When I think about the events of the last year there is very little in the way of news that surprises me anymore.
So much so that the news of little green men invading our planet would pose less of a shock than the very words my lovely wife uttered to me this morning.
‘I wish I could be like you’ she said.
Presuming that she wasn’t about to shave her hair or indeed grow a substantial lockdown beard, and for a brief moment ruling out the prospect that homeschooling our children hadn’t resulted in wine o’clock being brought forward eight hours, I finally deduced she was referring to the completion of my morning workout – and my motivation to do it.
The truth is, such has exercise become ingrained on my psyche I really couldn’t envisage a life without it. I don’t perceive it as a chore, more of an extension of who I am. It allows me to function more efficiently, remain fit and healthy and ultimately feel happier in myself – much to my wife’s relief.
In a year that has offered so much uncertainty, exercise has been the one constant that has kept me grounded and relatively sane and that in itself for me has been a hugely motivating factor.
Admittedly, of course I have days where my motivation wanes, especially throughout this pandemic where I’ve become a little too comfortable with pulling on my pyjamas earlier and earlier at the end of the day. As we are all too aware the struggle is real at times and it is during these times of discomfort where complacency can set in. Having strategies to reframe your mindset is a useful way to keep you on the right path.
With this in mind, I thought I would take this opportunity to share my tops tips on how to stay motivated and consistent with your exercise routine so you don’t get stuck in a rut.
Set yourself a goal
It might seem obvious but having a goal to aim for is a great way to stay motivated. It allows you to set yourself a personal target and measure your progress against it. Whatever you decide, the important thing to remember is that it’s realistic and achievable. It’s worth bearing in mind that whilst it’s great to have ambition giving yourself too bigger challenge can be counterproductive if it starts to become overbearing.
Of course on the contrary if you are ‘up for a challenge’ throwing caution to the wind and perhaps entering an event that you know will need some dedication can be a catalyst to motivation in itself. This year for example I’ve entered my first triathlon and although admittedly I’m not exactly Michael Phelps when it comes the swimming the prospect of training for and completing a new discipline has already intensified my focus and with it my motivation.
Plan your sessions in advance
Living our lives within the confines of our own homes as we are currently experiencing isn’t exactly conducive to exercise. If you are anything like me, apart from exercise I’ve barely taken my slippers off since March 2020 and since the most recent lockdown I’ve eaten more cake than Mr Kipling would feel comfortable with (courtesy of my children’s love for Home Economics).
Thank goodness the schools are back but even so the gyms remain shut, the weather has been either baltic or monsoonal at times and to make it more challenging we have all of our home comforts at our disposal which clearly can be a distraction and demotivating in itself.
I find that planning my sessions in advance means that I am far more likely to follow through with it. Try adding your planned session to your calendar, write it in your diary or even tell someone that you are going to do it.
In very much the same way that you are probably more likely to attend the gym if you’ve signed up to a class or pre-arranged to meet a friend you will feel more inclined to follow through with your session as you have no excuses.
Let’s face it every day is ground hog day at present and there is very little escape from the daily monotony. So much so that even the daily walk no longer feels like a break such is it’s predicability, to put it in context I’ve even contemplated walking backwards on our regular route just to mix things up a little.
If you are struggling with motivation try and view your session as time that you are dedicating to yourself. Time that will not only improve your health and well-being but also provide some much needed escapism from the strange reality we are currently facing. Shutting the front door and spending some time alone can do wonders for the soul even if it’s only a five minute jog around the block.
‘That voice in your head’
We all have that voice in our head. You know the one. The voice that says ‘I’m too tired ‘or ‘I’m just not feeling it’ so I’ll do it tomorrow. Let’s face it we are all experts at justifying our own reasoning for avoiding our workouts and it can been so easy to be swayed by that internal dialogue.
Nullifying that inner chatter by visualising and recalling how great you feel post workout is a great way to remain motivated. The key is not to listen to it. Personally I like to mentally picture myself achieving my goals and use it to fuel my motivation. Remind yourself of why you are doing what you are doing and take a mental photograph.
It might be a mental image of yourself running over the finish line of a half marathon you’ve entered, or looking like Daniel Craig on the beach (not my goal wink wink) or perhaps fitting into your summer dress (again not my goal).
Whatever that image is, let it drive you towards your aspirations and pulling on your gym kit becomes a lot easier – trust me!
Get social (media)
It worth remembering that you are not alone despite the gyms currently being shut. We have never been more connected and at the risk of stating the obvious there now are a plethora of online tools and classes to take advantage of. If it wasn’t for Youtube and Jo Wicks PE throughout the last year I would’t have discovered HiiT workouts and how easily accessible they are online. I have no doubt that many of us felt more inclined to sign up knowing that others were participating in sessions at the same time.
With motivation in mind, it is exactly this sort of ‘we’re all in it together’ psychology that can be utilised to drive you forward by signing up to apps such as Strava, Garmin, Nike and Zwift to name but a few.
Many of these represent a unique fitness community in themselves Not only do such apps allow to you record your fitness activity while allowing you to analyse your stats (if you so wish) but receiving kudos/likes along with inspiring comments can be hugely motivating.
Knowing people are with you can be inspirational in itself so why not download a fitness social media app and get involved.
What do they say ‘Variety is the spice of life?”
The same is true of fitness. Repeating the same workout over and over again can become tedious so don’t be afraid to mix it up.
Cross training (which means adding different types of training to your routine) is a great way to keep your mind engaged while actually complimenting your overall fitness. Throughout the week I like to make sure my sessions include aerobic fitness, strength sessions and core work which keeps both my mind and body guessing.
This advice can also be applied if you tend to engage in only one type of fitness, for example if you are a runner try including different styles of sessions such as fartlek, sprints, tempo runs etc.. Not only will this make your sessions more enjoyable but watch your fitness improve at the same time.
Invest in Tech
Technology has come a long way and the risk of showing my age I can recall when pedometers were all the rage. Clearly I have lived a sheltered life.
Technology has thankfully progressed somewhat in recent times and there are now many ‘fitness wearables’ available on the market with brands such as Garmin, Fitbit and of course Apple competing for an ever growing marketplace. These gadgets are available mainly as watches, however, of late you can even purchase versions in the form a ring.
If you haven’t entered the world of ‘wearables’ I would strongly suggest investing in some kit. Technological advances allow you to track a range of health related measures such as your fitness activity, heart rate and even your sleep and this is only the tip of the iceberg. They even tell the time.
These measures allow you to build a more complete picture of how you are progressing on a day to day basis which really helps build your motivation.
More than this they even have the ability to remind you when you haven’t completed enough activity for the day which might just be the kick start you need to get going.
Rewards are useful incentives to help ignite your motivation and it is great to have something to look forward to at the end of the week as a result of your efforts. Ideally your reward should be relative to your goals, as a way of example if weight loss is your goal then consider whether calorific food or alcohol is the ideal choice.
Rewards are a personal choice and needless to say they will be individualised in what they will be. It might be looking forward to something like a relaxing massage or buying yourself some new gym equipment/outfit. Whatever it is remember it is all about acknowledging yours efforts while keeping yourself in the fitness zone.
As an ideal if you can learn to love your sessions and understand that the reward is the exercise itself ,external incentives become less important as your motivation grows from within.
As a final word remember it is normal for motivation to fluctuate especially during a global pandemic with so much uncertainty around us. If you have lost your fitness mojo I do hope this article can help rekindle that fire at least until the gyms reopen.
In the meantime summer is just around the corner so it’s ‘Sun’s out gun’s out’. That has to be a motivation in itself.