Happy Monday! Can I just come right out and say something? I think it’s often assumed that as someone in an athletic career, you naturally have this abundant reservoir of motivation to tap into whenever it’s time to go to the gym. Hell no. I hate that assumption because it leads me to judge the crap out of myself any time I’m struggling to go to the gym- As though I’m a bad dancer if I don’t feel like moving my body. Whether you work out for a living or are a professional couch potato, some days it’s just freaking tough to get to the gym and/or to work out once you’ve gotten yourself there. There’s SO much that goes into what creates energy and motivation and all that good stuff and I want to keep chatting about that on this blog, but today I wanted to share three simple mantras (or whatever you want to call them) that have been helping me in the gym the past few weeks. These really are just step one, if you will- quick little check-ins that you can use to get yourself to actually go to the gym and then to get the most out of it once you’re there.
1. “Don’t think, just do.”
A friend of mine recently got me into Sarah’s Day on YouTube and she mentioned this in one of her vlogs. It’s so simple and you’ve likely heard it or some variety of it before, but it’s actually really been helping me. It’s easy to get caught up in a million different thoughts when you’re at the gym; Thoughts about work, judging thoughts about your body or your abilities, thoughts about your post-gym snack, dinner tonight, laundry, weekend plans, saving the turtles (and the list goes on..) Sometimes all it takes to get a good workout is getting all that stuff out of your head.
In a recent performance I got super caught up in my head about crap I don’t even remember now and I actually used this before going on stage and while on stage to bring me back into my body. I just kept repeating it in my head: “Don’t think just do don’t think just do don’t think just do.” I think maybe it’s the drowning out of all the other noise that helps you zero in on the one thing you’re trying to do. After a short while, I was able to “just do” the choreography and be present in it. The same goes for the gym. Instead of thinking about how many more reps you have to do or how sore your quads are going to be tomorrow or whatever you’re worried about, just keep repeating this mantra and see what it does for you.
2. The five-second rule
If you’ve ever dove into any realm of self-help or found yourself in a black hole of motivational YouTube videos, you’ve probably come across Mel Robbins video about this. She came up with the rule to get herself out of bed when she was struggling through a period of depression. The concept is basically to count down from ‘five’ and after ‘one’ you rocket launch yourself into action. Five, four, three, two, one, GO. If you want to learn more, I implore you to look it up and let her speak for herself, but I will tell you how this has helped me.
Sometimes, we need deadlines to get shit done. This is simply a very short deadline. Allow the anticipation to build up inside you for five seconds and then when you get to zero, you move. No matter what. I find it far too easy to postpone things I don’t want to do because they’re hard and working out frequently falls onto that list of things. This helps shorten that period of postponing to five seconds- much less detrimental than say, five hours or five days or five years. Use it to get yourself out of bed on time, to start the run, to get on the bike, to lift the weights, whatever.
3. “Energy creates energy.”
One of my teachers in the dance training program I most recently graduated from used to say this all the time. It kind of drove me crazy at the time because I was usually running on five hours of sleep after dancing for six hours, going to work for six hours and commuting two hours the day before and then repeating that five days a week and then working on the weekends. UGH. But on the days that I could actually listen to what she was saying despite the exhaustion, it made a huge difference.
Something I’ve noticed people are becoming awake to lately is that motivation doesn’t create action: action creates motivation, which then creates more action. This mantra supports that theory. Basically, you have to force yourself to act with energy for a short amount of time and then that act will produce more energy for you. Say you’re sitting on the couch waiting for the motivation to work out to materialize within you- Sorry, but it will literally never come. But, if you stand up and jump around- whether that be doing jumping jacks or recklessly flailing yourself around the room to your favorite song- you will create energy for yourself which turns into motivation to continue that energy.
There’s definitely a chemical reaction that goes on in the body when you do this that I can’t exactly speak to for lack of education, but we know that exercise creates endorphins so if you can move your body and invite the endorphins in, they’ll stick around and make you want to keep going. I find the best way to get that initial energy hit is to burst into movement, like a bat out of hell. If you’re trying to go for a run, sprint right away and then tone it down and back up again as you need. The important thing is to make that initial energy spike as strong as possible and then I promise it’ll be easier from there.
Using these three mantras/tricks in conjunction with each other has been instrumental in getting me to feel excited about working out again. Sometimes doing the same thing at the same gym just gets really boring and sometimes starting to work out when you haven’t in years or when you’ve never actually had a workout regimen in your life is just plain overwhelming. There’s certainly going to be peaks and valleys in a lifetime of working out but hopefully these tidbits can help you avoid getting stuck in the valleys. The last thing I want to leave you with is this: Enjoy moving your body, be grateful for what it can do today and progress will follow.