8 Tricks to Motivate Yourself to Exercise

Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.
– Plato

I think the average length of time someone goes to the gym for is about 3 months. Three months! I guess that is enough time to see some results, lose some weight, get a bit toned, and then the enthusiasm wears off. I’ve been there myself but, perhaps because I have grown up with parents who exercise regularly, I have always returned to it.

I know someone who every now and then has a major surge of enthusiasm for exercise. He talks about how he has this great plan of exercise that he will be starting on Monday. The problem is that his enthusiasm gets the better of him and so on the Monday he is up for an hour long run at 5am. He does the same on Tuesday. But by Wednesday he is tired and sore and the whole regime has been written off as too hard and he is back to square one again. So that leads me to the first point:

1. Make it manageable – Do something realistic to begin with. Set yourself realistic goals and a schedule of exercise that you will be able to maintain for longer than a couple of weeks. Underestimate you’re ability to stick with it to begin with, you can always up the pace further down the track.

2. Make exercise a social activity – Exercise with friends or family, or join a club. For a lot of people sport is their social life. If you just go to the gym on your own it can get boring and become a chore. But if you join a team or club and train regularly with the same people then pretty soon you’ll have a whole new bunch of friends and another reason to keep exercising.

3. Enter and train for an event – Sign up for short fun run and get yourself in shape for it. I signed up for a marathon and told everyone I new about it. That certainly helped me commit to my training programme. You might like to join a fun run/walk or do a relay/triathlon with a few friends.

4. Make your exercise something that you enjoy – Stressed? – go to yoga classes. Lonely? – join a sports team. Looking for excitement & adrenaline? – try rockclimbing, iceskating, rollerblading… There are plenty of clubs out there, it’s just a matter of googling for them, or flicking through the phonebook, or looking at notices at the library/gym etc.

5. Make exercise a part of your normal life – A really easy way to do this is to walk or cycle to work. If you live too far away then get off the bus or park your car a block further away and walk the rest of the way. Or go for a walk at lunchtime. I used to go for walks in a cemetery when I lived in London as it was the only green area near my work.

6. Create a schedule – Stick it on your fridge so you can tick off each activity when you complete it. That way you can see your progress in a visual way. And you’ll be reminded each time you open the fridge.

7. Think about why you exercise – I exercise because I want to live a long and healthy life. But also because I feel better when I am fit. Why do you exercise? Do you want to see your grandchildren grow up? If you’re simply exercising to flatten your stomach then you may well lose enthusiasm once you’ve accomplished that, or you’ll lose heart if you don’t accomplish it right away. Think of exercise as an essential part of a balanced life, because that is what it is.

I’ve been asked why I go to the gym when I don’t need to lose weight (I’m a bit of a bean pole but I prefer to say I’m ‘lean’). I go to the gym because I want to be healthy, not just for the sake of my physical appearance (although of course that’s still a motivation for me too).

8. Don’t expect immediate results – You may well get some immediate results but don’t get disheartened if you don’t. After you’ve exercised for a time you’ll find that the results you’ve gained will level off and your exercise is more for maintenance. This is where people can stop as they get bored or disheartened because the improvements stop. The reality is that no matter how big you are you can’t keep losing weight forever.

And if you’re still unconvinced here are some more ideas. It’s a New Year so stop procrastinating, there’s no better time to start!

Image: Celso Flores

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