09 June 2021

4 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Exercise

Do you want to make that once-a-week home workout or weekend gym session a regular occurrence? You may be one of many casual exercisers who wish to sweat more frequently but finds it difficult to find the drive to incorporate fitness into your daily routine.

The conventional knowledge hasn't helped one figure out how to get into the swing of things and become that person who says, "I'll meet you for brunch later." I've got to get my run in first.” You're told that you need to "want it" badly enough. Or that doing anything for 30 days in a row is required before it becomes second nature. But what do you do on the 20th day, when it's raining outside, and you'd rather sleep for an extra hour than run?

Fortunately, psychologists and economics have been researching how to decipher what motivates us to do something we don't always want to do. Here are some of their most effective workout motivation ideas. 

1. Make a Genuine Reward for Yourself

Sure, lofty goals motivate some people like "improved health" or "weight loss." If that doesn't appeal to you, journalist Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, suggests making the advantages of working out more real by rewarding yourself with a smoothie or a Game of Thrones episode afterward. 

He explains how to create a neurological "new habit" that includes a cue to start the action (such as putting your spinning shoes next to your luggage), a routine (getting through gym session), and finally a reward. He says that external rewards are so powerful because your brain can grasp it and draw the connection that the act is beneficial. “It raises the likelihood that the routine will become habitual.”

The brain correlates sweat and discomfort with the production of endorphins, the feel-good chemicals responsible for the “I-feel-freaking-amazing” rush you get after a terrific gym session, and the incentive becomes intrinsic. You won't even desire the treat once you've trained your brain to realize that the workout is the reward.

2. Commit Yourself

It's easy to make promises to ourselves, but a study suggests that when we make them in front of friends, we're more likely to keep them.

Sign a contract pledging to pay a friend $20 every time you skip Pilates to boost the ante even more. Jeremy Goldhaber-Fiebert, PhD, an assistant professor of medicine at Stanford University who researches health decision science, notes, “It's a straightforward notion of adjusting the cost.” “I say I'm going to commit to doing something for a set period of time, like exercising for 15 minutes five times per week for 12 weeks.

Goldhaber-Fiebert and his colleagues discovered that those who signed longer contracts exercised more than those who agreed to shorter contracts in tests of persons who constructed online contracts through the website stickk.com. “In order to perceive the longer-term benefits, we must get through the early sensation of dissatisfaction,” he explains. “The problem is coming up with tools to make that happen.”

3. Think Positively

Visualizing the benefits of activity as a motivational method has long been advocated by proponents of positive thinking. For instance, imagine how the sun will feel on your face as you run around the lake will help you decide to get out of bed in the morning to go jogging. Or how ecstatic you'll be to watch your new muscles take shape.

“You can figure out what you can do to overcome the problem and build a plan after you visualize it.”

The formula is completed as follows: You must discover what is holding you back after recognizing your want and seeing the outcome, which she refers to as "mental contrasting." Researchers asked each woman in one sample of 51 female students who indicated they wished to eat fewer junk food snacks to visualize the advantages of snacking on healthier meals. Those who recognized the trigger that made healthy snacking difficult for them — and had a plan to grab for fruit when hunger struck — were the most successful in sticking to their goals.

Too exhausted after work to go to the gym? “After you picture the challenge, you can figure out how to overcome it and devise a strategy,” Oettingen continues. For example, instead of stopping at home first, you can switch to morning or lunchtime workouts or go straight to the gym.

4. Discover Your Fitness Tribe

Let's face it: You won't get paid to do more squats, run more miles, or lift more weight—science shows it. In a recent study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, researchers discovered that awarding new gym members with $30 or $60 gift cards for exercising had little to no effect on their willingness to exercise. While getting paid to sweat sounds like a great bargain, a strong, supportive group is what will eventually motivate you to get up and move. The smiles, high fives, and words of encouragement that come from the ties that people form are priceless. There's a fitness squad for everyone, from CrossFit boxes to run clubs to yogi circles.

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