Sometimes the biggest obstacle to accomplishing fitness resolutions is the inspiration to just get started. Often it’s not that we dislike exercise, but rather that we dislike the idea of beginning something new. Once we do, however, the exercise makes us feel better and boosts our mood. That’s what we call a virtuous cycle—the better you feel, the more you want to keep going.
Simply beginning to work out is one of the most important short-term goals you can set for yourself. Once you start your exercise program, you’ve already accomplished success! After that, other goals, such as the intensity or duration of the workout, can become your focus.
Here are eight ways to stay motivated so you can meet your New Year’s fitness resolutions.
Make it convenient. When are you most likely to work out? Plan to do your workouts at a time with the highest probability that you’ll actually do them. If you know you’re usually tired after work, or preoccupied with dinner or helping kids with homework, then exercise first thing in the morning instead. Whenever is best for you, in terms of free time, energy, and ability to get the exercise done, make that the time for your exercise.
Do it for 5 minutes. If you feel that you just don’t have the time today (which can quickly turn into tomorrow and then next day), then commit to doing the first five minutes of your planned workout, long enough to at least break a small sweat. Often, once we start working out, whatever was holding us back dissipates. Doing a little instead of none gives you success to celebrate rather than something to regret.
Get energy from the sun. Walking, running, biking, or swimming outside delivers a motivational twofer. Not only will the exercise make you feel better, but fresh air and sunshine are mood boosters as well. Scientists are learning a lot about the power of sunlight, greenery, and fresh air to stimulate our moods and manage stress. Let the earth replenish your motivation.
Structure and schedule it. If winging it doesn’t keep you on track and motivated, then make a schedule of your workouts and record clear, short-term, weekly goals. Set your e-calendar to remind you of your workout appointments. Hold yourself accountable to this schedule. Having a written fitness schedule and concrete, trackable goals is akin to making a contract with yourself, and really helps you stick to a plan.
Change the intensity. Instead of beating yourself up for hitting a plateau and getting stuck, be kind to yourself about your exercise. Once in a while, recharge with an easier training session than planned. Make your workout into something soothing by reducing the intensity, cutting back on the length, changing the activity, or picking a route that has beautiful scenery.
Find a buddy. It’s easy to skip a workout when it’s just you who will be doing it. It’s less likely to be a failed attempt if you know your friend is waiting at the trailhead for the walk. Workout buddies not only keep you accountable and on schedule, but having a friend makes it more fun.
Revisit your goals. Sometimes the reason we get discouraged and lose motivation is because we allow our mood to influence our actions. Maybe you’ve had a bad day and tell yourself it’s pointless to work out, or you convince yourself it’s too hard. When this happens, set aside a quiet time to reflect on your goals. The choices you come up with will be quite different if the end goal is what influences the decision rather than your immediate mood or obstacle.
Keep visualizing success. Numerous studies show that if you visualize a goal—and then reinforce it by repeating that goal to yourself over and over—you will probably achieve whatever it is you set out to accomplish. Visualizing your success over and over again allows you to stay involved with your original enthusiasm. Use this any time there is a lull in your fitness motivation.
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Shaman-healer Brant Secunda and six-time Hawaiian Ironman champion Mark Allen are nationally esteemed body-soul health experts who speak and teach workshops all over the country. They are coauthors of a bestseller about the successful approach they developed, called Fit Soul, Fit Body: 9 Keys to a Healthier, Happier You (BenBella Books).
Find out more at www.fitsoul-fitbody.com.