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Anti-motivation. Three simple ‘mental hacks’ to get you working out.


This post documents three simple mental hacks which I put in the category of ‘anti-motivation’. I call them ‘anti-motivation’ hacks not because they will demotivate you, but because they are not intended on getting you ‘pumped up’ for a workout like so many motivational posts you will see on social media.  Rather these anti-motivation hacks are about accepting that sometimes your workout is a grind. They are simple to follow, but don’t confuse that with easy to execute.

Grinding is for the dedicated and disciplined and is something to embrace and learn to love. It’s about looking to the long term results that are given in in exchange for forgoing a short term pleasure such as sleeping in cozily in bed on a Sunday morning or slumping into the couch watching reruns of Law and Order after work.

But even for the most disciplined athlete, there is no denying at times we all struggle to find the motivation to follow our workout schedule and endure the grind. For me during the past week this has been very much the case. I have recently landed back in Japan and have been super busy sorting out my apartment, my visa, buying furniture and a lot of other ‘settling in’ activities; the weather hasn’t been my friend either, with it being an entirely wet and muggy summer week in Tokyo so far.

This morning I woke up at 4:40am after some restless sleep, this was well before the alarm scheduled to sound at 5:30 and through an open window, I could hear the rain outside. As you can imagine, the first thing on my mind was not, “hurray, time to go for my morning cardio session!”. So how did I convince myself to get out of bed and hit the pavement?  Today it was Workout Over Easy, a technique where I gave myself permission to jog ‘just one loop of Yoyogi park’. I didn’t do just one lap, actually I ended up instead clocking a 45m jog.

Allow me to explain this tip, plus two others and how they work for me. I hope they will work for you too.

1. Workout Over Easy

Give yourself permission to just make your workout ‘just a quick one’. The idea here is turn up to the gym or hit the pavement and if you are still not ‘in the mood’ after 20 minutes. You are allowed to go home. It’s that easy! More often than not, I wager you will wrap up the workout completely, without calling it short. Don’t be afraid to call it short if you really are struggling after 20 minutes. If the endorphins have not kicked in by then and you are not enjoying it you are probably better off calling it a day and doing something else.

2. Gone in 60 Seconds

This one is for when you are debating the topic of your workout in your head “Should I go to the gym/ride/swim/cycle/whatever today or skip the session?”. You can loop in this state for a long time and it’s toxic, mentally exhausting and often you do this until looping in the time window of time when you could have been training. Then after not going you end up regretting it and feeling miserable. Screw that. Give yourself 60 seconds to decide. If by the end of 60 seconds you haven’t given yourself a real and credible reason to skip the training, then stop thinking and just GO. Don’t ever question the outcome of the time period, never let the time period exceed 60 seconds. EVER. And ALWAYS GO. ALWAYS! Treat yourself as a failure to yourself and anyone that’s important if you dare let yourself change your mind later or exceed the time limit. I’m being harsh, but you need to take it seriously and this isn’t written for warm and fuzzies, it’s written to help you to get your butt out the door.

3. Zombie Workout

This one is good for early morning workouts. It’s for when you are tired and didn’t get enough sleep, it’s cold outside and you are cozy in bed. Enter ZOMBIE MODE. When the alarm wakes you, the zombie trigger is set. Don’t bother rationalizing or even waking up properly – just sit up, get out of bed and into your morning routine. Put your shoes on in autopilot, have your coffee, do whatever you do. It’s all a blur and you don’t care or even think about it. You find yourself on the street and on your workout in autopilot behaving like a mindless zombie. You will ‘come to’ at some point early in the session and congratulations, you are getting it done. Now enjoy the workout and enjoy rest of your day feeling good about having the zombie grit to get your butt out of bed.  Added bonus is if by chance the world has been overrun by zombies during the night, you will blend right in and if I learned anything from the movies its that zombies don’t attack other zombies, especially ones that have better cardio than them.

So that’s it! My top mental hacks to help you stay on track and stay focused with your training.

So how do you keep your motivation up for training when you are tired, cold or hungry or otherwise unmotivated? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. And as always, if you are headed to Japan don’t hesitate to reach out to me for tips and suggestions to help you navigate your way around the health and fitness scene in Japan.


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Boom. Selfie!

About The Fit Japan Guy

After moving to Japan I found there is so much more to the health and fitness scene than I could ever have realised, but sadly much of it is not apparent to foreigners. It is my goal to help people discover the health and fitness lifestyle opportunities that Japan has to offer.