable: It’s an established distance
- Attainable: You’re walking and know you’ve walked that far before
- Relevant: You’ve been working on walking longer distances
- Time-based: The 5K is held on a specific date
This also potentially matches up with your fitness reason, which might be to spend more time with your grandkids in an active way.
Tip #5: Track Your Progress
If you haven’t taken the time to track your workouts, the time to start is now, when your workout motivation needs a jumpstart, says Harcoff.
He encourages everyone, at every fitness level, to start and keep a fitness journal. In it, you can jot down:
- Your personal reasons for exercising
- When you do workouts
- Type of workout
- Whether you’ve changed up some variables like amount of weight lifted or distance walked
- How you felt before, during, and after each workout
- Questions you might want to ask your instructor or trainer — or even your doctor
Set aside a few minutes each week to look back to see where you started and how far you’ve come.
“Workouts only really get boring when you begin to feel like you’re mindlessly training with no sense of progression,” he says.
“Bottom line, seeing the progress you’ve made — and continue to make — will motivate you to stay on track. Looking back to see where you started will show you that you haven’t been wasting your time.”
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