A Sports Psychologist Explains How to Trick Your Brain Into Craving the Gym

Updated 04/26/19
Gym motivation
Mind Body Swag

I liken having to go to the gym to any involuntary activity in one's childhood. I kick, I scream… Come to think of it, not going seems like enough of a workout. But in all seriousness, as much as I want to get in shape and tone my muscles, after a long day, the only thing I want to lift is a slice of vodka pizza and a beer. Mustering the motivation to change into gym clothes and break a sweat feels like more work, and when I'm clocked out, there's no convincing me.

However, I also know that's all a load of BS. When you put yourself in the right mindset, you can achieve anything, and I recognize that it's time to call a spade a spade and acknowledge my laziness. I know I'm not alone here, either. Carving out gym time is the Achilles heel for many of my friends and colleagues, so to help make excuses a non-issue, we chatted with Melinda Nicci, sports psychologist and founder of Baby2Body, for her foolproof tips for actually wanting to go to the gym.

Meet the Expert

Melinda Nicci is a licensed sports psychologist, trainer, and founder of Baby2Body. Along with her focus on helping expected and new mothers attain fitness and nutrition goals, Nicci frequently speaks at conferences and is a consultant for several wellness publications.

Love What You're Doing

There's no sense in following a fitness regimen you hate, so take some time to do a bit of wellness soul-searching (or take a look at our guide to the best workout for your zodiac sign). "I love how working out makes me feel, and I hate how not working out makes me feel, so that's my biggest motivator," says Nicci. "It's so important that you really enjoy whatever workout or fitness class or exercise you're doing because that's when you'll want to go do it again, that's how you'll build consistency, and that's when exercise becomes a part of your lifestyle. Motivation just comes easy at that point."

If you live in a city with a plethora of options available, take a week to try several different workout classes. This will allow you to see what activities you prefer.

Be Realistic

Setting unobtainable physical goals in too short a time frame is a recipe for failure. Be realistic. Even if it means extending your fitness calendar. "If you're just kick-starting a fitness routine and you set out and say, I need to exercise for 45 minutes a day, five days a week, chances are it's not going to happen," says Nicci. "Then, when you don't hit those goals, it feels like a failure in itself, and that's not motivating. Similarly, if you go to an exercise class you're not ready for or push yourself too hard at the start, you'll be turned off by the whole thing. Start small and build. Set goals that are attainable, and gradually up the ante, challenging yourself a bit more every week."

Be Consistent

Consistency is key. We all know that. But did you know that the key to fitness consistency is getting past week three? Says Nicci, "Once you get into a regular routine with your workouts, you'll stick to it. With exercise, I think there is a three-week 'hump' that you have to get over. You have to set a schedule where you work out consistently at the same time every day and make those three weeks your challenge." Turning it into a habit helps keep you motivated to go to the gym in the first place.

Make It a Social Outing

"Join fun and engaging workout classes with some of your good friends and treat it as a girls' night out, or sign up for training classes with your partner and make it a kind of date-night activity," says Nicci. "That way it serves dual purposes, allows you to multitask and fit more into your busy schedule, and the social element is the best morale booster."

Treat Yourself

Gamify your workouts by giving yourself a reward after every milestone. "If there's a TV show you regularly watch, allow yourself to watch an episode for every workout you do in a week," says Nicci. "Or better yet, treat yourself to a massage or facial every time you complete five workouts in one week."

Set Intentions for Yourself

"Use meditations that harness the power of your breath and connection between mind and body, and try visualizations that focus on your exercising and the positive results that will come out of it." When you set an intention, you're activating your receptivity and releasing into the universe that which you intend to attract. If you intend to manifest a better fitness regimen, put it out there and watch magic happen.

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