How to Overcome “That Sluggish Feeling” When It Threatens Your Workout Plan

There are a bunch of reasons why you might NOT work out today. Some are good, and many are not-so-good. Of all possible reasons, the one I really hate works like this.

1. You plan to work out that day. Then as the planned time nears, you start to feel a physical and/or mental sluggishness. Nothing dramatic, but you just don’t feel like working out. You start to flirt with the idea of taking the day off, considering various possible justifications.

2. But rather than explicitly, decisively declaring a day off – sometimes you need one, even if unplanned – you let minutes tick by without moving toward your workout OR deciding not to. Deep down, you might know what you’re doing, but you don’t admit it to yourself.

3. Then all of a sudden, voila, it’s “too late” for your workout. You missed the window of time you had before your next work, family or personal obligation. Even though you caused this, you don’t feel glad about the “can’t workout now” reality. You immediately feel like you’ve let yourself down.

This ever happen to you?  If so, you just fell victim to That Sluggish Feeling (“TSF”).  

I’ve devised a new response to TSF when it strikes. I don’t seek to move directly from sluggishness to exercise. Instead, I do a short, easy “bridge” activity in-between, to change my energy and get me into a better frame-of-mind to decide if I’m really, intentionally going to skip that workout. Here’s how it works.

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There are a bunch of reasons why you might NOT work out today. Some are good, and many are not-so-good.

Of all possible reasons, the one I really hate works like this.

1. You plan to work out that day. Then as the planned time nears, you start to feel a physical and/or mental sluggishness. Nothing dramatic, but you just don’t feel like working out. You start to flirt with the idea of taking the day off, considering various possible justifications.

2. But rather than explicitly, decisively declaring a day off – sometimes you do need one, even if unplanned – you let minutes tick by without moving toward your workout OR deciding not to. Deep down, you might know what you’re doing, but you don’t admit it to yourself.

3. Then all of a sudden, voila, it’s “too late” for your workout. You missed the window of time you had before your next work, family or personal obligation. Even though you caused this, you don’t feel glad about the “can’t workout now” reality. You immediately feel like you’ve let yourself down.

This ever happen to you?  If so, you just fell victim to That Sluggish Feeling (“TSF”).  

You might think, “I really care about my fitness regimen…I should be able to overcome this by force of will, and never have it afflict me.” Well, that’s an awesome goal, brother. If you figure out how to tackle this head-on effectively, every time, then you’ve got me beat (and please tell me how!).

For myself, I’ve devised a different response to TSF when it strikes. I don’t seek to move directly from sluggishness to exercise. Instead, I do a short, easy “bridge” activity in-between, to change my energy and get me into a better frame-of-mind to decide if I’m really, intentionally going to skip that workout.

Here’s how it works.

WHEN “THAT SLUGGISH FEELING” STRIKES: A DIFFERENT APPROACH

The key is to recognize TSF kicking in, and to act about 10-20 minutes before the latest time you’d need to get changed and move toward exercise.

First of all, STAND UP, man. Sitting in a chair or lying on the couch is the worst posture from which to deal with TSF. Mickey kept shouting “Stay down, Rocky” but as we all know, Rocky got up. At least do this much!

Go drink 8+ ounces of water. Even if you wind up considering things and deciding not to work out after all, hydration is good. And possibly, by the way, TSF is coming from being a little dehydrated*.

Then, do one of these quick and low-grade physical activities, or design your own similar activity.

  • Do a quick household chore of some sort – empty the dishwasher, throw in a load of laundry, take out the trash, wash the windows in your car like you’ve been meaning to. Even if you don’t work out after all, at least you did something productive, dude.
  • Go for a 5- to 10-minute walk. Like literally up-and-down the street or around the block, in your neighborhood or near your office. The fresh air and stretching of your legs will do you good no matter what.

Finally, walk to where the first “action on the way to exercise” would take place. For example, walk over to your dresser where you’d put on workout clothes. Or if your first action would be packing up your briefcase and leaving the office, then go lay hands on your briefcase as if you were about to start packing up.

Maybe you still will decide to skip exercise if you honestly don’t feel well or you legitimately need more recovery from the prior day’s workout. These are real reasons, of course. But TSF tends to “cry wolf” on them more often than they’re real, and it seems extra persuasive if you’re having this internal debate while on your butt or your back, with your blood flowing sluggishly like an alligator in the hot sun.

But now you’re ready to consider things from a more balanced and ready position. You hydrated, you woke up your body a little and got the blood flowing, and you got yourself to the moment of truth in a better condition to make the right decision.

For myself, most of the time I’m feeling TSF, this routine helps me overcome it and get my workout in. And then I feel GOOD. Occasionally, I do opt to skip the workout but in such case, I know I clearly *decided* to, rather than just letting it “happen.”

* TSF can also come from not having eaten recently enough, or not having eaten quality foods that provide you with energy. Tackling this root cause probably needs to start tomorrow, since you’re not going to eat and then work out immediately. See this about eating smaller amounts, more frequently, to avoid this “under-energized” feeling.

CONCLUSIONS

In our quest to double down on body-and-soul health as we age, this occasional battle with TSF is just one of many small dramas that, in aggregate, determine our path forward.

In that bigger picture, succumbing to TSF on any given day is no big deal – it happens. But I think and fear that TSF begins to cascade, and gain power as our enemy, the more we let it have these wins. “Well, I’ll just workout tomorrow” becomes “I’ll just workout next week.” Then maybe next month, then maybe “I’ll make a New Year’s resolution.”

This reminds me of the last page from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby:

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch our arms further . . . And one fine morning—So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

So be vigilant, man. Don’t let TSF and its sneaky rationalizations gain a solid foothold in your way-of-being. And next time you feel it creeping into your mind, try out this strategy!

 

 “Long distance runner, what you standin’ there for? Get up, get out, get out of the door.” (Grateful Dead, Fire on the Mountain—click to listen)

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