Motivation to Exercise

Lack of Motivation: Reason #2 Why Moms Don’t Exercise as Much as We’d Like

Picture this: You do all the preparations you can possibly think of to ensure that you will follow through with your plan to hit the gym after work. You are so motivated to get back into an exercise routine because it will be good for you! You arrange child care, you set out your new, cute workout clothes, your spouse is on board with you coming home a little later than normal, you do your best to get a good night’s rest, and you eat well throughout the day to make sure you can be energized enough for that exercise class you have signed up to attend.

And then, pow! Someone calls in sick at work so you have to pick up the slack all day long. By the time you leave work, you have literally zero motivation to workout. If something has to give, it is your workout because not parenting in the evening is not an option. You decide to go straight home in hopes that you can get the evening routine started sooner and get to bed earlier. 

Sound familiar? 

This all-too-common situation is an example of the second reason in this series of posts where we are looking at the top ten reasons why moms don’t exercise as much as we’d like. As moms, we usually have the best intentions, but then those intentions get derailed because our motivation is depleted for the day. Or, perhaps, we are not motivated by the right things in the first place. 

Today, I would like to share some insights from Dr. Michelle Segar and her research on motivation. I hope that you find it as intriguing and helpful as I have. I first saw her presentation on motivation about ten years ago, and let me tell you, these concepts have stuck in my memory more than anything in regards to behavior change. 

According to Dr. Segar, science shows that humans are more motivated by immediate rewards and benefits than they are by future goals that they’re aiming to achieve. 

What does this mean? If someone says that they would like to start up an exercise routine because they want to prevent their back from giving them problems down the road, this is not a strong enough reason to stay motivated with a workout program long term. Instead, focusing on the positive ways a workout is going to make you feel immediately after or even during the workout will increase your motivation. 

For example, if you set your alarm to go off at 5:30 a.m. so you can workout, chances are you will be pretty sleepy when it goes off. You could easily turn off the alarm and enjoy your warm, cozy bed until your kids wake you up, or your second alarm goes off that you must obey or you risk losing your job or kids missing school. In that moment where you must decide, you will probably not be motivated by the thought of reducing your risk of back pain. However, your motivation to feel a mood boost, energy lift and sense of accomplishment for doing the workout, will more likely get you out of bed so you get immediate rewards. 

Dr. Segar also says that research shows  we have limited cognitive capacity. (Sounds a little something like Mom-Brain to me!) We have limited self-control, and every time we have to make decisions and choices, it actually depletes our self control muscle. (Isn’t this fascinating?)

For example, did you know that we make about 200 hundred decisions per day about food alone? If you have a tempting dessert near you at work or at home, but you also are on a plan to eat less sugar, your brain has to make the decision to say no to that dessert countless times. By the end of the day, you might be tired, and your self-control is also tired. You cannot do one more rep of the word “no” to that dessert so you give in and eat it after all. 

Am I saying that you should just say yes to your temptation immediately? No. Instead, this means that we should set ourselves up for success by planning ahead and setting up our surroundings in a way where we don’t have to rely on our self control so much. A simple example is that we write our grocery list and stick to it. Avoid putting anything that we are trying to avoid eating into our shopping cart. That way we don’t have to do as many reps of saying “no” at home. 

Becoming aware of your tendencies is key. If you notice that your motivation is not where you’d like it to be, take some time to think about what is contributing to that. Motivation is like riding a roller coaster. Some days we have a lot of motivation, and some days, it gets really depleted. Understanding your own motivation roller coaster can be an important piece of the puzzle for starting this amazing shift. 

This shift usually begins with our decision to make space, even if very small at first, for daily self-care. Taking time to give our mind, body, spirit what it needs in order to feel alive, energized, happy, and accomplished is so valuable. In order to maintain a ritual or routine of exercise or self-care in general, we need to be rooted with the right why’s in order to sustain our motivation. 

According to Dr. Segar, “The approaches with the wrong “why’s” do not hook people. They get people to start and stop, to stay in the vicious cycle of failure. They don’t get people to sustain. People are too busy and exhausted to sustain behaviors when they’re juggling a ton of other things. We have to make the behaviors truly relevant and compelling to them. Part of how we do that is by helping them understand not only that they’re going to feel better when they do it, but that when they feel better, they’re more enthusiastic about everything else in their lives….

We’ve been taught that our own sense of well being should be at the bottom because it’s not important, but in fact, our sense of well being is the energy, it’s our energy source. We’re all energy-centered.”

The way I see this is that our decision to exercise is part of the cycle that keeps us energized. Maybe we can shift our thinking in a way that allows us to see exercise as a tool that can help us stay energized and more motivated rather than needing motivation as a tool to get us to exercise. Does that make sense? 

Let’s wrap this up and put a pretty bow on it, shall we?  Our motivation to exercise ebbs and flows for a variety of reasons, right?  Becoming aware of these reasons is key so that we can get to the heart of what truly drives us to follow through on our exercise goals. Knowing our “why,” and I mean that “why” that we feel deep within us, not the “why”from our external world, will get you up and moving in a way that helps you feel how you truly want to feel.

And as I always say, you deserve it! Let’s go!


Here are some ways that Fit Mom Connection is here to help you keep that motivation to exercise going!

Virtual Exercise Class Membership.   Hang out with me and other mothers live or onDemand  to benefit from some fun exercise routines that are functional for the body of mothers. The first month is free so really there is no reason not to do it. There is something in it for all abilities, ages, stages, and interests. 

30 Day Self-Care Challenge Want some support in making daily self-care a habit? This program will give you the daily motivation and tools to help you discover how life with self-care is not a luxury, but a necessity. 

Work with me 1:1 You are a beautiful, unique individual, and I would be honored to help you tap into your strengths so that you can use exercise as a vehicle, along with a S.M.A.R.T. plan for turning your intentions into actions with the results you want and deserve. Whether it’s starting with a three month wellness coaching relationship or working with me for 1:1 Personal training, I am ready to chat about your needs and desires. 

Sign up for one of my free resources which are pictured to the right or below  this post. 

Subscribe to my youTube channel where I deliver weekly fit mom moments and 15+ minute workouts. Check out my featured workout below.