Here's How to Get Over Those Mental Training Blocks

Fort Carson sailors participate in fun run.
Navy Operational Support Center (NOSC) Fort Carson sailors takes part in a command fun run during the Saturday morning drill period on July 20, 2019. (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Gilbert Bolibol/U.S. Navy photo)

It's easy to find reasons to avoid something on your schedule, even a physical activity that you usually enjoy. That's because your mind plays a very important role in getting you moving.

Take, for instance, a 6 a.m. workout. There are many factors that come into play for you to get there on time and in the right mindset to do it well. How well you slept, what you ate for dinner or a late-night snack, your hydration level and the distraction of all of the other "to-dos" in your day can slow-roll your wake-up.

The same goes for evening workouts. Call it a mental block, a lack of motivation, loss of focus or just making excuses not to train, but there is a strong mind-body connection that usually predetermines the outcome.

Here are seven tips to get over this mental barrier between you and your workout goals:

1. Face it, name it and tame it. Give it a name when you start to hem and haw with excuses about why you cannot train today. If you typically have a "procrastination" issue or a "just tired" issue in your head before training, try naming it what it is. "I am procrastinating," or "I am tired, but maybe I need some fuel." Just the fact that you acknowledge what is happening will help stop doubts from popping into your head as obtrusively as before.

Related: Learn more about Name it and Tame It.

2. Stop making excuses. Make today Day One, not one day. Just go do it. Get up, whether you feel like it or not, and do something. This can start off with an easy walk. That may evolve into a jog, and after 5-10 minutes, you may be ready to lift weights, swim laps or do calisthenics for the next 20-30 minutes. Realizing you are making excuses not to exercise is hard to do at first, but you always will feel better mentally and physically after having done some form of activity.

3. Write it down. Whatever is on your mind, write it down or type it. As you type, you might find that you actually are making a to-do list. Your list also can contain things you are worrying about, though they are months away. Once you write these down, you can prioritize them. You will find that combining the power of writing and prioritizing will help you regain focus on what you needed to do in the first place. Perhaps you will find some fuel in the tank that you thought was empty so you can go work out. (By the way, this works well for writers struggling to develop weekly fitness articles.)

4. Do something else. Change your environment and run errands, do administrative tasks at work or clean your room or office. You may find that just doing something else for 10-15 minutes may help you bounce back into a mode where you are open to training again.

5. Have a plan. It is easy to get lost in your head if you are going to the gym with no plan. Focus on the events (run, swim, bike, lift and calisthenics); the repetitions, sets and intervals; and pace you are going to do for that workout. Putting your head into the specifics of the workout will help you move toward it with a little more focus, and you'll have a better chance of getting it done on schedule.

6. Go back in time. Remember the last great workout you had. Go back to that personal record on a run or swim and that one-rep max that really made you excited. If that does not work for you, do the opposite. Go forward in time and know that you will not reach that goal if you skip this workout today. A goal is reached by a thousand little steps and rarely by one giant leap. Find something that excites you, visualize it and get moving.

7. Attitude of gratitude. Instead of saying, "I have to go work out in 30 minutes," say, "I get to go work out in 30 minutes." You will be surprised by simply remembering you have no real excuses not to exercise. If you are not deathly ill or unable to move, be grateful and do not waste the opportunity to get healthier.

Give a few of these ideas a try the next time you struggle for creative ideas at work, completing a menial task or getting up and moving again for health reasons. Once you realize these things happen to us all , even the most motivated, you can stop feeling sorry for yourself and actually get something done.

It takes the first step, though. Make today Day One.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

Want to Learn More About Military Life?

Whether you're thinking of joining the military, looking for fitness and basic training tips, or keeping up with military life and benefits, has you covered. Subscribe to to have military news, updates and resources delivered directly to your inbox.

Story Continues