When it comes to exercise and staying fit, some people are naturally self-motivated. These are the lucky few who never skip a workout and would exercise in the parking lot if they turned up and found the gym was closed.
Self-motivated people don’t need personal trainers or training partners to keep them on the straight and narrow path to fitness; they can do it all by themselves.
Such self-motivated people are relatively rare though. For the rest of us mere mortals, getting and staying fit can be a real mental battle. On one hand, we know we’ll feel better afterward and that exercise is important for our health and wellbeing but, on the other hand, exercise can sometimes feel like such a chore!
Here are some useful and actionable ways to get and stay motivated for exercise…
Set a workout schedule
If you have a dentist appointment booked for 3pm on Wednesday, you make sure your day is organized in such a way that you are at your dentist’s office at the allotted time. Only some kind of scheduling problem or serious mishap will prevent you from going to the dentist. The same is true of most of the appointments that are part of everyday life; collecting the kids from school, dinner reservations, work meetings and movie start times. You have a specific thing to do at a specific time and so you do it.
Why not treat exercise the same way? Two, three or four times a week, schedule your workout and then honor that appointment like you would any other. Set a start time and a finish time and prepare for it like you would for anything else in your diary; make sure you have everything you need with you in advance, ensure you will arrive in time and do not double book yourself.
Rather than just say “I’m going to exercise more”, make a real commitment to fitness by scheduling your workouts.
Recruit a training partner
“Misery loves company” or so the saying goes. Another good expression is “a problem shared is a problem halved”. And who can forget that “two heads are better than one”. Don’t exercise alone – recruiting a good training partner is a great way to raise your motivation levels.
Training partners can help distract you when you are feeling the burn, provide encouragement and correction when you need it, challenge you to work harder so you get better results and keep you safe by spotting for you when you are working close to your limit. And, of course, you’ll be doing the exact same thing for them. They also keep you honest and accountable.
Take care when selecting a training partner; make sure they are of a similar level of fitness, are reliable, want to exercise the same way you do, that they won’t skip workouts and that you actually enjoy their company. A good training partner can magnify your workout enjoyment and boost your results whereas a bad one can make a workout more of a chore.
Set some goals
Getting fit, toning up and losing weight are all great reasons for exercising but what do these terms actually mean? If you think about it, they are pretty arbitrary expressions that don’t really add up to much. In contrast, goals are specific targets to work towards and can be very motivating as they give you something tangible to aim for.
Goals can be whatever you want them to be but examples include…
- Being fit enough to run two miles
- Being strong enough to do 30 push-ups
- Losing 20-lbs
- Losing four inches from your waist
- Having a six-pack by next summer
Once you have one or several goals, you then have a focus for your workouts and a reason for hitting the gym or pounding the pavement. Choose exercise activities that will take you toward your goals and also align your diet and lifestyle to those goals. Make your goals challenging but realistic and make sure you reward yourself when you reach them. Once you have reached your goals, what do you do? Set new ones of course! This process is never ending.
Track your progress
Mothing motivates like success and the best way to measure your success is to record your workouts and monitor your improved performance over time. Looking back on previous performances and comparing them to where you are now can go a long way to keeping you motivated as you’ll clearly be able to see just how far you have come.
If, for example, you started out a year ago running one mile in 13 minutes and can now run three miles in 25 minutes, it’s clear you have made some serious fitness improvements. Congratulations and keep up the good work! Enjoy your success but do not allow yourself to be satisfied which what you have achieved so far – keep on striving for better performances as doing so can be a great source of motivation.
Like any habit, exercise can take a while to become part of your normal routine and there may well be times when you feel like giving it all. Don’t worry – this is normal. However, if you want to be fit and healthy long into your old age and live the most productive and independent life you can, you should endeavor to stick with it. Look for ways to keep yourself motivated and remember that, when it comes to exercise, the journey is every bit as important as the destination.