Making plans to exercise is easy, it’s the follow-through that gets in the way. That’s when motivation comes in. But what happens when motivation deserts you right when you need it most?
For everyone, motivation to exercise comes from different points. For some, it’s the desire to compete and win. For someone else, it may be to improve their health, be able to enjoy everyday activities or play with their kids. However, for most people, it is to lose weight.
The first assumption people make when thinking about motivation is that it will just magically come to them one day and from that day on they’ll be set and want to exercise. The reality is that motivation is something we can and need to create for ourselves.
As with everything else in life, the first step is to have something to work towards. Set realistic goals you can achieve. It doesn’t matter what they are, they could be to run a marathon, or lift heavier weights, or lose … amount of weight… anything that gives you a reason to exercise will work.
You don’t have to limit yourself to just one goal. Set several small goals, for example, I’ll do 30 minutes of cardio each day, I’ll lift weights four days per week, and so on. Always having something to work for, big or small, will keep you going.
You know what they say: Motivation is what gets you started, but discipline is what keeps you going. Create a routine and you’ll develop the discipline to stick with it. Like with everything else in life, you know when you need to get up, when you need to show up for work, when you need to pick up kids from school, when you go to bed, when you eat… Just like that plan a regular day and time you workout so that, once that time comes, you’re ready and it’s just a regular part of your day.
Make it as easy as possible to follow through. That means having what you need and getting it all ready in advance. Plan your workouts in advance, pack your gym bag if you are using one, get your playlist ready, have your gym clothes set a few days in advance, have your water bottle, pre-workout, protein and meals ready. Find ways to be ready for your workout well before it happens.
Be flexible. Not every day everything will go according to the plan despite your best efforts. You may plan on going to the gym four times a week, but there will come a day when you’re too tired or you don’t have time. Have a backup plan. Allow yourself to have at home ready workouts you can do instead. For example, do a workout with resistance bands (if you don’t have any weights at home), or workout to an online program or app. Everything counts.
It should become your lifestyle. Being healthy isn’t a temporary thing, it’s a commitment and it should be for life. Recommitting to your goals keeps you on track. Spend a few minutes each morning writing about what you want to accomplish that day and how you’ll do it. Remind yourself of your goals and take some time to appreciate how far you’ve come in reaching them.
Tracking your progress helps. It keeps you on track and motivated to keep pushing. Don’t only rely on tracking the pounds you lost/gained. Scale doesn’t tell the whole story. And anyways there will be weeks when the number on the scale doesn’t move in any direction, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have any progress. Notice changes in how your clothes fit, take body measurements, take pictures, see how you are feeling overall. Are you lifting heavier weights, or are you running for longer, are you sleeping better?
Just because exercise requires preparation, discipline, and commitment (all so serious, right?) doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Moving your body can be something you consider an enjoyable part of your daily life. If the activity you have been doing doesn’t excite you, find something that does.
Rewarding yourself after you reach a certain goal is totally fine, just don’t do it with food. There are many better ways to reward yourself like going to the movies, a massage, new books, new running shoes, a new outfit and so on.
I’m not going to lie, there will be days when you just don’t feel like working out. And days when you are all pumped up but not every workout is a perfect one despite your best efforts. Motivation to workout is very important, but it gets you just so far. Your motivation will change from one day to another. And that is ok. Because when that happens, dig deep to find that thought, goal, or reward that will get you moving forward.