The thought of having to take time out of an already busy schedule to exercise and get all sweaty can (understandably) fill the average person with a sense of dread. We’ve all been there before and if you overthink it, your brain will continue to try to talk you out of it… There are plenty of excuses not to exercise- you’ve had a long day, there’s laundry piled up, or the classic “I will relax for just 5 more minutes and then go exercise,” which always ends up extending through the rest of the day.
Why is it so hard to get up and go to the gym and how can we change our mindsets? Motivation is the key, it is the drive that we need to perform all our tasks and responsibilities throughout the day. Motivation is also the key to keeping exercise a habit- here are our 10 psychological tricks for staying motivated and tackling fitness goals:
Set Goals! Start off with smaller and more achievable goals when you are beginning your exercise journey. Too often we do too much too soon and end up discouraged and defeated. Don’t decide to start running 5 miles a day if you’re just starting out. Realistically, that is unlikely to happen right off the bat, it takes time to build up endurance. Focus instead on process-based goals like perfecting your form or decreasing your mile run time over the course of a month, those will help you stay motivated and keep your eye on the prize. Don’t forget to celebrate the small successes along the way too!
Focus on YOU and you ONLY. Don’t lose yourself in your progress (or lack thereof) when working on incorporating exercise into your lifestyle. Exercising is a fundamental component of self-care, so being kind to yourself during the process in important. Using exercise as a way to determine your self worth is ineffective and extremely unhealthy for your mental state. Exercising for the right reasons is more likely to keep you exercising and turning it into a habit and lifestyle. Focus on how exercising makes you feel instead of how it makes you look. Take pride in your accomplishments, no matter how small!
Think Positive. Associating exercise with positive thoughts, memories, and images will improve your motivation and help you become more consistent with your workout routine. It is also important to start your workouts with something you enjoy, use the treadmill if you enjoy running, or focus on stretching if that makes you happy. Focus on building a positive self-image and imagine how happy you are going to be once you finish your work-out (yay endorphins) and accomplish your goals.
Treat yourself along the way. There is truth behind the saying, “motion creates emotion.” Exercising releases endorphins which trigger positive feelings and good attitudes- so do gifts and treats! Taking the initiative and making the first move to get up and work-out improves your mood, allows oxygen to flow through your body, and increases your motivation to get up and exercise again the next day. Some days it is hard to find the will to exercise, but taking action and doing it anyways leads to the motivation you need. On days when it’s particularly tough, reward yourself with a treat (like an iced coffee, or a yummy protein bar) after you leave the gym. Celebrate bigger milestones with gifts to yourself like massages and new workout clothes! Rewarding yourself will help keep you on track and motivated to push through tough times and plateaus.
Be proactive in saving yourself from yourself. You know and understand yourself and your limits better than anyone else. If you know that it is difficult for you to get up and go to the gym after you get home from work, go in the morning. If you know that running a mile first-thing drains your motivation to do anything else, save that for last. Plan your routine and gym-time in a way that maximizes the use of your willpower to keep you motivated for longer. If you’re prone to self-sabotaging, find ways of tricking yourself!
Find an Exercise you Love. Finding happiness in your exercise routine is vital to having success and keeping up the habit. When you have an exercise that you enjoy and that is fun it gives you internal motivation to keep up the routine. Focusing on building a personal drive founded on sheer enjoyment builds a positive body-image, links healthy habits with a happy mind, and continually increases your overall desire and motivation to make exercising regularly a lifestyle. It’s okay to try different forms of exercise- try a dance class, yoga, pilates, spinning, running, trampoline jumping- anything active!
Make a Playlist. Music has been proven to enhance performance when exercising and choosing the right songs per your taste in music will reduce your perceived effort. Picking music that not only is high-intensity but is also encouraging and offers an emotional connection will increase motivation. Endurance will be increased because your brain is focusing on the songs and the emotions that accompany them rather than the task at hand.
Grab a Friend. Having a partner in crime to sweat with you and take part in your exercise routine results in higher levels of motivation and accountability. It’s a lot harder to push snooze on that alarm clock when you have a friend waiting for you at the gym or workout class. In general, we are much more motivated to exercise when we have someone else to push us and participate in some friendly competition. It is easy to encourage one another to do that last rep or run that last mile. It is easier to exercise when you are enjoying your time rather than looking at the clock and counting down the seconds. Taking a friend to the gym helps you with your motivation and will help them with theirs.
Convenience is key. We all wake up in the morning with a certain amount of willpower each day. It is important not to make things more difficult than they need to be and find ways to reduce our already stressful lives. Convenience in itself is an excellent motivator. Finding a gym near you, or making your own at-home gym, will make it easier for you to keep exercising regularly and make it less of a chore.
Use social media as a motivator. We all use it one way or another. The internet is full of fitness networks for every stage of life. Virtual networks, much like the buddy-system we mentioned earlier, can help keep you motivated and increase that motivation over time. Good peer pressure does exist, as long as it is keeping you motivated and inspired. It keeps you accountable and links you with people going through your same struggles. It also gives you a wonderful support group where you can update one another on your progress and where you may need help.