Think you feel too tired to work out? Think again. Your fatigue may be mental rather than physical. Here’s how to tell and how to coerce yourself into a training session…

Sometimes when we start a workout, we might not feel like it because we’re tired or busy, but usually, it’s fine when we get warmed up and get into the swing of it. However, our minds can play tricks on us and tell us we’re tired and sluggish when fatigue may just be mental.

Autumn Calabrese, Super Trainer from Beach Body On Demand and creator of home fitness and online nutrition programmes 21 Day Fix, 80 Day Obsession and Ultimate Portion Fix, has some motivational tips to get you through a tough workout.

How do we tell the difference between mental fatigue and physical?

Mental fatigue is different from physical fatigue.  A few things that can cause mental fatigue include lack of sleep, persistent stress or staring at a computer screen for long periods of time.  When we’re mentally fatigued we may experience headaches or difficulty concentrating, you might also find it harder to manage your emotions.  When we are physically fatigued due to high-intensity physical activity you might feel like it’s harder to run, lift weight or play but typically your alertness and concentration will remain intact.

Woman lifting weights

What tips and techniques do you have for turning your mindset around and convincing yourself that your workout will be a good one in the end?

The best way to get yourself to exercise when you’re not in the mood is to have a strong “why” before you ever begin a routine.  You have to know WHY you are doing this and it needs to be pretty impactful, something more than just “I want a 6 pack”. Wanting a 6 pack won’t push you on the hard days.

Are you doing it for your health?  Are you doing it so you can keep up with your kids?  Are you doing it because you’re tired of not feeling good in your own skin?  When you have that deep reason why you can turn to it on the hard days.  I find that to be one of, if not the most effective way to get yourself to exercise when you’re not feeling it.

I also teach people to look at their workout in a different way.  Your workout is like brushing your teeth. We brush our teeth each day so they stay healthy and don’t decay out of our mouth.  Your workout is a way of taking care of, cleaning up your body so it doesn’t “decay” or breakdown from lack of use or misuse.

Exercising when you don’t feel like it builds inner strength – it’ll also give you an endorphin rush by the end which always feels good.

Sometimes it just takes a little mind game. Tell yourself you just have to do 5 min or 10 min or a walk to the stop sign and back.  Chances are once you start you’ll realise it’s not that bad, it actually feels good to move and you’ll finish. And even if you don’t finish you’ve done more than you would have had you not done anything.  In my newest programme, 9 Week Control Freak, coming December 21st to Beachbody On Demand I’ve played the mind game for you.  I’ve broken the workouts up into short-timed sections, this helps the workout feel doable, makes it go fast and keeps it fun and interesting.  The first part is only 12 minutes, the second part is about 5- 7 min and the last section is 4 minutes.  That’s it 23 minutes of work to do something amazing for your body.

What do you do to get yourself motivated to work out when you don’t feel like it?

I always schedule my workout. To me, that is my most important meeting of the day.  It’s for me, it puts me in the right headspace for the day and gives me the physical and mental fortitude I need to take on all that comes my way. That said, yes, there are days I don’t always feel like it.  On those days I allow myself the freedom to switch it up.  If I’m scheduled to lift and I’m really not in the mood or my body is tired I’ll dance, or go for a walk or jump on the stair climber.

Outdoor exercise

I have a ton of great playlists that always pump me up, I put one of those on while I get dressed, that always leaves me ready to go.

I don’t drink coffee regularly anymore but I do LOVE Beachbody Performance Energize! It’s a combination of beta-alanine, quercetin, and caffeine to help boost energy, focus and power during athletic performance and it helps delay exercise-induced fatigue. My favourite flavour is lemon.  A few sips of the cool, tart flavour and my body knows it’s time to go.

You can also lay your clothes out the night before so they are in front of you when you wake up.  Schedule a workout with a friend, even if it’s over zoom.  Having someone to be accountable to that will cheer you on and push you when you won’t push yourself is a great motivator.  Last but not least, shift your mindset about your workout.  It’s something you GET to do, not something you have to do.  Not everyone can exercise, some people don’t have the physical ability to do it, so recognise how amazing it is that you have the ability to use your body, to make it stronger, to take care of it and do it.