Four Steps That Can Motivate You to Exercise
By Jessica Charbonneau, LCSW
If you’ve ever made a New Year’s resolution and started out on an exercise binge that perhaps included jogging a few miles a day, or putting in several long sessions in the gym, or going on a handful of marathon bike rides, you probably know how hard it is to stay “pumped up” for long.
That’s because after the initial enthusiasm of your new exercise regimen subsides, things usually begin to change. You are still physically capable of exercising. Yet without that “rush” of excitement, the mere thought of putting on your exercise gear fills you with overwhelming apathy. What is the point of all this exercise? Why bother? Days pass, you don’t exercise, you hardly move at all, and within a couple of weeks you forget all about your new exercise plans.
What makes it so difficult to stay motivated? Well, change is hard. We tend to be creatures of habit. Bariatric surgery requires people to make many changes. Exercising is just one of the tough venue changes we have to make, but it is especially important to your success. However, if you have not been exercising on a regular basis, don’t be discouraged. Here are some helpful motivational tips to help you get started:
1. Be specific. One thing that is known about human behavior is that we are much more likely to follow through and make a change if we are specific, realistic, and have developed a very detailed plan. So instead of simply thinking “my goal is to exercise”, you could say “my goal is to exercise and this is how I am going to go about it: I will wake up in the morning before work. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I will go to the local gym, and I will use the elliptical machine for 30 minutes”.
2. Be determined. The more resolute you are in sticking to your goals, the more likely you are to be successful. Exercising on a regular basis is less about pleasure and reward than about drive and motivation. It is about figuring out what you have to do to succeed and then doing it. For instance, you could repeat to yourself each day “I will work out in the morning because I am less likely to talk myself out of exercising. I will pack my gym bag the night before to eliminate any extra steps in the morning. I will use the elliptical machine because it is easier on my joints.”
3. Be flexible, but firm with your goals. Do not fall into a pattern of “all or nothing” thinking. If your goal is to exercise for one hour and there comes a day you only have time for 30 minutes of exercise, don’t skip exercising entirely. Because any amount of regular exercise is something to feel good about.
4. Be compassionate with yourself. No one is perfect. We are striving for progress not perfection. Progress is about rewards no matter how small coupled with wanting to accomplish your goals over and over again. It feels good when this happen. If you don’t watch out, you could get hooked on the pleasure lines cruising through your brain. And that would be a good thing.