Have you ever thought, “I wish could just get motivated”? When people say to me “I wish I had your motivation” etc, I tell them that motivation doesn’t exist. I don’t exercise because I feel particularly “motivated”, I do it because I have created a habit of exercising. I miss it if I don’t do it, and I feel better when I do. Maybe what is really motivating me is the fear of what would happen if I stopped exercising, fear of going back to old behaviors. It took me a long time to create the habit of exercising, but now it’s second-nature and a part of my life. The biggest piece of the puzzle for me is that once I started exercising a few times a week I really noticed a difference in my energy level and most importantly, my happiness level. As the great Elle Woods once said “exercise gives you endorphins, and endorphins make you happy!”
It seems that most people are waiting around for lightening to strike, some kind of magic moment when they will jump off the couch and go for a run. But this isn’t going to happen TO you, you have to make it happen. If you want to create a habit of exercise, you have to set intention and do it even when you don’t want to. You’re not always going to “feel like” exercising, but if you have a goal in mind, that can help get you going in those moments.
Tips on making exercise a habit:
Decide on a time. Everyone has a preference on when they want to workout, for me I like getting it done in the morning so that it’s out of the way and I can get on with my day. I feel more energized when I workout in the morning, and I am more likely to make more healthy choices throughout the day. It’s a snowball effect just like when you eat that cookie and decide to give up on healthy eating for the rest of the day.
Find an activity that you enjoy. Start small and increase your activity level from there. Start by taking a 10 minute walk outside everyday, get your vitamin D. Studies show that walking helps regulate our hormones, can improve mood, reduces stress, and generally make us feel better.
Write it on the calendar, and track your exercise habits. When you can SEE your progress you will start to feel rewarded by the act of writing down what you did that day and it will create a positive association.
Goal setting: Those who write down a goal are 70% more likely to accomplish the goal. Also with goals, decide what are you willing to do and what are you NOT willing to do. You may decide that you want to look like someone you saw on Instagram, but you may not be willing to do the work that that person is willing to do in order to look that way. Be realistic, start small. I started with a goal of working out for 20-30 minutes in the mornings, and gradually I increased the time as I became more fit.
Positive self talk: it’s very important to keep a positive mindset when developing new habits. Beating yourself up for bad behavior isn’t going to help you feel motivated. With exercise, think about it as something that is good for your body, and something that you do because you want to celebrate what your body can do, not as a punishment for something you ate. Developing a positive mind can be as simple as stating things as fact: “I am strong” “I like to exercise” “I am an athlete” “I am worthy of being healthy, and I deserve to feel good”. When you hear something or say something enough times, you will start to believe it! What if you told yourself: “Today I walked for 10 minutes, and that is awesome!” What if you wrote down on the calendar for that day, “walked 10 min, feeling great!” to help motivate yourself for the next day? Let’s celebrate all victories!
Measuring results: TAKE PICTURES. I know how it feels to hate your reflection in the mirror. I know how it feels to hide from the camera. I also know how it feels to compare progress a few weeks or months apart and see huge differences in my physical appearance, even when the scale hasn’t budged. Trust me on this, take pictures of yourself periodically because you will see differences in your physique when you begin to exercise regularly. Take pictures, email them to yourself for later, you don’t have to look at them. You may not realize right now what you are capable of, but one good habit leads to another and you will surprise yourself. You may also forget what you looked like before, since you see yourself everyday it’s hard to notice small changes until you look back.
Celebrate the small victories: “non-scale victories” are things like, maybe you developed the habit of walking for 10 minutes during your lunch break for 2 weeks, maybe you stopped adding sugar to your coffee, maybe you were able to buckle the seat belt on a plane without having to extend it to it’s max. Celebrate EVERYTHING.
As we head into another new year, think about writing down small goals and creating habits that will enrich your life, instead of thinking that you need to go full-on juice fast and hours of cardio to get results. Slow and steady wins the race, set your intentions daily and you will see the results you’re looking for.
Note: Based on the scale, there is only a 12lb difference between these 2 photos. You may not want to take pictures of yourself at the time, but you will thank yourself later. I didn’t even include my head in the older pic, and I NEVER thought that I would be sharing it. I had taken this picture because it was the first time I was able to wear my cat shirt, although looking back at it I’m not sure it really “fit” the way I thought it did, but I had already lost over 30lbs and I was excited to celebrate a non-scale victory. It’s ok to celebrate your progress even if you don’t feel like you’re “finished” accomplishing your goal. As I’ve learned, we are never really finished, there is always a new goal, and that is ok too! Keep pushing yourself, you’re worth it.