It’s a reality that our energy and emotional, mental, and physical readiness for physical activity fluctuates from day to day. Exercise philosophies like intuitive movement lean into that fact, and encourage people to move in the way that brings them joy or fulfillment, based on how they’re feeling in the moment.
In contrast, weekly or monthly workout plans pre-determine what a person’s activity is going to be in advance. These regimens can be helpful for people trying to achieve certain goals, like getting the CDC’s recommended amount of exercise (150 minutes of moderate activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, per week), training for a race or strength feat, or for the person who really just wants to move their body, but doesn’t want to have to think too hard about how to do that.
So, what do you do if you find yourself not in the mood to do what’s on the schedule that day? Maybe you’re tired and the thought of a speed run sounds like the opposite of what you want to put your legs through. Maybe you have a ton of energy and you want to hit a cycling class instead of lifting weights. In a myriad of ways, your body, mind, and schedule could be out of sync.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. You have to come back to the “why” of your workout plan, and then decide whether sticking with what you’re slated to do, or making an adjustment, is the best course of action.
Questions to ask yourself if you’re not in the mood for your workout
House of Athlete trainer Alex Lyons suggests asking yourself, “Is the opportunity cost of skipping that [workout] worth it to me?” Meaning, what do you get instead, and what do you lose out on? Maybe, if you’re working out to ensure a good night’s sleep, but you’re already bone tired from an unusually active day, perhaps you don’t need a gym session to achieve that goal. But if you’re planning to race a 10K at the end of the month, and you’re feeling blah on a crucial training day, then you’re just going to have to make up the run later, anyway. So would you rather do it now or later?
Making these opportunity cost assessments also comes down to getting in tune with what you’re feeling. So if you’re dreading what’s on your plan for the day, stop and ask yourself, Why? Can you flip the “why not” question on its head, and ask what you’re in the mood for instead?
What to do if you have an intense workout planned, but you’re not in the mood to work out
If your energy levels aren’t quite up for what’s listed on your calender, check in with yourself about your goals. Are they flexible enough that you can do the intense workout you have planned on a different day? What would be the consequences if you skip or opt for a different activity?
Sometimes, getting started is the hardest part. That could be especially true if you’ve been stationary for a long period of time, so you’re feeling low energy from lack of blood flow. Lyons suggests committing to just doing a warmup, and seeing how you feel after, giving yourself full permission to stop if you’re still not feeling it.
If the issue is physical or mental fatigue, you want to understand where the feeling is coming from. “It’s really coming back to understanding the mental barriers,” Lyons says. “Is the program actually too difficult? Am I just too sore, or do I just not enjoy what I’m doing in the moment?”
Finally, you might just want to switch things up if you feel like pushing yourself is not what you want or need. “If you had a really heavy lift or really heavy run and you know that if you [do your workout] something might happen to your body, switch it for something more low impact like a Pilates or reformer or yoga,” Lyons says. “You’re still benefiting from the mental aspect of getting moving, getting your day going or winding your day down, but you shifted your priorities.”
How to avoid not being in the mood for your workout in the first place
Having a well-rounded fitness plan that allows for variety and flexibility can help minimize these misalignments. If your program hits different parts of your body, combines different types of activities, and incorporates rest days, you ideally will be primed for the workout you have planned on the day that it arrives.
Plans can even be designed around the idea that every day is going to be different. So maybe if you’re someone who works best with flexibility, then the goal could be to do a certain amount of strength days per week, but not predetermine the day.
“If you are training for a run or on a weightlifting plan, that’s one aspect of your training regimen, but you also need to have something else that you just super enjoy that may not impact a certain goal or output,” Lyons says. “Everyone’s exercise arsenal should have a multitude of options.”