Finding Your Fitness Mojo and Sticking To It
As a running coach and fitness enthusiast, people frequently ask, “How do you stay motivated to exercise?” The mere existence of this question assumes that there is an answer, a magical panacea that has been hiding out under a rock, waiting to be exposed. I have to be the bearer of bad news and answer that there is no easy answer, there is only doing.
In so many areas of our lives, we hope that if we just find the right book, therapist, coach, or training plan, our inaction will give way to bursts of energy and inspiration! The ironic truth is that the answers, inspiration and motivation are already within us at any given moment. We simply need to access and implement them.
The physical action of getting out the door to train for a half marathon, go to a yoga class, ride a bike for an hour or swim five laps in the pool is easy. Yes, easy. It is our thinking that poses a problem. Our mind is an unruly child who needs to be put in a time-out. We self sabotage and negotiate – it’s too cold outside, I’m too tired, I don’t have time – when really what we should be doing is moving and not thinking at all.
I am convinced that “exercise over-thinking,” as I call it, is why many people don’t start or maintain their fitness programs. We talk ourselves out of things. We make excuses. Then we beat ourselves up for talking ourselves out of things and making excuses. By that time, we feel so cruddy and worthless, that why bother working out at all? It is a nasty cycle.
Confession: I used to be an “exercise over-thinker.” I would put off my workouts, giving myself every reason to not get out the door. This is before I learned the value of writing a plan and sticking to it. Of laying out my clothes the night before and visualizing my workout the next day in detail. Of never giving myself an out unless I was sick or injured. Of keeping my mind out of it.
We are human. We will find reasons to not challenge ourselves, to not do tough things. Ask yourself why you don’t follow through. Are you afraid of failing? Does the fear of change paralyze you? Digging deep for answers might produce unexpected results.
What is needed is a jump start just like that car with the dead battery that’s been sitting in the driveway for weeks. Long hours spent on the couch, neglecting our bodies or simply being removed from them makes it challenging to take that first step and to get moving. Some of us don’t really want to work hard. Others have goals, but don’t know how to reach them, so they give up. The mind is a powerful thing. Give it an out and it will take it. Challenge it to persevere and it follows suit.
There are stories of inspiration everywhere. Unfortunately, those are often overshadowed by the tales of laziness, poor eating habits, or lengthy time in front of the television or computer. Most are not walking the walk. Talk is typically about what people are planning to do (diet, start a new exercise plan). It is less common to hear people talk about eating clean everyday, getting enough sleep and sunlight, and actively and routinely exercising. These people are just doing it, not talking about it. It is how they live every single day. There are no resolutions or gimmicks, no Hollywood Cookie Diets. It is a way of life. One that provides self-satisfaction and accomplishment.
Tips to get started and stay motivated:
- Get rid of the excuses. No one is too old, too tired, too unfit or too busy to start an exercise program. You just have to make it a priority.
- Start small. Make your exercise goals achievable and reasonable. You will be more likely to follow through.
- Keep it simple. No need to spend $100 month to join a gym or to buy expensive gear. Get out for a walk or short run. Invest in a yoga DVD and do it in your living room.
- Have a plan for the week and write it down. Post it in a visible spot like the refrigerator, not in the bottom of your sock drawer.
- Make it easy to get out the door. Lay out clothing, set out water bottles, pre-program the coffee maker, whatever it takes.
- Pick a goal. Sign up for a 5K race or join a 30-day yoga challenge. Making a solid commitment increases your chances that you will stick to your plan.
- Surround yourself with like-minded people. You’ll be more likely to follow your fitness routine if your friends are committed to theirs. If your friends are all couch potatoes, they may influence you to be one too.
- Don’t lose your momentum. Stick to your plan. The more days that you have under your belt, the more motivation you will feel to continue.
Remember: It’s not about running a marathon today. It’s about taking a single step in the right direction. Walk a mile. Swim two laps. Go to a boot camp class. Follow through. Make it public. Be accountable. Reward yourself. No one finishes a workout and regrets having done it. Stop “exercise over-thinking,” get some fitness success under your belt, and watch your life unfold for the better.