I’m sick of the word ‘motivation’.
And if I got a penny every time someone said: “I really want to __________________ [insert reason for wanting to exercise], but I just never feel motivated enough to start/stick with it,”, I’d be filthy rich.
We throw it around in our thoughts and conversations like loose change, hoping to grasp it, hold on to it long enough so we can finally accomplish the goals that we’ve been dreaming of, but never done much about.
If only it were that easy.
There are entire websites, blogs, YouTube channels, Pinterest boards, Instagram accounts and Facebook pages devoted to it, and we hungrily devour every motivational morsel they whip up, expecting their go-hard-or-go-home messages to finally, get our rusty gears moving indefinitely.
Except that the kick-in-the-pants adrenaline rush we get from a particularly potent shot of motivation lasts for all of 30 seconds, then peters off as we get lost in the reality of everyday life.
So then comes the next question that lands in my inbox all too frequently: ‘How do you get and stay motivated to exercise every day?”.
Motivation is great for revving up my workout engine, but I’ve found that it’s not enough to keep me going in the long-haul.
Here’s why: For the most part, without a powerful, painful emotion like anger, fear, shame or rejection working as a primary driver, I’ve found vanilla-flavoured motivation (think “I want flat abs” or “I want to lose some weight”) to be a flaky, fair-weathered friend.
It comes and goes as it pleases and is rarely there when I need it the most, which is most days. The busier or suckier my day, the less likely it is to stick around.
The more I try to get a hold of it, the more fickle it becomes, and the most frequent outcome is me coming up with every excuse under the sun to avoid working out.
“It’s been a long day and I’m really tired.”
“It’s too early.”
“I just don’t feel like it.”
And the truth is that I’m not one of those people who LOVE to exercise or feels the need to do it without fail every single day. It’s just not a part of my DNA.
There are, however, a couple of things—although not all of them were the healthiest—that have gotten me going and breaking past this inherent resistance to exercise: Pain in the form of criticism from an ex-boyfriend who commented that my body was ‘shapeless’ at a time when I was struggling with my weight; embarrassment from being overweight for many, many years; the feeling of obligation I felt I needed to fulfil as a fitness coach because I wanted to help others achieve the same results that I had gotten; and pleasure from the results that my workouts were giving me: The better my body looked, the more eager I was to keep going.
If, like me, you’ve always struggled to start and keep exercising consistently, here’s another element that’s been tremendously useful in helping me get more exercise into my days: Turning exercise into a habit.
What has worked really well for me is to focus on developing the habit of exercising rather than fixating on the exercise itself and why I should do it.
Don’t get me wrong—having this habit doesn’t mean that I’m perfect or live, breathe and eat exercise all of a sudden. But it does mean that despite the resistance I’m feeling, I do it anyway because it’s become an automatic part of my routine, three to four days a week, just like say, brushing my teeth. in fact, I’ll feel like something’s not quite right if I go for more than a week without it.
This means that when I don’t feel like exercising, I still go ahead and change into my workout gear and head to the gym anyway.
But in order for this habit to take shape, I’ve found that I need these 3 ‘C’s in place:
I’ve learned over the years that I’m able to turn up and push myself harder more easily when I work out with other like-minded people, so whenever possible, I opt for a group exercise class where I have a trainer as well as the collective energy and support of fellow exercisers to feed off. It also gives me a reason to keep showing up other than plain old “I should exercise today because it’s good for me”.
If I have to drive 20 minutes out of my way to get to my workout, it’s not going to happen. Or, I might show up a couple of times, but I’ll eventually lose interest and give up because it requires too much effort to keep up with, in addition to making it through my already exhausting daily schedule.
I’ve had many different reasons to commit to working out since I started exercising over 15 years ago. They’ve ranged from completing my first 5K, 10K and then 21K runs, signing up with a personal trainer, to simply showing up to work out with my friends, who had their own goals to accomplish. In many of these instances, I’d always tied my commitment to someone else’s, so that the consequences of my actions were much greater than that of achieving a personal goal or letting myself down.
What’s going to be yours?
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Originally published at www.michelelian.com