Motivation and exercise
Exercising itself is often not the issue that we struggle with, rather motivation is more often the real challenge! The best ways to continually keep us motivated is to have stimulation and variety. A study by the University of Florida found that exercisers who repeated the same workout over and over again were more likely to quit than people who rotated three varied workouts each week. Keeping your workouts varied and fun will not only help to keep you motivated, but they’ll also help to develop strength and flexibility throughout your entire body rather than sticking to working on one isolated area.
There are two main types of exercise motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is motivation which is generated internally. On the other hand, extrinsic motivation is motivation that is driven by external means e.g. crossing the finish line. Internal motivation is generally thought to be more of a driving factor for motivating us long-term. External motivation, although is definitely still good for motivating us, is thought to be more beneficial for encouraging us to accomplish shorter term goals like completing a 5K. Regardless of what your motivation is, we all have days where the mojo is just a no-go! Don’t worry though, below I’ve listed my 7 top tried and tested tips for helping you to keep motivated to exercise!
1) Buddy up!
Exercising with a friend can be a great way to keep you motivated; it can mean the difference between turning up for an exercise session and not bothering at all! If you have some to buddy up with you can motivate each other to go just that little bit harder, that little bit further, for just a little bit longer. If exercise is a relatively new endeavour for you having a friend go along to classes, activities or the gym with you can make it less daunting – particularly if it is something you don’t feel entirely comfortable with. This means it’s also a lot less challenging to try out new things as you get to experience it all together!
However, that doesn’t mean that you need to do every exercise class together, why not try a few by yourself too? Being in a group or class environment is a great motivator in itself; you’ll be surrounded by like-minded individuals and you’ll be guided along every step of the way by a qualified instructor. This can mean that we do more than what we would doing a self-exercise schedule such as lifting weights at the gym by yourself or running alone.
2) Set goals
Goals are a form of external (extrinsic) motivation and are great way to keep us exercising! Set out some short-term goals for the workout you’re currently doing and longer goals that you want to achieve over a longer period of time. Now, when you set your goals be sure to keep in mind that they have to be enticing enough to keep you motivated! If you’re not passionate about achieving your goal the chances are you’ll give it up halfway through! Short goals help you to stay in the game until the end of your workout whereas longer goals help to keep you motivated in the long term. Track yourself, your successes and your progress – and don’t forget to reward yourself every time you hit one of your goals!
3) Listen to music
Music has an incredible effect on the brain and is one of the fastest ways to change your mood. In fact, music is almost always used to help us get the most out of our exercise; it can be used to synchronise our physical movement as well as enhance our determination, motivation and performance. According to research, listening to music whilst exercising can reduce your rate of effort by 12% and increase your endurance levels by up to 15%.2 It can be beneficial for helping to distract your attention from demotivation and feelings of fatigue too.
If you’re not sure what you should listen to, please check out my Motivational Running Songs for a fun playlist designed to enhance your exercise as well as more information on how listening to music can be beneficial for exercise.
4) Do exercise that you love!
I actually hear this a lot – people want to exercise but they don’t like cycling or they don’t like swimming or they don’t like gyms and so on. If you want to keep yourself motivated to keep active then it’s essential that you do what you love! Then I have some people who say to me ‘I don’t enjoy any exercise, I don’t like to sweat, I don’t like movement’ – that’s ok, we just have to be a little more creative in finding what you do like.
For some people fairly common exercise such as running or dancing is what they love, for others more extreme exercise like rock climbing is what gets them going. My advice? If you don’t know what type of exercise you love doing then take this as an opportunity to try lots of different kinds! Not only are you bound to find something that you enjoy, but you might also find areas of your fitness that you want to work on such as your stamina or your strength.
5) A little goes a long way
There’s nothing more demotivating than burning yourself out through doing too much at one time. This relates back to the fact that exercise should be enjoyable and fun, if you’re slogging your way through thinking about when the class finishes, or when is a reasonable time to call it quits then you’re not enjoying it. Sometimes quality is better than quantity – do a little of what you love and you’ll be back for more in no time!
If you’re not a gym-goer, exercise-lover, or fitness fanatic try to fit in staying active in a way that doesn’t seem like it’s exercise at all. Try walking or running up the stairs rather than taking the lift, practice some simple leg exercises from the comfort of your work desk to boost your circulation, or try going for a brisk walk at lunch – yep walking counts as exercise too!
6) Be your own cheerleader!
Self-talk is an incredible tool, for both motivating us and demotivating us – so choose your words wisely! If you always talk down to yourself, tell yourself how hard exercise is, how much you don’t enjoy it, how you don’t have the time and how much you really can’t do it, then you won’t find yourself motivated in the slightest. Talk yourself up! Imagine there is a crowd cheering you own – whatever your self-talk is make it positive because you CAN do it!
7) Reward yourself
What’s fun about working on goals, motivation and exercise without rewarding yourself from time to time? Rewards can be very motivating and can play an important part in the development of habit and behavioural change. Rewards shouldn’t always be given when you succeed at something, rewards should also be given for participating. I love a little indulgence as much as the next person but try not to go crazy here!
Some people can fall into the trap of ‘I’ve spent an hour in the gym so I’ll have three cakes and a takeaway tonight’ and this just isn’t as productive. If you reward yourself excessively and continuously it can cease being a reward to us. So choose your timing and your rewards wisely! Rewards don’t have to be food based either – they can come in non-food forms like hot baths, new clothes and watching a film too!
What’s your biggest workout hurdle? Let us know in the comments below!