The problem isn’t that people don’t WANT to be physically fit; it’s they have a hard time sticking with it. Some folks launch into an exercise program with gusto, and their enthusiasm level is through the roof, at least in the beginning. But dedication and motivation take a serious dive after a few months or even a few weeks. In many cases, it’s not physical hurdles that keep people from sticking to a fitness plan, it’s mental roadblocks. Don’t let those be the reason you don’t get into the best shape of your life! Let’s look at some mental hacks you can use to make it easier to stick to an exercise program.
Know Your Why
In almost every case, there’s a reason you want to be in good physical shape. Make sure you know what that reason is and why it’s important to follow through on it. Is it to be in shape or to play with your kids or grandkids? Is it because you have a health problem that exercise can improve? Keep that reason in the front of your mind and remind yourself of what drives you on days you’re tempted to skip. Also, you’re more likely to stick to an exercise program if you do it for internal reasons, like exercise makes you feel good or you enjoy the process, then external reasons, like you want to lose weight.
Choose a Workout You Enjoy
How many people fall by the wayside because they’re doing a workout they believe they should be doing but hate? Internal objections will come hard and fast if you force yourself to be a runner, but you hate to run. There are so many ways to get a workout that you should never resort to doing something you despise. Don’t do a workout because someone talked it up in a magazine or online form. What works for them may not be ideal for you. The best workout is the one you’ll stick with.
Try a variety of workouts and discover what you enjoy the most. If you don’t like to run, a shorter, high-intensity workout may be appealing because you’re not doing the same movements over and over and you don’t have to work out as long. However, you should also include some form of strength training to prevent muscle loss. If you like variety, string together several strength-training exercises and do them circuit style by doing each one in sequence without rest between exercises. You’ll get your heart rate and gain cardiovascular benefits while improving muscle strength and endurance, depending on whether the weights you use are heavy or light.
Document Your Journey
Keep a fitness journal to chronicle your journey and track your progress. It’s motivating when you see results from your efforts. You can flip back through your fitness journal and see how far you’ve come. Some things to include in your journal:
- A summary of each of your workouts – type, intensity, duration
- How you felt during and after your exercise session
- Whether you had muscle soreness afterward
- Any unusual stress you’re feeling
- What you ate before and after
- How many hours you slept the night before
- Your future goals
Having this information at hand helps you identify roadblocks that might reduce your motivation. For example, if you documented that you felt tired or mentally drained after an exercise session, you can look at what you ate and how many hours you slept the night before. Keeping a fitness journal helps you stay accountable and on track too. You’re writing your fitness story!
Become Part of a Group
Another way to stay motivated and accountable is to be part of a group. This doesn’t mean you have to join an exercise class or go to a gym. You can become part of an online group too. Participate in forums where other people who are on a fitness journal hang out. Share your story and listen to theirs. When you don’t feel motivated, let the group know and they’ll give you the encouragement you need when you don’t want to work out.
The easier it is for you to work out, the more likely you are to stick with it. Home workouts eliminate the need to travel to a gym and give you the flexibility to work out anytime you want. If you constantly make the excuse that you don’t have time, try exercising first thing in the morning before you have a chance to say no. Find the simplest path between you and a workout, and don’t complicate things.
Don’t Overdo It!
One mistake people make is to tackle too much too soon. That’s a motivation destroyer! You may end up burned out before you even get started. Scale back your effort and expectations in the beginning and give yourself the freedom to approach your fitness goals in a more leisurely manner. You’re not on a timetable and you’re only competing against yourself. Make sure your goals are realistic too. Working toward ultra-challenging goals and expecting too much too soon are motivation killers.
The Bottom Line
Realize that exercise involves a little short-term discomfort, but the long-term benefits are worth it. We each have 24 hours in a day and to spend 30 minutes exercising isn’t too much to ask. Use these mental hacks to help you stay on course to accomplish your fitness goals and not find excuses.
- com. “The Real Reason We Don’t Exercise”
- com. “Stop Glorifying Excessive Exercise”
- Exercise Motivation: What Starts and Keeps People Exercising?Len Kravitz, Ph.D.
- Huberty, J.L., Ransdell, L.B., Sigman, C., Flohr, J.A., Schult, B., Grosshans, O., and Durrant, L. (2008). Explaining long-term exercise adherence in women who complete a structured exercise program. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 79(3), 374-384.
- Wilson, K. and Brookfield, D. (2009). Effect of goal setting on motivation and adherence in a six-week exercise program. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Physiology, 6, 89-100.