How to Get Motivated When You Don't Feel Like Exercising

The patterns that you repeat on a daily basis will eventually form the identity that you believe in and the actions that you take. You can transform your identity and become the type of person who doesn't need motivation to perform well.
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Woman lounging on sofa looking at magazine with stack of magazines on floor, full length
Woman lounging on sofa looking at magazine with stack of magazines on floor, full length

You've probably noticed that it's hard to be motivated all the time.

No matter what you are working on, there are bound to be days when you don't feel like showing up. There will be workouts that you don't feel like starting. There will be reports that you don't feel like writing. There will be responsibilities that you don't feel like handling. And there will be "off days" when your energy and emotions are in the gutter.

The good news is that there is a simple tactic that can get your butt in the gym even when you're not feeling motivated.

What Baseball Can Teach You About Getting Motivated

I played baseball for 17 years, mostly as a pitcher.

One thing that makes baseball different from most other sports is the sheer number of games that are played. Major League Baseball teams play 162 games in a season -- even high school baseball players will routinely play 40 to 60 games each year.

With so many games, there will always be days when you don't feel motivated, when your body is tired, or you're just not mentally "up" for the game. But the game is going to be played whether you feel like playing or not, so you better figure out a solution to overcoming your lackluster emotions.

I did this by developing a pre-game routine that would automatically pull me out of a funk and push me over that threshold to perform well.

Here's what my pre-game routine looked like...

Grab a baseball and my glove. Jog out to the outfield foul pole. Jog across along the outfield wall. Stop at the opposite foul pole. Stretch hips and hamstrings. Jog back along the outfield wall. Toss lightly, working back to 75 feet or so. Head to the bullpen. Stand one step behind the mound and toss three or four times from there to the catcher. Step up onto the mound. Toss a few pitches without going into the full windup. Start throwing from the windup for 10 pitches or so. Throw from the stretch for 10 pitches or so. Finish with one of each pitch (change up, curveball, fastball in, fastball out). Walk to the dugout.

That whole sequence usually took 20 to 25 minutes and I did it the same way every single time.

While this routine physically warmed me up to play, it also put me in the correct mental state to compete at a high level. Even if I wasn't feeling up for the game at the beginning, by the time I finished my pre-game routine, I was in "game mode."

Imagine if you had a routine that could pull you into "exercise mode," no matter how little motivation you had at the start.

If you look at top performers in any field, you'll see similar patterns all over the place. NBA players who do the same thing before every free throw shot. Comedians who recite the same words before they step onto stage. Corporate executives who follow the same meditation sequence every morning.

Do you think these people always feel motivated? No way. There are some days when the most talented people in the world wake up feeling like sluggish lard bombs. But they use their pre-game routines to pull them into the right mental state, regardless of how they feel.

Here's how you can do it too...

Step 1: So Easy You Can't Say No

A good pre-workout routine starts by being so easy that you can't say no to it. You shouldn't need motivation to start your pre-workout routine.

For example...

My writing routine starts by getting a glass of water. So easy, I can't say no.

My weightlifting routine starts by putting on my lifting shoes. So easy, I can't say no.

My pitching routine started by picking up a baseball and my glove. So easy, I couldn't say no.

The most important part of any task is starting. If you can't get motivated in the beginning, then you'll find that motivation often comes after starting. That's why your pre-workout routine needs to be incredibly easy to start.

For example, you could create an exercise routine that starts with filling up your water bottle. That way, when you don't feel like working out, you can simply tell yourself, "Just fill up the water bottle." Your only goal is to start the routine and then continue from there.

For more about the importance of getting started, read this.

Step 2: Get Moving

Your routine should get you moving toward the end goal.

Most of the time, your routine should include physical movement. It's hard to think yourself into getting motivated.

Here's why...

What is your body language like when you're feeling unmotivated or lacking energy?

Answer: You're not moving very much. Maybe you're slumped over like a blob, slowly melting into the couch. This lack of physical movement is directly linked to a lack of mental energy.

The opposite is also true. If you're physically moving and engaged, then it's far more likely that you'll feel mentally engaged and energized. For example, it's almost impossible to not feel vibrant, awake, and energized when you're dancing.

While your routine should be as easy as possible to start, it should gradually transition into more and more physical movement. Your mind and your motivation will follow your physical movement.

Step 3: Do It Even When You Don't Have to

You need to follow the same pattern every single time.

The primary purpose of your pre-workout routine is to create a series of events that you always perform before doing a specific task. Your pre-workout routine tells your mind, "This is what happens before I do ___."

Eventually, this routine becomes so tied to your performance that by simply doing the routine, you are pulled into a mental state that is primed to perform. You don't need motivation, you just need to start your routine.

This is important because when you don't feel motivated, it's often too much work to figure out what you should do next. When faced with another decision, you will often decide to just quit. However, the pre-workout routine solves that problem because you know exactly what to do next. There's no debating or decision making. You just follow the pattern.

Make Excellence a Routine

You can train yourself for success just as well as you can train for failure.

Today you may be saying, "I need to be motivated to get anything done," but I guarantee that it doesn't have to be that way. If you've taught yourself to believe certain limitations, then you can also teach yourself to break through them.

The patterns that you repeat on a daily basis will eventually form the identity that you believe in and the actions that you take. You can transform your identity and become the type of person who doesn't need motivation to perform well.

This is the difference between approaching life as a professional or an amateur.

If you only work when you feel motivated, then you'll never be consistent enough to become a pro. But if you build small routines and patterns that help you overcome the daily battles, then you'll continue the slow march towards greatness even when it gets tough.

James Clear writes at, where he shares strategies that make it easier to live a healthy life. Readers of The Huffington Post can get his free ideas on how to lose fat, gain muscle, and improve your health by clicking here.

For more by James Clear, click here.

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