How to get motivated to exercise

As a personal trainer, one thing I hear a lot is ‘How do I get motivated to exercise?’.

First of all, motivation that comes from within you – and from focusing on your true desires and what you want to achieve is well, more motivating!

The word motivation is related to ‘motive’, as in – what is your motive? What result do you want?

In this article I’d like to give some more specific examples of the things I say to myself to help me through the times I don’t ‘feel like’ doing the right thing – in this case, exercising. Again, I believe it comes down to our thinking and our self-talk.

Finding your motivation

Let’s explore a typical scenario – deciding whether to work out. I cast my mind back to 2006, as this is the last time I remember that I really struggled very hard with this problem. Sure I have days I don’t want to train, but it’s not an option so it’s really not hard. I literally cannot recall a day since 2006 that I have wrestled SO strongly with the emotion of not wanting to go to the gym, because I love the feeling so much. But I clearly remember what it feels like. I had come back from a two month holiday in Europe and felt very weak – physically and mentally and it just seemed too hard.

It reminded me of when I had a desk job back in my early twenties. I was always tired. I used to go to a gym near my home in West Auckland, about 20 minutes from the city, where I worked. I would have had some sugar in the afternoon to try and wake me up, but being so drained from a boring job, I just couldn’t get myself energised. I’d be so sleepy driving to the gym, I would have my window right down to get the wind on my face, the radio blaring and I’d literally have to slap my face to stop myself falling asleep on the motorway.

More than once, I parked my car in the car park, lowered my seat back, and set my alarm for 30 minutes later. I’d wake up feeling so heavy, and drag my body into the gym. I’d trudge up the stairs and would be on the treadmill still half asleep before I realised what I was doing. Luckily, I took the action and did it. Ohhh it was a struggle, I didn’t feel like working out and I didn’t enjoy it. But I was committed, so I would do it anyway. Only because my goals were so strong and I wanted results so badly.

My energy started increasing and by pushing through those hard days, the habit was created – and it ceased to be hard. I think a bit part of the batter is when you have two options. Then you start the whole internal dialogue about whether or not to workout. Kinda like the Clash song Do I stay or do I go?; options are hard. They require effort. ‘GIVENS’ are easy – if it’s a ‘given’ that you’ll workout no matter what, well there is no mental energy wasted on ‘Should I or shouldn’t I’. I made a decision a long time ago, that I would exercise every single day, unless my body physically felt it needed a rest – and it always tells me when it does (which isn’t very often, but I do listen).

Once you get your motivation sorted

Looking back now, in those days when it was a battle, the power came when I had the right ‘come backs’ to the ‘devil on my shoulder’. I built my internal language so strong, I literally drowned out that ‘devils’ voice and choked him!

He’s gone! Never do I entertain the thought of NOT exercising, in fact, the opposite is now true for me. I literally have to FORCE myself not to work out. It’s HARD for me to NOT do something that gives me so many wonderful, positive benefits. Something that makes me feel alive, energetic, stress-free, strong, healthy and fit. I LOVE these feelings, and although the workout is painful, it’s only when my body gives me a clear ‘brick wall’ that I reluctantly have a rest day.

It’s not to say I’m always working out ‘hell for leather’; unless I have a very specific goal, my activity is fun and rewarding. The intensity is based on how much energy I have on each day. Sometimes it’s a run outside, a group fitness class, a DVD at home, sometimes it’s a heavy weights session and sometimes it’s a light body-weight workout. Because I’m in this for life, one of my main goals is to enjoy my training and not get bored.

There is no excuse to get bored and certainly no reason to train so hard each and every time that you loathe it! My goals now in my thirties are different to when I was 21; when I cared more about looks than health, energy, strength, productivity and longevity!

Positive affirmations go a long way

Before I had firmly established in my mind that the answer to the question ‘Should I work out or not?’ was always ‘Yes I should – Working out is almost ALWAYS the right decision’, I had to realise that I had to repeat many powerful words and statements in my mind to program my mind for success.

Here’s what I said to myself on those ‘battle’ days –

The classic Nike – still a favourite – ‘Just do it’

‘Get on with it’

‘Not an option’ (when I thought about missing it)

‘You want this’

‘This is in you, it’s who you are’

Knowing what you can and can’t handle

Your body is very resilient. It will generally stop you if you’re over-doing it. That’s why we have in-built survival instincts and mechanisms – like fainting – to make us lie down if we need to. Or vomiting (which certainly slows us down). We all have differing opinions on whether you feel that pushing your body to those kind of limits is ‘right’ or not, but I believe we certainly are all capable of more than we are currently doing.

Just last night someone made a comment to me that the amount of training I do is ‘over-doing it’. Well, if it were my trainer, coach or doctor, I would listen. But this was from someone who doesn’t even know me. I believe I know my body better than a stranger, and I know it can handle it.

I’m feeling full of life, health and energy; certainly more vibrant than many people I know who are inactive, so who are they to say what’s too much for me?

Anyway, we must be wise and learn to get to know our body and the signs when it’s time to rest. But we also mustn’t let this be an excuse for doing less than we are capable or able to do.

Image / FreeDigitalPhotos.net – KROMKRATHOG

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