Simply knowing it is good for you is not enough. To discover the kind of motivation that comes from within and lasts, follow these three guidelines: Find the joy in exercise. Incorporate it into your life in a way that complements rather than complicates it. And change the way you think about exercise.
Find the joy
When you connect with the right activity, exercise can be the best part of your day.
Embrace the idea that exercise has many forms and can be done just about anywhere. Strolling through your neighborhood, going for a bike ride along the ocean, hiking in the redwoods, taking a Samba class, practicing martial arts, jumping on a trampoline, gardening, and paddle boarding are all legitimate forms of exercise. Your “workout,” if you even want to call it that, should be something that you look forward to.
For several years, I competed in triathlons, but when it stopped being fun, I knew it was time to change things up. Since then, I have dabbled in adventure racing, trail racing and my newest passion, surfing. Trying something new is an easy way to bring the fun back into your workouts.
Complement, not complicate
If your life is fast paced or high pressured, your workouts should not be more of the same. During such times, it is best to lower the intensity of your workouts while maintaining their frequency, thereby reducing stress and energizing you, rather than adding stress and exhausting you.
This can be counterintuitive for type-A individuals, who want to squeeze as much sweat out of every workout as possible. If you find that you’re forcing yourself to get to the 6 a.m. spin class every day for a sweat-fest cram session, consider a more diversified weekly plan, such as this: one day of spinning (for intensity), one day of yoga (for grounding), one day of cardio-salsa (for excitement) and one day of hiking outdoors (for inner-peace).
Shift your thinking
Even people like me, who have chosen exercise as a profession, are not endowed with a bottomless pit of motivation.
I have been active as long as I can remember and plan to still be swimming laps when I’m in my 90s. But there are days when I seriously consider blowing it off. On those days, I have to shift my thinking.
- Focus on how you will feel after working out. Exercise stimulates the release of hormones that leave you feeling energized, happy and less stressed.
- Practice gratitude. When I’m dragging, I sometimes think to myself, “What if I were physically unable to run? What would I give to be able to do that right now?” In other words, exercise because you can.
- Savor the down time. Your workouts are among the rare times when you are free from phone calls, email, work and serving other people’s needs.
- Something is better than nothing. When the thought of exercising for a full hour feels overwhelming, set a smaller goal to go for just 20 minutes. Getting started is the biggest hurdle, so chances are you will go longer, but even if you don’t, you will at least feel satisfied in knowing you didn’t skip it completely.
When you associate exercise with enjoyable activities that promote balance in your life, motivation will come naturally. On the occasion your drive wavers (and it will), try looking at your workouts in a different light. These motivational secrets will support your desire to live a healthier, happier, lower-stress lifestyle.
- Julia Blanton is a nutrition, fitness and wellness coach. An avid runner, she keeps a health blog at www.juliablanton.com.