Most people know that exercise is good for them but knowing and doing are two very different things! The most common barrier to actively pursuing and active lifestyle is often lack of motivation and willpower.
Motivation and willpower are similar, inseparable but different. Motivation is the driving force that makes you want to take a certain course of action while willpower is your ability to stick with it.
Both motivation and willpower are valuable commodities and levels can rise and fall like the tide. One minute you feel like nothing can stop you from reaching your fitness goals and the next you can’t even be bothered to think about exercise, let alone do any!
In this article I’d like to share my TOP FIVE tips for maximizing motivation and willpower!
1. Front load your week
Motivation and willpower tend to wane toward the end of the week when those tasks you have been putting off start to pile up leaving your healthy eating and exercise intentions swamped. To avoid this problem, make the most of the beginning of each week when motivation and willpower are naturally highest. Here are some examples of front loading…
- Exercise on Monday and Tuesday – all you have to do if fit in one more workout later in the week and you’ve hit three workouts which is a respectable and beneficial amount of exercise.
- If your goal is to walk 10,000 steps per day, totaling 70,000 steps for the week, try and reach 12,000 or even 15,000 on the first few days to take pressure off the latter part of the week.
- Prepare and store healthy meals over the first couple of days of the week so that, later on, you have plenty of healthy food ready for when time and motivation are in short supply.
Front loading your week means that if you experience a late-week willpower slump, it won’t affect your progress very much because you will have achieved plenty of good things already.
2. Make an exercise appointment
Rather than say “this week, I will exercise three times”, set yourself a more concrete schedule and make yourself an exercise appointment. Go as far as actually writing it in your diary just like a doctors or accountants appointment.
When we make scheduled appointments we make a pledge that we are much less likely to break than vague, non-committal agreements.
Look at your diary and schedule in your work outs; be specific – just like any other professional appointment. It doesn’t matter what time or for which days you make your appointments for, so long as you honor to them.
You can take this strategy a step further by planning your weekly meals in advance too. Again, this means you are more likely to stick to your plan as you already know what you are going to eat and when. Once you have planned your weekly menu, make a shopping list based on the ingredients you will need so you have everything required to make healthy and nutritious meals.
3. Recruit a support network
A problem shared is a problem halved or so they say! And while exercise and eating healthily is not really a problem, it can certainly be easier if you have someone to share the experience with.
A walking buddy, workout partner or simply someone who keeps you accountable for your actions is a valuable asset that can help keep you motivated and maintain your willpower. Sharing your goals and then keeping your support network appraised of your progress means that other people are taking an interest in how you are getting. And you’ll have to tell them if you have not been sticking to your plan – peer pressure is a wonderful thing!
People who make good members of your support network include:
- Family members
- Personal trainers
If you prefer, you can also join or create your own online support network. Just make sure it’s full of positive, encouraging people who can offer support and advice to help you reach your goals.
4. Have a plan B
Failing to plan means planning to fail and while this idiom is popular in the armed forces, it can also be applied to fitness and health.
All too often, life gets in the way and best intentions are derailed. Maybe the gym is closed so you can’t do your regular workout or it’s raining so hard that walking is out of the question. Maybe you get to work only to find you left your healthy lunch in the fridge at home.
All of these minor slip-up could stop your good intentions in their tracks.
The closed gym means no exercise and so you might as well take the week off and start over next Monday. No healthy lunch? You end up grabbing a pizza instead which leads to ice cream for dinner and a week-long splurge on junk food.
The best way to avoid letting minor obstacles becoming progress-stopping boulders is to always have a plan B in place.
- Gym shut? Do a body weight workout at home instead!
- Bad weather preventing you from walking? Pull out your trusty jump rope and skip instead?
- Forgot your lunch? Keep some healthy snacks in your desk drawer such as nuts, a protein bar and dried fruit.
Having a plan B in place means your willpower will never be tested – or tested less often anyway!
5. Make it fun!
If you want your diet and exercise program part of your life, it needs to be fun. For example, there are lots of different workouts available to choose from and some are better than others but the best one for YOU is the one you enjoy and will do consistently. The best workout in the world is all but useless if you don’t enjoy it and therefore won’t do it.
The same is true of your diet; many diets promise amazing results in a very short time but involve eating so little or surviving on foods you simply do not enjoy. This is, is you’ll pardon the pun, a recipe for disaster.
Being fit and healthy needn’t be a miserable, unenjoyable process. Instead, find ways to make it fun. Hate running? Walking might be more up your street! Not a fan of the gym? Body weight workouts at home can be equally beneficial? Find exercising alone a chore? Joint a group exercise class.
Don’t sweat the minutia of exercise and diet – almost everything works so long as you can actually stick to it.
Knowledge is power or so the saying goes. Personally, I think that’s only half true; knowledge is power but only if you put it into practice. Make sure you use these tips to maximize your motivation and boost your willpower. Reading about them isn’t enough. Now you need to take some action!