I don’t need to recount here the many benefits of regular exercise. We all know what they are, myself included. Why, then, is it so tough to get motivated to work out on a regular basis, especially when the temperature drops?
I’ve struggled with the whole consistent exercise thing my whole life, and even more so with winter exercise motivation. In high school, the only time I exercised regularly was when I played basketball on my church’s women’s team. Even then, it was the social aspect that motivated me to work out, not the sweat potential. As soon as the season was over, I would reactivate my gym membership and at best show up once a week. This gym habit carried me well into my college years, where the distractions were many and the excuses abundant.
As an adult, I thought I would try out different forms of exercise and see if I found one that kept me going. At first there was pilates, then yoga, then weight training… Now don’t get me wrong, I loved every single one of these activities…for about a month. Then the day would come when I would tell myself that I can skip it just this once. And when the next day came, I had already started talking myself out of it—am I really getting any benefits from this? Do I really see a significant change in my body? Should I try something new? What should I try next?
Then, surprisingly, there came my two-year love affair with CrossFit, where I don’t think I ever went more than 2 days without working out. Needless to say, this was an astonishing feat for me. What was even more astonishing is that I didn’t even have to push myself to go. I wanted to go. I craved it. I couldn’t wait for the end of my work day, just so I could lace up my shoes and drive my butt to the gym.
I have often thought back to that point in my life and wondered, what it was that kept me going back. Every. Single. Day. Here’s what I’ve found.
Think about the results you want, then pick a workout based on that
In thinking back on my CrossFit experience, there is one thing that set it apart from all my other attempts at exercise. I saw results. I have a very Mediterranean body—narrow shoulders, wide hips. After a month of CrossFit, I started seeing major changes in the way my body looked. All of a sudden I had shoulder muscles and my butt lifted. I remember trying on a dress one day and the salesperson asking me “What do you do for exercise? Your arms are so toned?” I thought of that every time I didn’t feel like going to my CF class. One hour a day and my body had transformed in ways that I didn’t think possible! How could I give that up? My point is that getting motivated in the beginning is easy. Staying motivated is what’s hard. That’s why so many people start exercise programs that they never finish. If you start seeing results, results that are important to YOU, you will be more motivated to stick to your workout program.
Put exercise on a regular schedule
After you’ve found the form of exercise that will give you the results you want, put it on a schedule. Life is busy and it’s too easy for other things to take priority. But if you know that every day after work you go immediately to your gym, class, track, whatever it is that you’ve chosen to do, there’s no room for anything else to interfere. There is no question of whether you’re going to work out; it’s just what you do. Just put it on your calendar just like any other obligation you have, and treat it as such. Once you make it a routine, you won’t think about what else you could be doing during that time.
Then… Just show up
We all have our days. You’ve had a long day at work, you didn’t get good sleep, you’re coming down with a cold. You name it. On those days when the last thing you want to do is exert yourself any more than you already have, tell yourself it’s ok. You don’t have to work out. But you do have to at least show up. If it’s yoga that you’ve picked as your form of exercise, then just drive to the studio and park. If it’s running on the trail, put on your gear and just show up at the start. You’d be amazed how well and how often this works. If you’re already there, you almost feel silly leaving. “It’s only X amount of time now. I’ll just do it and get it over with.” You’ll probably start off pouting but by the end, I guarantee you will feel better.
Build an identity around what you do
So much of who we are comes from what we do. If you teach you are a teacher, if you write you are a writer, if you run you are a runner, if you do CrossFit you are a crossfitter, if you do yoga you are a yogi. If you do something, one thing, long enough, you build an identity around it. Then you feel “off” if you don’t do the thing you do as often as you should be doing it. It helps you set an expectation for yourself and then live up to that expectation. If everyone gets to know you as the runner, they will undoubtedly ask you questions around that. How often do you run? Where do you run? How far? If you have identified yourself as a runner, it almost feels like you are letting yourself down if you don’t run. Hence, the motivation. Make sense?
Have a goal
If I think back to my CrossFit days, one of the things that kept me going back was the competition. Against myself. Every time, I wanted to do better than last time. Be a little faster, lift a little heavier. I set mini goals for myself. At first it was to break the 100 lb. weight for squats, then it was to do at least one unassisted pull-up. Whatever it is that you want to accomplish, set a goal and do it. Make the goal measurable and attainable, and make it based on the exercise itself. I’m not a fan of weight goals as motivators because they are not directly tied to the exercise. Try to make the goals be about the exercise. Distance, skill, speed, endurance.
Make a vision board
It is important to have inspiration in addition to motivation. Visuals are inspiring. Use your Pinterest page to make a board that’s all about your goal. Athletes that you admire, quotes that inspire you. Really, any visual that speaks to what you want to accomplish. Here, it doesn’t have to only be about the exercise. If transforming your body is part of the motivation to work out, go ahead and pin images of women with bodies you aspire to. When it’s gloomy outside and the last thing you want to do is be active, look at your inspiration and remind yourself of your goals.
Listen to music
Studies have shown, time and time again, the benefits of listening to music while you work out. Music is motivating. The right music can help you go faster, farther and longer. Why not start the effect long before you even hit the gym/trail/track? Blast the music while you’re getting into your workout clothes or while you’re driving to the gym. You’ll be pumped before you even get there.
Just because you’ve always been a runner, doesn’t mean you can’t try anything else. My go-to workout before getting into CrossFit was running. I swore by it. I loved that it helped me clear my mind, I enjoyed working out by myself, and I thought it was probably the best thing I could do for my glutes. Until I discovered squats. I tried CrossFit once and realized that I loved everything about it that was the opposite of running. I realized that it engaged my body and mind so much that I literally could not think about anything other than the workout while I was there; I found that working out with other people brought out my competitiveness and motivated me like never before; and it didn’t hurt that my glutes showed me their appreciation:-)
Bottom line? Having an open mind and trying new things can bring you results that you never imagined. Once you see the results you want, you will be more likely to stick around.
What are some ways you’ve found to stick to your workout plan? Share in the comments below!!