Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Get Moving! Staying Motivated to Exercise (Part Two)

Remember that Your Life is an Example for Others
Something I always try to keep in mind is that the things I do will always mean more than the things I say, and if I think healthy living is a virtue, then I can't just sit around blogging about it. A lot of what fills your life is things you've attracted, so if you want happy, healthy friends, be a happy healthy friend. It's kind of like that saying: "Be the change you want to see." I think there's a lot in this world that's physically and emotionally toxic, and while I can't necessarily directly challenge those things, I can put myself in a position to better deal with them by staying on top of my physical and emotional health. I want my friends and family to feel just as empowered, so that's one thing that really keeps me pumped about exercising.

Take Care of Yourself
This goes without saying, whether you're exercising or not, but especially if you're taxing your body, you really need to be taking care of it. That means getting plenty of sleep, eating enough food, eating the right kinds of food, staying hydrated, and using proper form and technique when working out. Throw off just one of these things and physical activity can seem like a total DRAIN. If you're constantly dreading exercise or wind up straight exhausted afterwards, your body's probably trying to tell you something. Listen to it.

Be Clear About Your Intentions
Remind Yourself of Them Regularly
If you're not getting fit for the right reasons, your commitment is going to waffle. Ever wonder why you could never get yourself all the way to those washboard abs? Because deep down, you know that's dumb. Who wants to substitute a body part for an antiquated household tool that a washing machine substantially outperforms anyway. Of course, thinking in terms of abstracts like "I'll be healthier!" doesn't help much, either. Instead, be clear about your intentions but also personalize them. So, even if your overall intention might be "to be healthier," what does that actually mean to you? Does it mean fewer colds? Then think of all those miserable days you spent feeling too shitty to fall asleep and too exhausted to stay awake, last winter. Does it mean sleeping faster and easier? Then think of all the times you showed up for work or school totally drained and disoriented because you couldn't get to bed. Does it mean preventative care? Then think of losing your aunt two years ago to breast cancer. Understanding your intentions can affirm your commitment with context, and once you understand why you're doing something, you can figure out ways to remind yourself - ways like taping a picture of disgusting cough medicine to your fridge or framing a picture of your aunt by your computer. Reminding ourselves of our intentions keeps us on track.

Set Out Reminders in General
There are all kinds of ways we can remind ourselves, whether it's post-it notes on the computer screen or hanging our gym bag from our door handles. My biggest reminder is subscribing to fitness blogs. The number one way I snap myself out of an exercise lull is reading about others' enthusiasm for working out. When other people are getting really fit and strong, I go, "Hey, I want to be fit and strong, too!" Find what really reminds you, then make sure it's part of your daily routine.

Track Your Progress
... if for no other reason than, when you're feeling lazy or dissatisfied, you have a visual reminder to see how far you've come. And when you see your progress, you'll remember, "Hey, I'm fuckin' TOUGH."

Set Goals
For some people, it's easier to get things done if they have a sense of purpose, so if that's you, set some goals. There's a variety of ways you can do this. Commit to an event like a 5k, then train for it. Incrementally build up to running a certain speed or lifting a certain weight. Decide you need to be walking at least 10 mi a week, then get a pedometer and start tracking your steps. Your goals don't even necessarily have to be fitness related. Your goal could be to workout at least thirty minutes a day, three days a week - and hey, maybe that's just in the short-term; in the long-term, maybe you want to be doing an hour a day, five days a week. If you understand why you want to move around, you can usually tailor your goal around that. Then savor the sweet satisfaction that comes with achievement.

Visualize Your Success
This is a common technique in goal setting (and a pretty well-substantiated one at that). Studies have shown that visualizing success is almost as good as physically preparing for success, so if you're struggling to stay motivated, picture your desired workout. This can be an emergency technique (e.g. you don't want to ride your bike to work one day, so you visualize a quick and easy ride that leaves you energized and excited) or it can be a maintenance technique (e.g. every day you struggle to get to the gym, you picture yourself with beautiful, bulging muscles six months down the road). The more details you include in your visualization, the easier the activity will be in execution, and the more successful your outcome will be.

Reward Yourself
Positive reinforcement (rewards) work much better than negative reinforcement (punishments), so rather than beat yourself up about skipping a workout, reward yourself for doing what you set out to do. Reward yourself when you achieve a goal. Now, dieting websites say never to make food a reward for exercise, but I say, if you're not exercising to "manage" your weight, then who cares? (Just be sure you're not exercising to negotiate or justify certain food choices!) Beyond that, you can use guilty pleasures to reward yourself for exercising. I always feel guilty about playing video games - ESPECIALLY because they're the pinnacle of inactivity - so that's a good reward for me. Maybe you've been hankering for a book that's a little pricey. Hey, but you've been working out every day that you said you would, exactly how you said you would, for three months now! I think it's about time you got that book... Reward systems can be as simple as putting a gold star on your calendar on the days when you work out, but whatever keeps you feeling proud of what you're doing, go ahead and do it.

Get some Background Noise
This is a no-brainer, but it can't be overstated! Listening to music is awesome, but don't just listen to your favorite songs. Listen to things that make you want to MOVE. Listen to things you can really lose yourself in. When I really, really don't want to workout, I reduce the intensity of my workout, then turn on a podcast so my mind's analyzing the podcast, not anticipating my finish. Whatever keeps you moving, just listen to it!

Make Exercise a Priority
Worse comes to worse, sometimes you just got to force yourself to do the things you know you need to do, and if that's how you feel about exercise, you have to figure out a way to make it a priority. One of the most common excuses when it comes to exercise is, "I don't have time!" but if you have time to watch a movie, make an extravagant meal, or check facebook five thousand times a night, then you have time to exercise. It's all about making it a priority. Obviously, the most simple way to do this is figuring out a way to maximize the physical intensity of your everyday experiences, but sometimes it's just about making time where you can find it. Get up half an hour earlier than usual. Turn that lunch date with a friend into a walking date. Only check facebook two thousand times a night instead of five. What are you doing that you could be doing less of? What are you doing that you could be doing more? Priorities, priorities, priorities!

What about you? Got any good motivation tips millin' around in the ol' noggin?

1 comment:

  1. Hey, Ive been trying to get myself more active for a long time. The way I've managed to make a little progress is by walking most of the places I go, but I remember you talking about hula hooping once, and I was wonderring if I could get you to spill at all about that. Are there rules, or is it just self explanatory?