How To Start When You Just Don’t Feel Like It. Try The Treadmill Trick.

Photo by Cameron Venti on Unsplash

Do you ever have those days when you’re just not up for it? Whether it’s clearing out the clutter, doing that workout or starting a new project, it just feels too hard or you’re not in the mood. You have things that need to be done, things that you want to do, but you can’t get off your behind to do them.

Case in point I bought a treadmill a few years ago. I like working out but my daily commitments made getting to the gym a challenge. With the unpredictable weather, (cold rain isn’t my thing) and the fact that I prefer working out in the early hours, the treadmill suited me perfectly.

Now here’s the thing, I love the high I get when I have a good run, I enjoy my workouts, but on some days I just can’t seem to get going. I step on that treadmill and want to step right off again. Those first few minutes feel excruciating. My limbs feel cold and stiff, my chest feels tight, on those days I’d rather be doing anything else but a run.

So back when I first started using the treadmill, I’m ashamed to say I succumbed to the discomfort. If I didn’t feel like it I would get on, then get right off. In contrast, on those days when I was motivated, I was able to withstand the discomfort. When I stayed on and got past the first few minutes I was fine. Fast forward to fifteen minutes and I would be in full flow; by the end of the workout I would have to force myself to stop.

Over time I learned that all I had to do was get past the first seven minutes, once I did, a good sometimes great workout was practically guaranteed.

To finish anything you have to start

It sounds obvious and maybe that’s why it’s easy to forget, you can’t get anything done if you don’t take that first step. Of course you’re not guaranteed success, you may fail, but not starting means you never give yourself a chance to find out.

And there may be any number of reasons why you don’t take action:

  • You feel intimidated by the task at hand.
  • You lack confidence in your skills.
  • You’re just not motivated.
  • You’re not really that bothered about getting it done (though you may tell yourself otherwise).

The bottom line is no action equals no results.

But here’s the thing to remember. If you are able to start, if you are able to get over that hump, then usually it isn’t as hard to finish. Once you start, momentum takes over and as I found with my workouts, when you get to the end you wonder why you felt it was even hard to begin with.

So what do I do now when I need to get something done but I’m not making that first move? I use what I call the treadmill trick.

The Treadmill Trick

On those days when I really don’t feel like working out, I trick myself into getting one because I know that if I can get through the first seven minutes I will finish. So I start small, really small. I literally tell myself ‘walk for a minute’ then another and another. As each minute ticks by I start to feel better, my body warms up and I get into the groove. Pretty soon I’m past my magical 7-minute mark and the rest of the workout takes care of itself.

The treadmill trick is simply a reminder to start small, to trick yourself into getting past the first tiny step.

But why does it work?

The most difficult part of establishing a new habit or behaviour is to actually start and we often make the mistake of making that initial step too big.  The key to success is to start with something really small, small enough to seem reasonable and achievable. It has to be small enough not to trigger fear or the other mental blocks that would give you a ready excuse not to do it. It’s so small you can’t say no to it.

In the case of my workout, I don’t focus on my ultimate goal which may be forty-five minutes, instead I’m focused on doing one minute at a time trying to get to seven. As each minute passes I push for the next until momentum takes over, the endorphins start to flow and the vision of the outcome drives me on. Aiming for forty-five minutes is daunting but seven is more than reasonable.

Tricking myself into starting has worked for me in other areas too:

  • I’ve used it to start writing when I just can’t get in the mood (in fact I used it to write this post).
  • I finally decluttered a shed I had been putting off for months.
  • I use it to tackle those not so attractive admin jobs at work.

The treadmill trick gets me off my behind every time.

So, are you ready to take action?

When you’re pumped up and ready to go you have no problem starting. It’s on those days when you’re not so motivated, when you’re having a bad day, when the task at hand seems ominous that you need those extra tools in the arsenal.

Just like I learned during those dreary winter mornings on the treadmill, the prize awaits on the other side of that hump. Remind yourself that the initial pain won’t last, you just need to stick with it long enough to get past it. Forget the big goal (for now) and just focus on starting. Make the task so simple that you can’t fail, build on it and get going. Do this consistently and the results will come: a new habit, a killer workout, a finished project, a completed task, it’s all up to you.

Try the treadmill trick because if you never start you have no chance of succeeding.


Now over to you.

Have you struggled to get started on your goals? How did you get yourself to take action?

Let me know in the comments.

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