Staying motivated to exercise is no easy task even for those who enjoy doing it. Exercising takes effort and time. The results are slow to come, and as you get older, harder to maintain. In general, the things you do to slowly move you along the path to better health are done with no immediate external gratification. It’s often difficult to stay committed to anything that takes time in a world full of answers at your fingertips. Technology, shortcuts to success, and the constant perceptual reminders through social media that everyone is further along in their blissful life than you, can be a roadblock on our own course to better health. We have yet to find the magic path to immediate results when it comes to caring for our health and having the body we long for.
If you have decided that completely avoiding the work is not an option, what are some of the ways you can keep your motivation muscles firing so you don’t give in to the temptation of putting it off one more day?
In my opinion there is no better way to get the job done than to make yourself accountable. Hire a trainer or book a class for which you will be charged and put money on the line. Get a workout buddy or strike up a challenge with someone and put friendship on the line. Make a commitment out loud and set a public goal and put your own competitive nature with yourself on the line. Whatever it is, you must make sure there is something bigger than your excuses to ensure you will show up.
Reward yourself every time you stick to your commitment. I remember when my sister was trying to quit smoking for the 7th time. Every time she would have bought a pack of cigarettes she put the money in a jar instead. At the end of every month she would take the money and go and blow it on something extravagant for herself. I’m not sure if this was the key to her success but the 7th time was a charm! Set a reward system for yourself that works but try not to make it something that links you to the bad habits you are trying to overcome, like a binge meal. My go to is often a manicure or a new workout outfit or even more treasured, a day of well earned rest.
During the peak of my teaching career I had a saying as an instructor and it was, “Just Press Play”. Sometimes when I was overcome by fatigue or simply lacking the passion to teach one more class, I used to remind myself that the hardest part is just getting started. I knew that once I pressed play and the music came on my feet would start moving and momentum would take over. Remember the Martin Luther King quote, “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” Just show up, start and let momentum move you forward.
Set your BAM goal and make it non-negotiable. BAM is an acronym that stands for the Bare Minimum you will allow yourself to accomplish during a predetermined block of time. My initial days of committing to fitness were when I was 18 years old and cycling consistently. I made huge strides in my physical conditioning, especially cardio, but then winter came it cramped my style. We purchased an indoor trainer but it was far less engaging than riding outside. It was a constant battle to make myself get on my bike until I read somewhere that after 7 days without training you start to lose cardio conditioning. This was all it took. There was no way I was going to lose what I had worked so hard for! I wasn’t sure if that fact was true at the time, but it didn’t seem to matter. I believed it. From that point on I made sure that at least ONCE during a week I got on my bike and rode. It kept me in touch and never let my goals get too far beyond my reach. What is your BAM?
So remember that when it comes to immediate results in health there are none, except for that amazing feeling of success you get knowing you showed up when you least wanted to. The ability to overcome your excuses is the best feeling in the world! It is a consistent, daily reminder that whether or not your body changed today, your mind and spirit grew a little bit stronger. This is where all great change begins.