Updated: Feb 18, 2022
Why is it that some people manage to stay motivated and can maintain an exercise routine whilst for others it seems to be an unachievable goal, even with the best intentions exercise can feel like an impossible task for many to maintain. What is it that the motivated do to stay motivated?
Really there is no big secret and motivation doesn’t really last any longer for one person than another but what does last longer are habits and strategies individuals put in place to maintain their exercise or movement routine.
So how do you set yourself up for success with exercise?
Here are my top 5 tips for staying on track for a healthy lifestyle:
1. Find your why and write it down.
Firstly, we need to set our mindset right around exercise. Our mind has a powerful influence over us, what we tell ourselves and our internal dialogue really does matter. If you see exercise as a punishment, something you must do because the Dr or other people tell you to do it, exercise is not going to be appealing, it will have a negative feel to it before you even start. No one wants to do something which they feel forced to do! We need to peel back our thoughts and get to the root reason of why we want to do exercise, for ourself, get specific about your reasons and then phrase it in a positive way such as: “I exercise to be the healthiest version of myself”, “I move, to keep fit and agile, so I can play with my kids/grandkids”, “I exercise because I know I will mentally feel better afterwards”, “I want to live a healthy independent life in my older years”. We can then start to influence how we think about exercise more positively.
Try writing out your why, repeat it to yourself daily and make it your mantra. Try it and see for yourself how the power of your thoughts, the power of your internal dialogue and how the power of what you tell yourself influences the actions you take or don’t take.
2. Set a realistic goal.
Big unrealistic goals are not going to be motivating as you will most likely fail. However, setting bite sized achievable goals, where you can measure your efforts and feel a sense of achievement can be a great motivator. Especially ones that start to ingrain a habit so that they become a lifestyle; then you no longer have to think about doing it, you just do it. This is a key to success! Choose something simple to start with such as just 10 mins of daily exercise. The positive feedback of achieving the goal will then hopefully motivate you to at least continue or even increase your goal to match your new increased fitness level.
3. Surround yourself with support.
Set up a support system, the practicalities will vary for everyone but it could be making a commitment to a class for a term, arranging some 1:1 classes, booking a babysitter to give you time or teaming up with a friend or family member to commit to an activity. Others can then encourage you and making a commitment that involves not letting another person down is much harder to back out of. Making an arrangement in advance to go to a class or meet that friend to walk really can make the difference between sticking with your goals or giving up.
4. Make it fun!
What is fun is different for all of us so try different things out, it doesn’t matter what you do but find something you enjoy and challenge yourself to keep moving. Try finding something that excites you about working out, it might have nothing to do with the actual exercise, it might be that you like the view from your walking route, it might be that you like the new trainers you get to wear or the new mat you get to use, it might be signing up for a certain challenge with friends (5km, triathlon etc.), or it might be reminding yourself of the sense of achievement you know you will feel afterwards.
5. Just do it…
We are probably all familiar with this as Nike’s slogan but sometimes we do have to just be honest with ourselves, stop the excuses and simply make ourselves do the exercise. Now I'm not condoning guilt or shame around exercising, that is never a good mindset, we still need to show compassion to ourselves when our body really needs the rest or we are unwell. But recognising in advance that you will not always feel like exercising and that it is normal to feel like that, can also be empowering. Recognise the struggle but make a deal with yourself to at least move in some way even when you don’t feel like it, motivation wanes and you need to be ready for that with a little of the just do it attitude. Remember the workout does not need to be perfect every time. Every bit of exercise you do is like putting credit in your bank account of health that your body can then draw from.
These are all tips I use to maintain motivation with my own exercise routine, I hope that you will find them effective too. My Grandmother used to tell us as kids “Procrastination is the thief of time”. This is true for so many things in life and it is true for exercise too, so don’t put off your exercise goal for today, get up and move now before it gets too late!
Exercising can also be framed as a privilege to do, not necessarily to create big muscles or to drop clothing sizes but simply to maintain our health. Exercising is like a gift to ourselves.
Lastly good luck, keep going and re-read your why!