motivation for exercise- finding it hard?

Motivation for Exercise with Marisa Peer

The number one reason that people avoid exercise is that they wait for the motivation for exercise to start. Starting to exercise—no matter how painful—is the very thing that makes you want to continue doing it and how it turns into a habit. While most of my advice about diet and weight loss (which you can find in my best-selling book You Can Be Thin) is centred around food, exercise can also accelerate weight loss tremendously—and not to mention make you feel younger and more energetic.

This week I received a good question via Twitter—it’s one that I get asked a lot by clients who have managed to improve their eating habits, but can’t quite find the same motivation for exercise to accelerate their weight loss.

My advice for becoming motivated to exercise is similar to all my other advice and it starts with this: Nothing is more powerful in life than the words we say to ourselves and the images in our minds. So, when you hear the word ‘exercise,’ what do you think of? Do you think of spending an hour sweaty, red-faced, short of breath, and miserable with sore legs? Do you say things like “I have to exercise in the morning” or “Going to the gym is so boring.” Or, do you think of spending the rest of the day feeling energised, accomplished, fitter and most of all, weighing less next time you get on the scale? Do you say “I can’t wait until I get an endorphins boost today” or “I’m going to enjoy my evening so much more after I’ve done my workout.”

If you ask someone that exercises regularly why they do it, they’ll likely tell you it’s because they’ve learned to love exercise and the way it makes them feel, not because they fixate on the less appealing or challenging parts of it. Just like someone who hates exercise, they still have to schedule the gym into their day or get up early for a run, they still feel the burn of a tough cardio workout or experience soreness when they’ve pushed themselves, but those are not the things they focus on. Exercise, for them, has become a positive association, not a punishment reserved only for when they’re trying to lose weight.

Once you’ve changed your script about exercise, here are some ways to keep at it:

  • Be realistic: Don’t try and commit to working out 4, 5, or 6 days a week right from the start if you’ve never exercised before. Commit to a realistic goal, like working out on once the weekend and twice during the week. Setting your goals too high will only set you up for failure.
  • Make it social: If you commit to working out with a friend—whether it’s going to a yoga class or a walk in the park—it becomes a social activity as well as a physical one. You’ll be less inclined to ditch your exercise plans if it means ditching a friend as well.
  • Reward yourself (but not with unhealthy food!): Your goals can be small, like getting a coffee from your favourite coffee shop straight after your workout, or more substantial, like getting a manicure if you stick to your regimen for a whole month. The important thing is giving yourself reasons not to give up.
  • Inspire yourself: Ever notice how if you look at pictures of  food in a magazine, you get hungry? You can do the same with working out by reading fitness blogs, running magazines or ordering some workout clothing from a catalogue. Read and look at things that reinforce the habit of fitness.
  • Write it down: Write down the days of the week you’ve exercised in your diary and what you accomplished. If you’re diligent about it, you will feel annoyed when a week goes by without any workouts. Visually seeing what you’ve been doing will make you want to do more of it.

The great thing about exercise is that the more you do it, the easier it gets both physically and mentally. The goal is to get exercise to be like brushing your teeth—i.e. something you can’t live without doing—not a chore that happens only when life is perfect.

If the motivation for exercise is not enough, the other alternative is to try hypnotic weight control, to help with those weight goals.

You can read the previous blog on panic attack treatment.

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