It is common knowledge that exercise is good for you. But that alone is not enough to get most people to lace up their gym shoes. There is a mental component to exercise, which is harder for some than the obvious physical component. Motivation, or the drive to do something that takes effort, comes from many different places for different people, and is often driven by fitness goals. Maybe you are looking to lose a few pounds, or you want to have the energy to play with your kids. Your goal might be to walk up the stairs without getting winded or maybe to run a marathon. Your goals help drive your motivation but may not be enough. Here are some tips to help keep you mentally in shape as you work towards your fitness goals.
- Turn exercise into a reward. Our brain sees things as either a threat or reward, so framing exercise as a reward, such as “my clothes will fit better” or “I can get a better night sleep” will help keep you on track. Negative thoughts like “I am going to be hurting” will not help with your motivation.
- Make it a social event. Exercise seems like less effort when the experience is shared with others. Take a group class with a friend or co-worker, join a running group, or sign up for a team sport league. As a bonus, by including others in your fitness routine, you are more accountable because you don’t want to let someone else down.
- Workout to avoid pain down the road. One tactic to stay on track with your fitness goals is to sign up for an event (road race, climb, canoe trip) because it gives you something to focus on and work towards. Another bonus, by exercising in anticipation of an event, you are helping to ensure you will shape and not struggling to complete the event.
Other ways to help stay motivated with your exercise routine:
- Schedule your exercise. Just like you would a meeting, put your workout in your calendar. You know it is important so treat it as such.
- Involve friends and family. Or coworkers, or even the guy on the train. The point is to broadcast your goals so others can help keep you on track when you are wavering.
- Make exercise fun. Running not your thing? Try a Zumba class or a kickball league. Find what interests you and put the fun in fitness.
- Take baby steps. Rome wasn’t built in a day. You won’t achieve your fitness goals in a day either. Understand that you are in this for the long haul and every day you incorporate exercise into your routine brings you one step closer to reaching those goals.
The hardest part of your workout is often just getting started. Set that alarm, enroll in that fitness class, or schedule a personal training session. It’s doubtful you will ever hear someone say “I wish I would not have worked out today”.