Workout Motivation And Where To Find It
You know the feeling. You’re just about to finish work and go home, yet you know you need to go to the gym, get on your bike, or put your trainers on and go for a run.
But it’s going to be so warm and cozy in front of the TV. So, you either find a way to generate some workout motivation and go to the gym, or you don’t. Just as you need to overcome the initial physical resistance of a workout, you must learn to overcome the mental resistance to get you there in the first place.
In this article you will learn:
- Exercise is a habit, and one you need to master
- The importance of self-talk and how to make it work for you
- How to plan and prep ahead of time, and why this is necessary
- That starting small leads to bigger things
- Why you need to have others hold you accountable
- How to acknowledge your successes, and the importance of a reward system
Workout motivation is a habit
An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day. ~ Henry David Thoreau (Tweet this)
Like any skill worth it’s salt, going out and exercising (and the workout motivation that goes with it) is a habit, meaning you need to teach your brain how to go and exercise.
As you teach yourself a new habit your brain changes, literally. Ann Graybiel, a neuroscientist at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, is an expert on how the basal ganglia (part of the decision-making area of the brain) change when building habits.
She says “habits are sequences of behavior that are learned to the point where they become automatic. Many everyday motor actions become habitual through repetition, but we also develop habits of thought and emotion.” This means habits need a little momentum to become ‘normal’ to your brain, which takes a little effort.
Graybiel’s research suggests we never truly forget our old habits—such as taking the same route to work everyday on autopilot—instead we can teach our brain to shut them off, overriding the system and choosing the new habit instead. She suggests your brain favors new habits over old ones, meaning any steps you take in making that an easier process will have a significant effect.
Ask yourself, what is your driving factor to workout?
Talk the talk
The way you talk yourself into working out could be a driving factor in your success, or lack of. A recent study suggests rather than telling yourself ‘I will,’ you should ask ‘will I?’
Self-talk is often overlooked when trying to build workout motivation, but becoming more aware of your internal dialogue can be the difference between success and failure. Giving yourself a boost with positive self-talk means you are more likely to complete a task.
It’s a tale as old as time, and the research shows that “by asking themselves a question, people were more likely to build their own motivation.” So, rather than resisting the thought that you have to workout, opening up the internal dialogue questions your motives and helps you weigh the benefits.
Simply telling yourself you will succeed isn’t enough to build real workout motivation. You need to be asking why. What are the benefits, how will this improve my life if I do it, and what will happen if I don’t?
You would be surprised what two hours of daily exercise and five hundred stomach crunches can do for you. ~ Justina Chen (Tweet this)
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
As clichés go this couldn’t be more accurate. Preparation is key for workout motivation. As it goes, I have a dislike for things being sprung on me without warning. Being told I need to go and workout, right now, builds mental resistance and I either find excuses not to do it, or I quite plainly say ‘no,’ as if I’m 5 years old.
Preparation is key, this ensures ahead of time your brain knows you are going to workout on Wednesday at 7am. That is a sure fire way to actually go and do it.
- Create a weekly schedule – no matter how many days you can exercise a week, set yourself times to workout and write it down.
- Have a workout plan – what are you actually going to do? Whether it’s going for a run, doing a yoga class, or following a strength-training plan. Map out exactly what you’re going to do on each workout, eliminating the element of surprise.
- Prep your kit – need to have your running shoes by the front door? Put them there. Going to jump straight out of bed and go to the gym? Have your gym clothes laid out ready.
These visual cues act as a wake-up call to your brain, making you more likely to build the habit.
Having the decision already made is half the battle, because you already know you’ll enjoy the workout and feel better after it. The biggest hurdle in workout motivation is getting yourself to begin in the first place. But by taking out the element of surprise and planning ahead of time, exercising will be a breeze.
Little things mean a lot
‘Go hard or go home’ need not apply here. When it comes to building any habit you should start small. If you’re finding it difficult to motivate yourself, even with all the prep and planning done, then start small. Tell yourself you’ll go for a 5-minute walk, do 10 squats, or 10 minutes of yoga.
As soon as you have the momentum, you’ll generally go for longer, but getting the wheels turning in the first place can be the hardest part. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to do too much too soon. By starting off with enough to get the blood flowing, you’ll soon feel motivated to do more.
Be held accountable
You may not want to be ‘that guy’ on social media, posting their workouts every damn day, but could you be missing a trick?
Initially, you may feel like a fool putting it out there for the word to see, but as Kelly McGonigal, PhD, a health psychologist and fitness instructor at Stanford says, “when exercising is an integral part of your identity, it isn’t optional anymore. It’s just part of your life.”
Having accountability, or perceived accountability, is an important part to keeping motivated. It opens up a dialogue with the outside world, and gives you a sense of your journey being followed. It can even open up the doors for communication as others become invested in your workout journey.
Think about it this way, you could end up being the inspiration for someone else the workout motivation and the courage to do the same. This is how communities are born.
You can also find accountability in going to a local gym class. If working out alone feels too daunting, find a gym class and strike up a conversation. Doing this also gives you a social fix, boosting your motivation to keep working out.
Acknowledge your success
This is part and parcel of all the above, but one of the most important ways to keep motivated is reflection on your success, and seeing how far you’ve come.
Having a schedule planned out, posting on social media, losing weight, making new friends at the gym, or investing in a new gym wardrobe are all signs you’re going in the right direction. One of the benefits of getting involved in any fitness community is having a physical record of how far you’ve come.
You can even put a reward system in place to congratulate yourself for sticking to your workouts. Although I imagine the new found body confidence, weight loss and new wardrobe will do the trick.
All together now
When it comes to workout motivation and exercise it is the small steps you take which make a difference. Asking yourself why you want to workout in the first place and setting a realistic goal is a great way to start. Making sure you have all your ducks in a row the night before, or finding a way to be accountable all make a difference.
And whenever you feel a dip in your workout motivation, look at how far you’ve come. Reward yourself for your persistence and all the glory that comes alongside it.