The Hardest Part of Working Out Isn’t Working Out

The hardest part of working out is not when your muscles burn from that last rep, and it’s not when you feel like puking after sprints, it’s starting the workout in the first place. When asking someone how they feel after a workout, you might get adjectives like tired, sick, or dead, but if you ask someone if they regretted doing it, they almost never say no. Because no matter how winded you are after a hard workout, there is a sense of accomplishment and of self-satisfaction that you completed it. Once you’ve started a set, chances are, you’ll finish it.

So the hard part then, is starting. It’s overcoming the mental blocks to getting to that point. Once you’re in the swing of things, it’s almost like pure momentum can carry you the rest of the way – you want to keep going. But when you come home from work and you’re tired and grimy, in that moment, the last thing you want to do is put on your workout clothes, go to the gym and do a full-on workout. If you really think about it, it’s not the workout itself that is the dreadful part, it’s all the parts in between, the admin parts, the drudgery. No matter when in the day you work out, there is always a tiny voice that says, ugh, it would just be so much easier to not.

So here are a couple ideas if you’re having trouble getting through that chasm of minutiae before your workout.

Idea number one – make things as easy as possible for yourself. When I used to workout in the morning, I would sometimes sleep in my workout bottoms, and put the rest of the clothes right next to the bed so I could change without having to even get up. I have a friend with a long commute who works out in the evening so I recommended that she change before even leaving the office so when she’s home she’s already ready to go.

Number two – Don’t lose your momentum. On busy days, I almost feel more motivated to workout because I’ve just been running from one commitment to another and the workout would just be another thing I could check off. But if I stop moving, it’s like I lose all of that momentum and just crash. If you’re having a peppy day, don’t stop moving. Don’t come home and flop on the bed, just keep your momentum and push straight on through to your next plan, it’ll be so much easier than stopping and then trying to get the momentum back.

Number three – Take the pressure off. I got this idea from a book*, but basically, it’s to do everything in your power to set yourself up for success and then give yourself permission to stop. So for the gym that means if you’re not feeling it, you have to make yourself get dressed and get to the gym, but if you’re not feeling it once you get there, you give yourself permission to skip your workout. This may sound counterproductive, but you’ll find that if you do all the prep work and set yourself up right, you almost never will actually take yourself up on this imaginary offer. That’s because you already did the hard part, but you gave yourself permission to skip what your body perceives as the hard part. In the end, it almost feels like getting a reward for setting yourself up so well. This one works really well with idea number one as well.

So often, it’s overcoming the mental hurdle of doing something good for ourselves that prevents us from moving forward. I firmly believe that the mental game is what keeps people coming, as well as what keeps people away from developing a fitness habit. The steps above are just a start for when you’re not feeling particularly motivated but you still want to go. The real trick is to find positive reinforcement for yourself. Whatever it truly is that keeps you wanting to come back, harness it, focus on it, and use it to feed your motivation.

Told myself I had to take this picture for this blog post to get myself to the gym. Once there, I actually did a longer workout than I had originally planned. Trick yourself. 

*the book is “How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big” by Scott Adams. I LOVE this book and highly recommend it to all


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