Exercise: How to Stay Motivated
The results are in: most people quit their new exercise regimen within six to twelve weeks, which means by March, most folks are sunk back into the sofa with a bag of pork rinds in one hand and a TV remote in the other. Don’t be a statistic! Stick with it! But…how? How do you stay motivated and disciplined when the endorphin honeymoon is over and day-to-day reality sets in? In short, how do you keep on keeping on, especially when results are hard to see and boredom rears its ugly head?
Let’s look at some factors that contribute to giving up:
- Focusing on short-term superficial results instead of lifetime lifestyle change. You may not realize it, but you might have conditioned yourself to believe that you’ll only need to exercise for a while to get the body you want, and then you can go back to sitting and eating everything in sight. Usually this isn’t a conscious thought, but it’s there nonetheless. You must get it into your head: this must be a permanent lifestyle, period, no exceptions. Purge the ideal of a sedentary, high-calorie lifestyle that some magic pill will someday counteract. Write it down, if you have to. Get it through your head: this is the only way to health.
- Obsessing over the scale. First of all, poundage is only one way to measure success, and it isn’t the most accurate. Water retention and hormones are only two factors that make your bathroom scale an unreliable measure of your progress. A more accurate gauge is how your clothes fit, and better still is your tape measure. And, it is hoped, fat loss is not your only health goal. Working out has so many benefits, there isn’t room to list them all (and you know them, anyway). Besides, weight loss isn't going to happen overnight. Instead of measuring your progress by size or weight, why not try setting different kinds of goals, such as getting a certain number of workouts in each week or lifting a certain amount of weight. In other words, measure your progress by how much better your body works instead of how much better it looks.
- Working too hard. If one workout a day is good, then two or three are better. Right? Often new exercisers think they can get better results faster by going from a completely sedentary lifestyle to the habits of an NFL lineman. The results? Injury. Exhaustion. Frustration. Giving up. Go back to looking at the long-term: start easy and work your way up. Give your body a break and it will thank you by not breaking down.
- Not working hard enough. On the other hand, some people don't take their intensity high enough to promote results. Talk to a trainer to find out how to monitor your intensity to obtain optimal results.
- Comparing yourself to others. Ah, the old trap. If no one else will say it to you, we will: you are not Jennifer Anniston/Brad Pitt. Chances are good you never will be. And it’s okay. You must focus on your own gains and successes and not the person’s next to you. Many times, this is just an excuse to quit. But you’d never do that, would you?
- Giving up too soon. Results are inevitable if you work out. It’s that simple. Don’t fool yourself into believing that you’re the only person in the world who’s ever lived who is immune to exercise, and so you might as well give up. Even if you don’t see results yet, focus on the ones you feel: more energy, better sleep, clearer mind. So go even if you don’t feel like it. Go especially if you don’t feel like it.
Some ways to combat motivation deficit:
- Change your exercise routine every four to six weeks by trying a new activity or changing your intensity or time.
- Write down your goals and review them daily.
- Use photos as a visual aid, i.e., a picture of yourself at your ideal weight pasted on the refrigerator door.
- Schedule exercise as you would a business meeting, a doctor’s appointment or other non-negotiable activity.
- If you can’t get in your full exercise time, don’t just say, oh well, I can’t do the whole amount today, so I might as well not do any at all. Break it up into 10-minute increments. March in place while watching TV. Run up and down your stairs 20 times. Take the dog for a short walk.
- Wear a pedometer. Challenge yourself to get in a certain amount of steps per day (experts say 10,000 per day is the average of fit people).
- Find an accountability buddy or group. On the days your motivation lags, your friend(s) can be your cheering section. When they’re feeling lazy, you can talk them into working out.
- Keep your eyes on the prize. Save your money for rewards when you reach your goals.
- When all else fails, just remember the immortal words of Tim Allen’s Commander Taggart in “Galaxy Quest”: “Never give up! Never surrender!”
Picture: Hiking trail in Bozeman, Montana. Grotto Falls Trail. Taken August 2022.