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I struggle to work out after a few days off. How can I stay motivated?

It's normal to feel defeated after missing a workout. These tips will help keep the momentum going.
Mixed race runner tying shoelaces
When it comes to exercise, finding the mental motivation to lace up those sneakers can be the hardest part.Tom Grill / Getty Images

We’ve all been there. You skip a workout, then two, then three. Suddenly that momentum you had going with your fitness routine is nowhere in sight.

Many people think that the physical act of working out is the most difficult part of maintaining a fitness routine. However, I find that most people I work with struggle with the mental motivation. Staying motivated after a few days off is tough; it messes with the flow of your workout schedule and can make it hard to get back into it.

As a weight-loss coach for almost 15 years, I’ve come up with some strategies that I use with my clients to help them get back on the horse if they’ve fallen off.

So how can you make sure missing a workout one day doesn’t turn into an entire week? Here are five tips to keep in mind.

1. Figure out the reason why you missed the workout

Did you miss it because something truly came up, or did you find an excuse to skip your workout because you weren’t looking forward to it? Maybe you missed it because you didn’t have enough time or because inclement weather didn’t allow for your walk or bike ride. Answering this question truthfully will allow you to understand the changes you need to make to ensure your workout happens. If you weren’t looking forward to your workout, it may be time to change it up and find a form of exercise you can get excited about. If a factor like time constraints or weather prevented your workout, it’s time to explore some other options that you can have on the back burner when plan A doesn’t work out. Create a list of plan B workouts that are shorter in length and can be done anywhere. This will leave you with no excuses as to why you can’t get a workout in!

2.  Ask yourself: Am I doing a workout I really enjoy?

One major factor of remaining motivated to continue an activity is enjoyment. According to research, those who perform exercise because they enjoy it or want to expand their skills are more likely to work out than those who perform exercise to reach body-related goals. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have body-related goals, but it does mean that enjoying your workouts is key to maintaining motivation. If you find a type of movement that you really enjoy, exercise won’t feel like a chore and it will be easier to pick right back up where you left off if you have to miss a day.

3.  Set smaller goals

You may be struggling with motivation because you’re not reaching your goals quickly enough. This happens to all of us, and it’s normal. When you work hard and fail to see results, it’s frustrating. Instead of one long-term goal, I recommend setting smaller milestones for yourself that will keep you motivated on your journey. Instead of a lofty weight-loss goal, like losing 30 pounds. Set incremental goals, like losing 1-2 pounds a week. This will give you something to celebrate each week and every time you hit the small milestone it will motivate you to stick with it. And don’t forget that there are many signs beyond the scale that your fitness routine is working. Keep an eye out for these signs that you’re making progress.

4.  Just walk

If you’re struggling to find the motivation to get a workout in after a few days off, aiming for a 40-minute HIIT class may not be the best plan of attack. Instead, choose an easy, accessible form of exercise that doesn’t take as much mental strength to convince yourself to do. It’s about just getting your body moving again. My suggestion? Lace up your sneakers and start walking. Tell yourself you will start with a five-minute walk around the block. Chances are, that five minutes will turn into 10, and then 20. With a solid walk under your belt today, tackling a HIIT or strength-training routine tomorrow will feel less daunting.

5.  Take a rest day.

It may seem odd to recommend taking another day off after missing a workout. But sometimes missing a workout happens for a reason: being overworked. If you’re not really into your workout or you’re feeling tired or sore, this may be your body telling you to schedule in a rest day every once in a while. Take the time to reevaluate your schedule and really listen to your body. Consider scheduling in some active recovery days in between more strenuous workouts where you do yoga, stretching or take a walk. After this break, you will feel rejuvenated and ready to tackle your workouts again.