Finding the motivation to begin an exercise program can be difficult. Does this sound familiar? You finally take that first step. You’re excited and proud of yourself, and loved ones are encouraging you. Those first few pounds drop off and you are on top of the world… then, life happens.
KEEPING that motivation can be nearly impossible. Despite the best of intentions, “falling off the wagon” is common in fitness circles. Work schedules change, you get stuck in traffic and you miss a workout. Maybe, you aren’t seeing the same progress as when you started, so when the kids have activities, you let a workout slide. Before you realize it, one missed workout becomes a week off, then two weeks and soon those new healthy habits have vanished and you are back where you started.
So, how do you get yourself pumped up to get back on track with your healthy routine?
Award winning health journalist Robert J. David, PhD offers seven tips to help you get off the fitness roller coaster and become a person that maintains fitness in his book Fitter Faster. Read on to find great ideas that could be the key to helping you achieve a consistent healthy lifestyle!
Seek instant gratification
You’ve been told by your doctor to exercise to prevent health issues and diseases in the future. However, research suggests that long-term benefits are not a great motivator. They note that for most people prevention and longevity cannot compete with their day-to-day responsibilities. So, what is a short-term goal or motivator for you? Are you looking for better sleep? More energy? Proving something to yourself? Maybe you have a trip coming up and want to be able to do a specific activity like a hike or whitewater rafting while you are there. Whatever motivates YOU should be YOUR FOCUS. Put notes or signs up around your home where you can be reminded of your goal. Make a motivation board with pictures and quotes to keep your goal in sight. Get stickers or write a checkmark on your calendar for each time you work out. If seeing them add up motivates you, then do it!
Goals like “be healthier” are too vague to be measurable and it’s hard to be motivated by a goal that may seem impossible to reach. Instead set specific goals that are challenging, but realistic to achieve. Keep track of your progress. It can provide additional motivation to continue. There are a number of fitness trackers and apps available to help you do this. When you reach a goal, reward yourself and then set new goals to keep moving forward.
For example, walking for 30 minutes a day for 6 weeks will neither give you a body-builders physique nor prepare you to run a marathon. But, it can be a good initial short-term goal as you move toward your long-term goals. Diligently walking those 6 weeks could prepare you to walk a 5K. From there, build on your success and incorporate the activities you enjoy into your next goal (e.g. jogging intervals, weight training, a fitness class in place of a walk once a week). Start your race bumper sticker collection and work towards a 10K, then a half marathon and a full 26.2, if you choose.
Have a game plan
The old adage, “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail” is very applicable to fitness continuity. Yes, there will be times when you will miss a workout due to circumstances beyond your control. However, most often, it is simple time management and planning, or lack thereof, that causes people to get off track.
Davis advises, “Think of exercise as an important appointment.” You don’t cancel appointments with other people – you know their time is valuable. YOUR time is also valuable. Don’t cancel on yourself!”
Prepping a workout bag the night before work, picking a convenient workout location and keeping “emergency” exercise gear in your car are all great tips for commuters and people on the go.
When you make your plan, be sure to consider any pitfalls that might impact your success. For example, planning a hard workout after a 12-hour work shift means you will likely be too exhausted to follow through. Move that workout for another day or before you go to work, or if changing the time is not an option, switch that day of your plan for one with a less strenuous workout.
Try to have a Plan B. Maybe you prefer to do your walking/running outdoors, but it looks like the weather is calling for storms all week. Check out a local gym, civic center or church that has a track or treadmills. You may be able to get a daily pass without signing up for a full membership for those rainy days.
Shorten your workouts
A common complaint is that exercise takes too long. However, this does not have to be the case. A growing trend in fitness is HIIT, or High-intensity interval training. This type of exercise involves alternating short periods of full effort aerobic moves with low-impact strength moves, and often requires no equipment at all. For instance, runners might begin with 30 second bursts of a fast pace followed by a minute of walking and gradually increase the running time as fitness levels improve.
Research has shown that HIIT can be as effective as traditional training (a moderate level of activity for the whole workout) but in less time. Plus, as an added bonus, HIIT has been shown to improve brain health and function as well – even to the point of slowing cognitive decline associated with dementia, Parkinson’s and depression. Even a 10-minute HIIT workout can be beneficial!
If getting motivated is a struggle, you probably don’t think of working out as fun. However, Davis cites a new trend emerging in adventure fitness apps that have users running from zombies, escaping from Alcatraz or even saving the planet. Like aerobics for Boomers and Jazzercize for Gen Xers, these apps seek to make exercise fun, reduce boredom and create distractions so you forget you are working out.
Binge doesn’t have to be a bad word! Have a TV show you crave? If you are exercising on stationary equipment, such as a treadmill, save that show for only when you are working out! It may not only keep you motivated – it may help prevent you from “forgetting” to exercise.
When it comes to entertainment during exercise, music is likely the most popular. However, not all exercise music is equal. Researchers found that slow tempo music was not preferred, regardless of intensity of the exercise activity (low, moderate or intense). Individuals exercising tend to prefer medium to fast tempo music. They also found that as the exercise intensity increased, the preference for faster tempos also increased.
Find a workout buddy
What is it about being with a friend that makes even tasks we don’t enjoy more appealing? Having someone to share our successes and struggles with is a big part of staying motivated and it works for exercise, too! Not only are you more likely to enjoy it, but you are less likely to skip out on workouts if you know someone is counting on you.
Here’s a conversation that could be overheard at any gym on a given day:
Person 1: “When my alarm went off, I was not in a mood to exercise. I really wanted to just roll over and go back to sleep this morning. But I knew you’d text if you got here and I didn’t show up.”
Person 2: “I had the exact same thought this morning but came because YOU would be here!”
Having someone who will keep you accountable is a great motivator but finding the right workout partner is important. If you are just starting an exercise program, then working out with someone who is significantly more advanced could be intimidating and discouraging. Typically, it works best if you and your partner are close in ability levels, but not exact equals. Your partner being a little further along in the fitness journey will help motivate you to work harder.
Solo workouts don’t have to mean you miss out on the buddy motivation factor! There are many groups on social media and website message boards devoted to keeping people accountable for their fitness journey. In this case, you do your own workout, on your own schedule and at your own pace. Then you can sync up or log in to report your work out details and how it went, to help encourage others. In turn, their posts will help motivate you.
Getting a reward is a significant motivator for most people. Researchers reviewed 11 studies regarding financial incentives on exercise related behaviors. Their analysis suggested that financial incentives work as a motivation for exercise for up to 6 months and that people who paid up front and stood to lose money for not meeting their goals were even more motivated.
Which of these things motivates YOU the most? Maybe a combination of a few? Find what works for you and then make it your own. Periodically reevaluate your fitness routines and motivations.
Maybe you began with a goal of walking around the block. After time passes, that goal is met and is no longer a challenge. Maybe you are ready to train for a 5K. Or perhaps, in paying yourself, you’ve saved funds toward a vacation. Now, you are planning and want to be physically ready to hike, snorkel or do some other activity on your trip.
Your needs will change and with it, your motivation. Who knows, one day you might exercise just because you think it’s fun! Exercise might become the reward you use to motivate yourself for something else! You never know….it could happen!!
Before making a significant change in your exercise routine, it’s always a good idea to check in with your doctor. Your chiropractor can help you avoid activities that may not be suitable for your current health condition and select those that would be most beneficial to you, while preventing injuries. Find a doctor of chiropractic near you here.
7 Simple Ways to Motivate Yourself to Exercise. Time Health – Adapted from Fitter Faster: The Smart Way to Get in Shape in Just Minutes aDay (AMACOM) by Robert J. Davis with Brad Kolowich, Jr. http://time.com/5105991/how-to-build-self-discipline-to-exercise/
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Exercise Affects Not Only the Body, But Also the Brain. https://www.tnchiro.com/research/exercise-affects-not-only-the-body-but-also-the-brain/
Is there an easy way to make your workout FUN? YES!!! https://www.tnchiro.com/articles/is-there-an-easy-way-to-make-your-workout-fun-yes/
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