Exercise Tips: 25 Ways to Stay Motivated
We all know that exercise can be pure magic for the mind, body, and soul. But how do you go from a sporadic, intermittent athlete to someone for whom exercise is a lifelong habit, as natural and necessary as going to work and eating regularly?
Here are 25 tips from someone who’s been on both sides.
1. The first thing to do is ask yourself: Why do you exercise? Are you trying to get in shape for an upcoming event? Do you want to lose weight, sleep better, increase your energy, gain strength, increase muscle tone and flexibility, or simply feel a greater sense of well-being? If the reason you’re working out has something to do with someone else (for example, your boyfriend says you need to lose weight or get in shape), you need a new reason (and quite possibly a new boyfriend).
2. Set goals. Set a short-term goal, to achieve in three to six weeks, and a long-term goal, to achieve over the course of a year. Make sure your goals are achievable enough that they aren’t daunting, but high enough that you have an incentive to tie your training shoes every day. It is also important that your goals are specific and directly related to your specific motivation to exercise. For example, my main motivation for working out is to constantly maintain my best mood and the feeling of calm and energy that I only get from working out, so my goal is to work out at least 5 days a week. My other motivation is to build strength and cardiovascular endurance, so my other goals have to do with how long and how fast I run.
3. Keep an exercise journal or log. Write down how your exercise makes you feel each day. How does exercise benefit your mood, energy levels, sleep quality, weight, etc.? Do some exercises have more significant effects than others? Chart your progress against your specific goals.
4. Take photos of yourself each month with your training equipment to keep a visual record of your results.
5. Make sure you’re exercising enough to release endorphins. Of course, you’ll want to talk to a doctor before starting any exercise regimen, and you’ll want to make sure you’re exercising at the optimal level for you, your body type, and your fitness level. I find that I am much more likely to stick with an exercise program if each workout releases those endorphins and immediately improves the way I feel.
6. Ads for fitness products (especially athletic shoes) can be tremendously motivating. Buy a fitness magazine and make an inspiring collage of images, ads, and slogans that speak to you. Post your collage where you’ll see it every day.
7. Be sure to use proper technique. You want to avoid injury, above all else, so see a doctor or trainer if you experience any pain or if you’re not sure if you’re doing a particular exercise correctly.
8. Join an online community, like WeightWatchers.com or Editets.com, that encourages you to log and track your exercise every day.
9. If you enjoy working out with someone, call a friend to help hold you accountable for those daily workouts.
10. Join a group that combines fitness goals with charity fundraising. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Training Team, for example, provides training to walk or run a marathon or half marathon, or participate in a triathlon or 100-mile bike ride, all while raising money For a good cause.
11. If you prefer to exercise alone, have something fun to do while you work out. Find great music that gets your heart pumping or listen to books on tape. A suspenseful audiobook may be all you need to get those running shoes on every day.
12. Identify the excuses you like to use and have a response ready. If time is an issue, make sure your workout clothes are ready to go. If you have young kids, get a nice jogging stroller or set up a babysitting swap with another mom in her neighborhood – you can watch her kids while she works out and vice versa.
13. Make sure you have the right equipment, which can make all the difference in your workout comfort level. A good pair of shoes is essential. And weather-resistant clothing or an indoor gym membership can help you fight your own excuses when the weather conditions aren’t ideal.
14. Once you find an exercise you particularly enjoy, do a Google search for more information on trainers or specialists who can provide you with inspiration or special training, whether through tapes, books, or online resources. If you’re a broker, for example, visit JohnBingham.com.
15. Recognize that your desire to exercise is going to fluctuate, and exercise anyway. Sometimes it helps if I promise myself that I can stop my workout after 10 minutes if I still want to. At that point, I usually feel much better after training is over.
16. Put a giant star on your calendar every day to indicate that you have completed your workout. These visual rewards can be very motivating.
17. Change your routine as you reach new goals. Add excitement to your workout and avoid the exercise plateau by increasing the intensity or duration of your workout, or by trying a new workout or sport.
18. Hire a trainer. If you’re on an exercise routine, consider seeing a personal trainer for a session or two. You will learn new techniques and also find a new motivation.
19. Try not to take more than one day off at a time. I have found this really important to avoid losing valuable momentum. If I take two days off, it becomes very easy to take another day and then another day. That means if your training is only a part of your weekend routine, integrate it into your weekend routine as well.
20. Be kind to yourself. If you miss a workout or two or three, go back to your regular schedule. You will feel better instantly.
21. Pick an exercise that you can do every day. Some experts say that walking is the best exercise simply because it is easy to do on an ongoing basis. There’s no need for special equipment, and you can do it absolutely anywhere.
22. If you’re walking or running, get a good pedometer to help you track your progress.
23. Schedule your daily exercise on your to-do list and in your diary. Think of it simply as something you have to do before your head hits the pillow.
24. Give yourself simple rewards. It’s usually best if these rewards aren’t edible, as a food reward can be a bit demoralizing after you’ve worked to burn so many calories in a workout. For long-term goals, treat yourself to a new pair of athletic shoes or other exercise equipment. For short-term goals, consider a new fitness magazine, fitness video, or just fresh flowers for the dining room table.
25. Try to think of exercise as something you do for yourself: a gift you give yourself, a way to stay balanced and focused, and a time when you can be alone with your thoughts.