Staying Motivated to Workout Alone

When I first started running, my only motivation was to beat my mom in the half-marathon.  And honestly, I very quickly enlisted the help of a few friends who were already running.  Initially, I hated running on my own.  It was back in the days of iPods, and I just didn’t feel confident in tracking mileage and planning running routes all on my own.  When I started CrossFitting shortly after, I loved the community aspect of the sport.  Staying motivated to workout alone was just tough for me.

Over time, I’ve grown to love and appreciate my solo runs and workouts, but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t have a slight twinge of panic when COVID cancelled all my races and shut down my CrossFit box.  And I know I wasn’t alone.  Many of us love the group aspect of exercise, and often times we come to rely on the accountability factor of groups to keep us engaged and motivated.  From cancelled group runs to anxiety around fitness classes, many of us have had to adapt to working out alone.

Related Post: What Running & Lifting Have Taught Me About Hard Times

Now functionally, working out alone might not look all that different. Sure, you may have to adjust workouts to fit the equipment you have access to, but working out is working out. What can be a bigger struggle for many of us is finding a way to stay motivated to keep staying active when we’re no longer meeting friends for workouts, or bribing ourselves with tacos after a group run.

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So here’s a few of the ways I have been able to stay motivated, even without the accountability and peer pressure (let’s be honest here) of group workouts.

Refocus on Results

When you’re working out in a group, it’s easy to be motivated by the social aspects of working out.  When you’re working out solo, you might find some benefit in focusing on the results of the workout, since the social aspect is definitely lacking.  Motivate yourself by tracking workouts, paces, and weights.  And remember the emotional and mental benefits of working out as well. 

Sometimes the only thing that gets me out the door is knowing that running will help me from becoming a monster of a human being by 2pm.  Remind yourself of how empowered, confident, and proud you feel after a tough workout, and allow those feelings to help keep you motivated.  I don’t know anyone who needs to be less emotionally balanced, especially right now.

Re-Orient Goals

So many of my coaching clients reached out when their races were cancelled, telling me that they were struggling to stay motivated now that they weren’t training for anything.  But realistically, we always have something to be working towards, even if the goal is a little further away.  Keep putting race dates on your calendar, even if you don’t know how things will pan out in a few months or weeks.

Related Post: My Marathon was Cancelled Because of Coronavirus

Set goals that are adjusted to the changes in your workout routines. Instead of working towards increasing your back squat, work towards maintaining your physical and emotional health. I have one client who has found a lot of success in setting a goal to run at least 4x a week. Initially she was concerned that not having a set distance to train towards would mean she’d turn around after half a block, but honestly getting out the door is usually the hardest part. Instead of having a goal of running 5 miles, she’s running what feels “right” and staying in touch with her goal of getting out there consistently.

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Consider Interactive Virtual Classes

I think we’ve all become much more familiar with Zoom than we ever thought we’d need to be.  While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I know there are a lot of people who really enjoy interactive virtual classes.  From CrossFit to Peloton, there’s so many options for athletes working out at home, who still want some encouragement and feedback from a coach who can watch their movements.

Interactive virtual classes can give participants the social component of a group fitness class, without the risks associated with being in close proximity.  And if you’re new to a sport, these kinds of classes can help make sure you don’t hurt yourself with crappy form since you’ll have a coach there to give queues and reminders.  If you have a gym membership, reach out and ask if they’re offering any virtual classes.  Some other great options are Obe Fitness, CorePower Yoga, and Camp Gladiator

Celebrate Small Victories

When you’re working out with other people, chances are they are going to push you and celebrate your victories with you.  Hit a new 20lb PR on your deadlift?  Better believe there’s going to be some high-fives afterwards.  When you’re working out alone, you have to celebrate yourself.  And really, this needs to stick around long after the pandemic ends.

No finish line to cross after a marathon race? No worries, you’ve got five days of training every single week to celebrate! Give yourself incentives like a new pair of socks (I hope I’m not the only human who gets excited over socks) for every week of executed workouts. Or treat yourself to a new wine delivery subscription to celebrate the fact that you finally got two double unders strung together.

Get comfortable being your own personal cheerleader and hype person.  Throw those little victories up on social media, text all your fitness buddies, and toast to your own damn self.  Every triumph should be celebrated, and there’s no shame in taking a moment to enjoy your own accomplishments.

Keep Things Interesting

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There is nothing that can suck the motivation out of the most focused individual like getting bored. And when you don’t have friends to tell you fun stories about the time they were matched with their 1st cousin on a dating site, you’ve gotta find ways to keep yourself engaged and entertained. Try new styles of working out that you’ve been hesitant to explore. Ask friends for recommendations for new podcasts. Run new trails or routes you haven’t been on before. Whatever you can do to keep things fresh and a little different can go a long way to help keep you motivated.

Participate in Virtual Challenges

Virtual races existed long before coronavirus was a thing.  And in full transparency, I thought they were an absolute money making scheme.  Who needs to pay to run on their own, am I right?  But then all the races were cancelled, and I decided to give a virtual race a shot, because what the hell else am I doing right now anyways?  So I opted not to defer my last marathon registration, and do the virtual thing, and honestly I had a lot more fun with it than I ever thought.

I used the race hashtag to connect with other runners who were also participating, I posted my marathon time to see how I stacked up against other runs, and I shared my experience with friends and family on social media.  All of this kept me engaged.  And virtual racing isn’t the only way to participate in a virtual challenge.  There are virtual CrossFit competitions, 30 day challenges, mileage challenges, and the list goes on. 

What can be really special and interesting is the social component. Most virtual challenges have created social media groups where participants can share tips and tricks, encourage each other, and laugh at the ridiculous things we’re doing to stay sane right now. It’s another way to connect with other people, and try to keep things interesting.

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Medal from my second virtual race

Rely on habits, rather than motivation

Like I shared earlier, when I first started running and working out, I relied heavily on motivation and peer pressure to get out the door.  But after a few months, working out consistently became such a habit for me, that I found myself running even when my running buddies had to bail.  This is why consistency is so important. 

The more frequently you do something good for yourself, the easier it is to talk yourself into doing it again.  So in those early days, focus on the fact that you are building those habits.  Use some of these strategies to help keep you motivated, and in a couple of weeks you’re likely to find that you’ve gotten used to including working out in your daily routine.  It’s a whole lot easier to maintain a habit than it is to build one, so give yourself some time and grace.

Hire a Coach

I’m not gonna harp on this one, but the reality is sometimes having someone tell you to stop with the excuses and get moving is exactly what you need. A coach can help keep you motivated, accountable, and can help you problem-solve any of the barriers that might be keeping you from working out as consistently or effectively as you’d like. If a running coach is something you think would be helpful, I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have. Head over to myContact Me page for details.

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When I left my previous CrossFit box, I was absolutely struggling with the motivation to keep lifting weights.  It felt like I had just gotten back into the routine of going to the box, and changes in my usual routine are not always easy for me to accept and navigate.  It took a few weeks for me to feel like working out in a big box gym by myself was the new “normal.”  But I stuck with it, and once again, working out has become just another part of my usual routine.

Related Post: Kissing CrossFit Goodbye

If you’ve been struggling to stay motivated to workout alone, you’re definitely in good company.  But with continued unpredictability, the only guarantee at this point, we’ve got to find ways to keep taking care of ourselves as a focused priority.  Because we are worth the time, and our health is certainly worth celebrating.  I hope some of these pointers are helpful in keeping you on track, and if there are other ways you’ve had success in staying motivated, I certainly want to hear about them!

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