How to motivate yourself.
It's not exactly breaking news that regular exercise is really good for the body and mind. People have been talking about it for as long as there have been...well people.
So why isn't everybody working out and feeling great all the time?
It's because getting into regular exercise and staying consistent is impossible to do if you have to motivate yourself to do it every session. Nobody, not even the biggest fitness enthusiast, is going to be able to battle their inner couch potato and win every time.
As normal people we have times where our energy is low, times when we're not in a great mood or breaking points where we just have too much other stuff on our mind and our plate.
We all have days like this (or weeks, or months or even years...) 😊
And so, we sometimes lose our motivation. A couple of slow days, or even a week off every once in a while is not a problem. We could all use a break from time to time. The problems start to happen when we extend these breaks because going back to working out seems so much harder than chilling out on the couch.
The idea of going back to putting in the work after a period of being relaxed is tough because we tend to focus on the pain and difficulty of training. You might imagine feelings of being tired, or sore all the time and all of a sudden it just seems like too much to handle right now...we say things like "eh, maybe I'll start again tomorrow"...right?
We make up all the excuses in the world just to get around today's workout. Ladies let me tell you - it's normal.
What's happening here is that many of us have made negative associations with our emotions around exercise.
That’s how our brain works - we feel good or bad about certain experiences based on the emotions we felt when they happened.
If you didn't enjoy spending time with a group of people, or went to a restaurant and weren't treated well - you'd probably not want to go out with them or to that place again.
The opposite is true also.
We crave the things that make us feel good.
That's why it's so tempting to eat sweet treats and fast food. The food is pleasurable and we chase that feeling even if it's not so great for our bodies.
But when it comes to exercise, so many of us focus on the pain and the soreness instead of the benefits that we get. Instead of remembering the feeling of breathing fresh air, or the feeling of achievement and clarity of mind after a nice run, we focus on our legs burning on that last hill. That’s why cake wins over a workout every time.
So what can we do? It's so important that we form positive associations with exercise. If we feel good before, during and after a workout, we lose the resistance and eventually start to look forward to our next run - believe me, it'll happen :)
1. Don't push yourself too hard
A lot of us "punish" ourselves with a hard workout when we feel our motivation isn't there. Others treat the workout like a chore that they have to get through and this is the wrong approach. Finally, many of us just skip workouts entirely and feel guilty about it the rest of the day (another negative emotion.)
It's OK to realize that maybe you're not at your highest energy levels, and taking an easy recovery session or even a nice walk can be a good way to remind yourself that exercise is an enjoyable and rewarding experience that you do for yourself.
Great alternatives to your usual workout like a light Yoga flow, or an easy body-weight session are still great exercises. Even if you just fit a good stretching session into your day it will be a great way to have a good experience instead of a negative one.
" Continue to exercise according to your routine but significantly reduce the amount and/or the intensity of exercise until you no longer feel apprehensive about training."
2. Make your workouts fun!
Listening to music during a workout is a great example of combining exercise with something else we enjoy. This is a great way to add energy to our sessions that can take our minds of some of the harder parts of the workout.
Train with others. Being around people whose company we enjoy is fun. Going through a workout with our friends/family puts the focus on the social aspect of training and not on training itself. Check out our guide on training with a partner and training with your kids for some interesting tips on adding a social twist to your workouts.
Watching a TV show during your home workout can make a workout fly by as well. A nice trick is saving all your favorite shows and only watching them during training. That way you'll look forward to the workout, and to finding out who Fernando is cheating on Nancy with... :P
For home workouts body-weight exercises can be super convenient. You can also check out our guide on staying fit at home during the Corona Pandemic for more advice on getting fit in front of your TV.
We don’t always need a distraction but it helps every now and then to create better memories and associations.
"Aim to make every training session a good experience."
3. Treat yourself :)
It takes time to see results in the mirror. The health benefits of exercise are sometimes difficult to notice because the changes happen slowly. So we don't get that instant reward for exercise unless we find some way to create it.
A cool trick could be to create badges or award ourselves stickers for completing workouts. This is especially a fun exercise to do with kids!
Crossing out days in a calendar can also be incredibly satisfying as we get to measure our progress. Also counting upwards to see how many workouts you can accumulate is a great way of focusing on progress.
Any system that gives you a sense of accomplishment is a valuable way of building positive feelings about exercise.
Food can also be a powerful motivator, too. Of course, we're not talking about going on a cupcake binge.
But if we schedule our training right before our meals they serve as a reward for our workout. Eventually our brain connects the two and we form positive emotions with the physical activity. Check out our nutrition tips on how to nourish your body and feel great after workouts.
"Reward yourself after a workout to build positive feelings with the accomplishment"
4. Build the habit over time
One of the best ways to change how we feel about exercise is by building a consistent habit around it.
Five minutes is all it takes. Making a habit of blocking out five minutes of our day no matter what, every single day can be a super powerful tool. Who doesn't have five minutes?
What's done in those five minutes isn't so important, the point is to build commitment and include a bit of exercise so we can slowly build the habit and realize that it's not difficult or painful to include exercise in our lives.
All you have to do is show up, do something - anything, and do it every single day.
Over time, the connection between routine and exercise will become stronger and you'll find that you start to look forward to and want to extend your workouts.
Mini-Workouts for example - are a great way to fit short, intense stretches of exercise into your day.
"Train for five minutes or less (a Mini-Workout), every day at the same time no matter what, to teach your brain that it’s not always hard or painful to exercise."
5. Focus on the good things
If we're constantly dreading the idea of working out there's no way we'll be able to include regular, consistent exercise into our lifestyle for a long time.
This is why it's so important to change our mindset about working out. If you focus on the pain and the burn of those hard sets, then you're just going to set yourself up for failure.
Instead try to remind yourself of the great things about exercise. The feeling of strength and health in your body, the feeling of fresh air in your lungs and the confidence it gives you in the rest of your day.
This will shift your perspective and when you do workout you'll see that most of the time the exercise is far more enjoyable than the ideas of pain and effort that we sometimes build in our minds.
Remember, the goal with fitness is to be able to build a lifestyle that sustains us for a long time...for life. So setting ourselves up for success means also changing how we think about the habit.
Staying motivated and being able to show up for our workouts needs a better mindset and better planning rather than having to "convince" ourselves to work out each session.
By building positive feelings about exercise, we don't have to motivate ourselves at all, we'll look forward to a workout rather than try to avoid it.
Changing our relationship with exercise means building on positive experiences using any method we can. Try exercising with:
- Music that motivates you
- Workout with people you like
- Easier workouts that you enjoy
- A better environment, or somewhere that inspires you.
If needed, shrink your workouts down to five minutes so you can fit them into your day. Each session is an opportunity to find exercises and routines you enjoy and you can build your routine from there.
Staying motivated comes down to how you see exercise and what you remember about your last training session. Did you have fun? Was it challenging but tolerable? Did you feel good after? Did you enjoy parts of it?
If your answer to these questions is “Yes” more often than “No”, having the motivation to exercise regularly will never again be a problem.
The SPARK team 💕