Tips Guaranteed to Motivate You to Start Exercising
Most of us are aware that regular exercise has numerous physical and psychological benefits, but it can be a big challenge to drum up the enthusiasm to actually do it. After abandoning my five day a week routine, I quickly landed in the unmotivated and very lazy category. To be fair, after recovering from major surgery and chemotherapy, I was a little bit justified - but the result was the same. All of a sudden I found myself using all the excuses that I secretly sneered at when I was a fitness fanatic. I would say "the kids are home", or "I don't have a good playlist", or "I just don't have the time" (which seems pretty amusing given that I was spending hours online!).
Eventually I decided it was time to stop making excuses and get back in the game. It took a lot of trial and error to really get off the ground, but finally I am exercising at least three times a week. Here are some tips that motivated me to finally set foot in the gym after my very long break:
1. Don't Wait Until You Feel Excited to Go to the Gym
If you wait until you WANT to work out, you may never get started. I used to say "I just don't feel like it right now but maybe tomorrow I will". Then I lowered the bar: my goal is now "I just need to walk in the gym, and if I don't feel like staying I can go home". Inevitably, once I set foot in the door the gym environment leads to at least a minimal workout. The first time I tried this, despite having zero desire to work out, I ended up staying for 45 minutes and doing a weightlifting routine. Once you start feeling good about yourself and seeing the benefits the motivation will be there.
2. Bring Great Music
iTunes really wasn't working on my computer, but my husband finally fixed it so I didn't even have that excuse anymore. I find that a good playlist can really make the gym time pass more quickly and I am able to find more energy to get through my workout. Everyone has completely different tastes in music so there are no rules regarding what kind of music to listen to. Pick whatever puts you in a great mood and listen to it only during your workout. That way you will have something to look forward to. I happen to love any music that makes me want to dance but I know some people like hard rock, rap, or even country music!
3. Have a Plan
This is analogous to making sure you have good nutrition. If you don't make a comprehensive meal plan for the day how do you expect to really eat well? Once you are hungry, everything bad for you sounds delicious, and good intentions go out the window. This theory also applies to exercise. If you just show up without any idea as to what you will do, you will inevitably do only the things that seem easy and will end up quitting early. Your plan can include a class, a number of miles on a treadmill, or your own workout routine. I prefer to focus on one muscle group each day and do a routine that is a mix of weights, machines, and body weight exercises. I also like to do classes to mix it up. However, don't let the lack of a plan keep you from getting started! You can just try a class for inspiration.
4. Keep Your Sense of Humor
This one is important. You can't take yourself too seriously, or you will feel that every little mistake makes people laugh at you. When I was walking over to start bench pressing, my headphones got caught on the bench and I almost went flying across the gym. I just smiled and glanced around to see if anyone noticed. I did see a guy trying not to smile, but rather than feeling self-conscious I just continued to work out. Successfully being able to lift the 30 pound weights when I am only 100 pounds and 5' 1" made me feel a lot better.
5. Set Goals.
It's good to set short-term goals, such as a certain weight in an exercise, being able to do a chin-up, or burn a certain number of calories on the elliptical machine. Once you achieve them, set new ones to keep life exciting. It is also important to set long-term goals, such as losing weight or building more muscle. My current short-term goals include doing bicep curls with 25 pounds and completing 10 consecutive chin-ups. My long-term goal is pretty typical: I want to reduce my body-fat percentage.
How frequently do you exercise?
6. Avoid Boredom.
Boredom is one of the primary reasons people stop exercising, so avoid it at all costs. If you are getting bored with a particular form of exercise, switch to another. There are many options to choose from these days such as yoga, swimming, weightlifting, or spin classes. Hire a trainer if you can afford it, but make sure you tell them what YOU want to focus on. I find weightlifting gives me the fastest results, so I will always keep that. However, I plan to add yoga, which will keep me interested for at least a while because it is completely new for me.
Benefits of Exercise:
1. Reduces high blood pressure and the risk of diabetes.
2. Weight-bearing exercise can reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
3. Reduces depression and anxiety and improves mood.
4. Burns calories and assists with weight control.
5. Leads to improved self-esteem.
7. Have Realistic Expectations
This part can be a challenge because everybody wants to make major changes really fast. It's just so motivating to see big changes in your energy or appearance! If you set the bar too high you will quickly become discouraged. It can easily take three months to even begin seeing significant results, so be patient! You will probably start feeling better before you actually see visible changes, but that alone is a huge benefit and should keep you motivated. I just started my weight-lifting routine after a long "vacation" from the gym, so I probably won't start seeing a significant benefit for at least three months. Don't stare in the mirror and look for physical changes for a while. Instead, just enjoy the process.
8. Measure Your Progress
There are so many ways to measure progress such as seeing your body fat decrease, being able to lift heavier weights, getting through an entire spin class, or watching the numbers go down on the scale. With weight-lifting I measure my progress by being able to do heavier weights. For full disclosure I have to admit I do look at myself in the mirror, not only to make sure I'm using proper form, but to see if there is a little more muscle definition and maybe a little less body fat. Trust me, everyone else in the weight area is doing exactly the same thing!
9. Use Smart Rewards (NOT Food!)
Try to reward yourself with non-food items. Since I'm just beginning again, I allow myself some inexpensive clothing or a new pair of shoes if I get through a week. I love shoes and clothes, so that works for me, but you have to reward yourself with something that keeps you motivated such as electronics, cosmetics, or a night out.
10. Stay Positive
Avoid negative people and never give up if you don't meet your goals or plans. If you only get through half your planned workout, focus on what you did accomplish, and be happy with the fact that you did something rather than absolutely nothing. I am aware that it will take me a while to build up my strength and stamina. If I don't get through the entire routine or lift as much as I hoped I just tell myself next time I'll do better. I might even rationalize and tell myself I didn't get enough sleep or I am doing better than a lot of people anyway. It's OK to rationalize a little to stay motivated!
Find a type of exercise that keeps you interested and if you get bored switch to something else. If something isn't working, change it! Regardless of the type of exercise you choose don't ever give up. I'll see you in the gym!