Have you ever started something and felt like you wanted to quit? Of course you have. We all have. What can you do when you don’t feel motivated?   I bet you think I’m going to say “do it anyway.” Nope.  Maybe you can force yourself to take action in that one circumstance, but that is not a long term solution.  If you have to continually force yourself to do something you’re not motivated to do, eventually you’ll just quit doing it. When you are unmotivated, that’s okay.  See it as an opportunity. Embrace it.  You already have the skills to turn your situation around.

Think about your recovery. Did you one day just get up and decide to quit drinking or using, and then you were clean from that point on? Even if you were able to stop for a few days or weeks, was it easy? I doubt it.  However, once you did the hard work of recovery, everything changed. You learned what drove you to drink/use; you dealt with the underlying issues; you learned new skills. The urges to drink/use became weaker. They became less frequent. And when you did have the urge, you had a plan. You followed your plan, and you stayed on track.  This is a process that works in other areas of your life too.

When you’re not motivated to exercise or continue with any other new healthy habit, take a step back. Ask yourself why you are unmotivated. Here are some common reasons and what you can do to address each one.

I don’t enjoy it:  If don’t enjoy your chosen form of exercise, consider switching to another activity. For example, my best friend loves swimming laps. She can go back and forth in the pool for an hour or more. She finds the silence and repetition to be soothing. I find it so boring that every time I finish a lap, I pick my head up out of the water to look at the clock and see how much longer until I can get it over with. On the other hand, my friend has no interest in running. I find distance running mentally freeing. I get my best thinking done when I am zoning out and cruising along the open road.  I have no difficulty motivating myself to run. If I had chosen swimming as my form of exercise, I wouldn’t be motivated either. Find an activity that you truly enjoy.  You may need to try a number of activities. There’s something out there that’s right for you. You just have to keep experimenting until you find it.

I’m too tired:  Ask yourself why you’re tired.  If you didn’t sleep enough and that happens frequently, you probably need to change either the amount of time you sleep or the quality of your sleep. Focus on fixing that first. Without enough quality sleep, it will be difficult to embrace a new habit, or even to keep up existing ones. Another reason you may feel fatigued is your diet.  A diet high in sugar results in blood sugar highs and lows throughout the day, causing added stress to your body. Your body may not have the energy to exercise. Diets high in processed foods and with limited nutritional value also cause your body to function poorly. Imagine filling your gas tank with Kool-Aid. You car wouldn’t run well.  Treat your body with at least as much respect as you treat your car.  Fuel it properly.  Self-care in recovery includes sleeping well and eating well. Follow these simple self-care practices, and you’ll feel your energy levels rise. Start exercising, and your energy levels will go even higher.

I’m too busy:  This one requires the most self-inspection and honesty.  You need to ask yourself that hard question. “Why am I prioritizing so many other things above my physical, mental and emotional health?” Think of this as an opportunity to examine your belief in your own sense of self- worth. Once you decide that you are important and you deserve to be healthy, you can start getting creative to find solutions. For example, if you’re talking care of small children, put them in a stroller and take them with you on a walk. If you’re working multiple jobs, find a way to build exercise into your workday. Park your car in the farthest space in the lot. Use the stairs instead of the elevator. Remind yourself that you found all sorts of ways to get your substance of choice. You already have the perseverance and creative thinking skills to find a way to fit exercise into your day.

When you don’t feel like exercising, address the underlying problems. You have the skills and the mindset to make life changes. Once you resolve the underlying issues, you will be physically, mentally, and emotionally ready to stay on track with your exercise goals. You are worth the effort. Your body, mind, and soul will thank you.

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Leslie Gold

Leslie Gold, Founder and Executive Director of Strides in Recovery Leslie is an RRCA-certified running coach who specializes in training the newly sober. As a volunteer at a residential addiction treatment program, she has coached hundreds of people in early recovery across the finish line of the Los Angeles Marathon, more than any other coach in the country. Years later, many of the participants still credit the group training and life lessons learned as critical to their long-term sobriety. Inspired by these success stories and numerous testimonials about the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual benefits of training for a challenging endurance event with the support of a team, Leslie started Strides in Recovery. The mission of this non-profit is threefold: 1) Bring running/walking-based relapse prevention programs to more recovery communities 2) Strengthen and grow the community of sober runners/walkers 3) Educate addiction treatment providers about the healing power of goal-oriented group training Prior to starting Strides in Recovery in 2018, Leslie spent three decades leading clinical and financial performance improvement projects, implementing decision support solutions, and generating analytics for hospitals and health systems across the US. She holds an MBA from UCLA and a BA from the University of Virginia. She regularly runs 40-50+ miles/week and has joyfully completed a 50K, 9 marathons, and numerous shorter distance events. She is also an avid cyclist.

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