Joe Friel, author of Fast After 50 and a cycling coach for over 30 years, has surprising guidance for the unmotivated. When our New Year’s resolve fades, and we want to stop exercising altogether and instead tell ourselves we’re becoming old and slow? Friel says to lace up your sneakers anyway. But be kind to yourself. Ignore both your inner drill sergeant and your inner sloth.
“I’m not a sports psychologist but I’ll tell you this,” says the 70-something Friel, who recently retired from daily coaching. “When athletes aren’t motivated they’re perhaps thinking, ‘My fitness isn’t good enough, and I don’t like what I’m telling myself to do.’”
What Friel advises next is the demoralized athlete’s three-step approach to maintaining motivation, and—yes—even improving your fitness.
• Recognize that you’re perhaps doing too much, too soon. This time of year, overtraining isn’t uncommon. Everyone wants an extreme makeover—before January is over. “If that lack of motivation happens, assume something is wrong. Don’t do some high-intensity workout as planned,” says Friel. “The workout shouldn’t feel completely like something that needs to be overcome. Pay attention to your hesitation.”
• Consider Plan B. If those scheduled interval workouts sound as impossible as climbing Everest, maybe jog easily. Or lift less weight, or do fewer reps, in the gym. “Go shorter,” says Friel. “Or go longer but easier.”
• Just do something. “The biggest issue that many athletes have is inconsistency,” says Friel. “Make sure to exercise. Whenever I’m home? I ride every single day.” Friel says that added drive, energy, and desire may be just one day away.