How to Exercise When You Don’t Want to

how to exercise even when you don't want to

As winter closes in and the temperature drops, my exercise buddies (and me!) are starting to complain about the cold, dark mornings and some are even dropping their usual exercise routine. Sometimes it’s hard to get out of bed, and it’s often harder still to motivate yourself to exercise at the end of the day, when you just want to chill out with friends, TV time or a good book.

But it’s a slippery slope. If you fail to exercise one day, that can easily turn into a few days, then a few weeks or even months. Even if you only skip a day, you might experience feelings of guilt or self-hatred that can linger for days and sap your will power.

You may well find it harder to work out the next time because, while they take time to build up, fitness levels, strength and flexibility drop off steeply after a few weeks of inactivity.

It’s important to remember that and know that even professional athletes sometimes don’t feel like training. Everyone needs to know how to exercise when you don’t want to. Here’s how:

1. Consider the benefits

Working out can help you:

  • Get fitter or maintain your current fitness;
  • Manage your weight;
  • Manage your stress levels and mental health;
  • Feel more energetic;
  • Feel happy and healthy;
  • Feel in control of your life;
  • Boost your immune system making you more resistant to common bugs like coughs and colds;
  • Feel good about yourself.

2. Remember the benefits daily

If you exercise every day you won’t need a reminder of the benefits – you’ll be able to feel them. If not, print out the list above (or use the handy image at the end of this post) and stick it on your fridge, on the bathroom wall or on your car dashboard so you remember the benefits of exercise even when you’re feeling blah. You could even put it on Facebook to motivate you and your friends.

3. Set a goal

Setting goals or challenges like hiking a bucket list trail, climbing a mountain, the 52 exercises quest, a 5km run time, completing a half marathon or entering a triathlon have helped me get fitter than ever before, and more importantly, commit to a regular exercise program.

If you know you make a committment on Facebook, with a friend or by buying a plane or event ticket, that will help you set healthy goals and achieve them.

4. Make exercise the reward

If you regularly dread exercise then you’re doing something wrong. Maybe you’ve chosen the wrong form of work out or you’re going too hard. Make exercise the reward by making sure it’s fun so you look forward to it.

You can do this by exercising with a friend or trainer who inspires and uplifts you, by choosing motivating music, by listening to an audio book while you walk or by binge watching Netflix while you sit on a stationary bike.

5. Do something new

Go somewhere you’ve never been before or try a new walk. Or choose a new exercise you’ve never tried before. There are limitless options – check out the 52 Exercises quest if you need inspiration or just relearn how to walk or consider taking up running. Just do what you feel like doing. Hopefully something that seems easily doable.

6. Do anything

You don’t have to do a Crossfit session, endure a HIT workout or even run anywhere if you don’t feel like it. All exercise is good exercise, so you can choose to just dance around the house to your favourite music, take the stairs instead of the lift, or walk to work if that sounds more reasonable.

If you’re at home you can dance to your favourite tunes in your undies. Anything goes!

7. Make it manageable

Set a time limit of 10 or 20 minutes to make it easy to commit. Five minutes is fine if that’s all you can committ to. Whatever it takes to make it manageable and get you started.

8. Get inspired

YouTube is great for inspiration. You can watch a workout video, a relaxing yoga video or the original video for your favourite music tracks and follow the dance moves.

9. Get a step counter or fitness monitor

Not just a gimmick, wearable fitness devices work. A Fitbit helped me set, achieve and exceed regular step goals. If you’re competitive you can use the app to form a group and see who can complete the most steps each week.

These days I rely on my Garmin Forerunner 235 to give me feedback on my heart rate, distance run or biked and overall fitness. I love checking the app afterwards to see how far and how far I went.

10. Mix it up

Go for a bike ride, /walk some stairs, play bat and ball. It really doesn’t need to be exhausting or sweat inducing. It’s all good.

11. Don’t let your mood affect your intentions

We all have moods, emotions and feelings, but the wise woman stays committed to her values and goals irrespective of how crappy she feels. In other words, even if you feel like poop, that doesn’t need to stop you from working out or act as an excuse to avoid exercise. In particular, because the exercise is likely to boost your mood.

Hopefully health is one of your core values so bear that in mind and make your dream of good health a more powerful motivator than whatever mood is passing through.

12. Have a mantra

A short sweet mantra like stay strong can help you stay on track with exercise and just about anything. Make one now and repeat it daily.

13. Accept that life is imperfect

Your half marathon training program might say you need to run 10km but you may not have time for that. Do something else. It will be better than nothing. Don’t let the dream of perfection make you give up trying.

14. Consider it essential

Many runners run because it helps them manage their mental health, overcome addiction issues or become part of a social group. For them exercise isn’t an option, it’s a necessity; they know that if they don’t exercise, their wellbeing will seriously suffer.

You may not have reached such extremes. But even those of us who’ve never been morbidly obese, recovered from addiction or suffered from debilitating depression should consider exercise essential.

Our bodies have been designed to move and, if you don’t move it, your body you will suffer, if not now then at some point in the future.

15. Consider why you don’t want to exercise

Sometimes our core reasons for resisting exercise go far deeper than not wanting to get out of bed an hour early. Maybe you’ve got subconscious memories of being picked last for the team, maybe you were once teased for being uncoordinated or maybe you’re don’t really believe you deserve good health. Maybe you don’t believe in yourself.

Those aren’t reasons not to exercise. Remember step 11. Go back to your core value of wanting good health and don’t let your past define your future.

You do deserve good health. You can do it. You are worthy.

If those sound like good mantras, get your trainers on now and go for a walk around the block or drop everything and watch some inspiring dance videos then groove along.

Get FREE motivation now!

With a bit of inspiration from tip no. 1, I’ve made this image especially for you. I hope it will get you motivated even when you’re feeling blah.

Save this image and use it as you please…

Print it and stick it on your fridge or bathroom wall, post it on Facebook where you can easily find it or use it as the wallpaper on your phone. Whatever it takes to get you going!

Want to feel HOT?

Get free email updates from Get In the Hot Spot – a weekly injection of tips to help you stay active, be more adventurous, have more fun and feel fabulous. Sounds good? Click here now to get our weekly emails.

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!


  1. Ndemi July 1, 2017 at 10:29 pm - Reply

    Now I see how to force yourself to exercise when you don’t want to. Some good tips here. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Achal July 18, 2017 at 2:06 am - Reply

    Really good tips. Found it really motivational. Thanks and keep writing.

  3. David July 24, 2017 at 7:20 pm - Reply

    Sometimes one doesn’t feel like exercising. Now i know how to push myself to stay in shape. Thanks.

Leave A Comment