You’ve set your fitness goals and made an action plan. In my case, I mentally target working out 5 days a week for 20-40 minutes per session, depending on time available and my energy levels.
One of my favorite workout videos is led by Kendall Hogan, an enthusiastic trainer who says to one of the uber-fit young ladies in the fitness chorus behind him, “Make them work!” (“They” were the viewing audience.) Immediately, he corrected himself:
“Make them want to work!”
This is the secret behind almost every success in life: the desire to put in the effort to get the desired results.
But let’s face it. Some days we feel more invigorated than others. What can we do to make ourselves want to work out?
Check out these five simple tips to help firm your resolve – and your flab:
- Take More Small Bites
Of course, we’re talking about exercise here. But the dietary advice holds true for working out as well. Big goals can work just fine, but if getting ready to run your first marathon is stressing you out and actually undermining your self-confidence, scale back your ambitions.
You’ll note that part of my weekly workout goal is to perform five sessions that last from 20 to 40 minutes. Although some days I am willing and able to stretch and exercise for a full hour, I know it’s perfectly okay to stretch and then raise my heart rate for 15-20 minutes.
Remember that some regular physical activity is far better for your health than none at all.
- Reward Your Good Behavior
Never take your self-improvement efforts for granted. This is a sure-fire way to kill that fire within you. Always reward yourself for completing tasks that lead to your ultimate goal.
It’s up to you to decide how big that pay-off will be. It might be as simple as a literal pat on the pat or high-five in the mirror or more elaborate: a special excursion or some new gear.
Just be sure that your rewards don’t make you weak and flabby. Junk food is right out (as the British like to say).
- Buddy Up
There may be no greater motivational force than a workout partner, a special person who shares your sweat, your glory, and your defeats. Even if you can’t share the same physical space while exercising, you can swap encouraging words by phone, text messaging, email or social media.
Many professional groups stress the importance of having an “accountability buddy” to stay focused and enthused when the going gets tough.
All that said, it may take a few tries to find a suitable Fitness Friend. Don’t be afraid to admit that the two of you working out isn’t “working out” – oh, the pun-ishment! – and politely find someone whose attitude and personality is a better “fit” with yours.
- Make a Date with Fitness
You probably mark important events on your calendar, am I right? Well, what could be more important than your health and well-being? Schedule days and times that are devoted to your physical fitness.
This technique is also very useful to fend off distractions that would interfere with your slated workout sessions. “I would love to join you for Happy Hour another time, but my calendar says I’m due at the gym to meet my Fitness Friend.”
- Enjoy the Process
To savor life, even when you are sweating like the proverbial pig, keep your thoughts in the present. In the words of Zen Buddhism, “Be here now.” This is actually a lot harder than it sounds.
Our minds naturally race ahead, making plans, and look back in memories. Meditation teaches focusing thoughts and calming the “monkey mind” and its non-stop chatter.
The decision to include exercise sessions as part of your regular routine is life-changing. Progress often goes in fits and starts. Discouraging plateaus are reached.
“Keep your eye on the prize,” my Fitness Friend tells me all the time.
“Keep jumping those hurdles until there aren’t any more,” is additional wisdom that can be applied practically (at the track) and in our every-day lives (metaphorically speaking).
- Change it Up
There’s a famous saying about how change is the only constant force in nature. Nothing natural stays the same. Even rocks erode over time.
Fight exercise boredom by switching activities. If you work out alone, sign up for a class and share the (good-for-you) pain with other fitness seekers. If you run on a treadmill, try climbing stairs or bicycling to avoid getting stuck in a rut.
Cross-training also benefits different muscle groups in your body. Variety is the spice of life so try anything that appeals to you, from jumping on a trampoline to swimming to playing volleyball.
In closing, here are three uber-motivational quotes you can post around your abode (or tattoo on the inside of your eyelids) to keep your mental attitude positive about staying fit for life:
“Exercise is king. Nutrition is queen. Put them together and you’ve got a kingdom.”
– Jack LaLanne, exercise champion whose popular TV show ran from 1951 to 1985
I hated every minute of training. But I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.'”
– Mohammad Ali, nicknamed “The Greatest,” heavyweight boxing champion of the 1960s and 1970s
“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”
– Jim Rohn, entrepreneur, author, and motivational speaker