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3-2-1-Go, Fitness Motivation

By on November 16, 2013
Screen shot 2013 11 01 at 12.40.44 PM 300x336 - 3-2-1-Go, Fitness Motivation

It doesn't matter if you are an avid exerciser, or a newbie, finding the internal motivation to be active is, more often then not, hard. So, if you would typically rather veg in front of the TV instead of exercising, know that you are not alone. Even people who love exercise, have to re-commit to being motivated on a daily basis. 
The good news is, once you start exercising, it is easier to continue, since, once you have established a habit since you (mostly) don't question if you should or shouldn't workout. Plus, when you exercise regularly you develop a kinesthetic memory of how great you will feel post workout which helps fitness motivation. 


If you are someone who has never worked out, becoming motivated can be a challenge since you are not in the habit of exercising, but DON’T stop trying to improve your health. Know that health is a process, a non-linear one at that. Stop beating yourself up about past lapses in exercise. Guilt is counterproductive. It often just leads to a re-occurence of the actions (think emotional eating) that lead to the feelings of guilt in the first place. Instead of feeling guilty, learn from your experiences and move on. Get back on the horse, as they say. Just get back on as a more informed rider.
Try this: For the next two weeks rate your mood on a scale of one to 10 before and after exercising. A rating of "1" means you have intense negative feelings towards exercise and general grumpiness. A rating of "10" means you have intense positive feelings towards exercise and couldn't be happier. I have found that when people rate their mood between a "1" and "5" before exercise, it is normally "6" or above after exercise. 
I once did this for two weeks, and each time I recorded a higher number after my workout then before. Any time I don't want to exercise I remind myself that my numbers were consistently higher after exercise. Since I know that I am almost guaranteed to feel better I am less likely to skip my workout.
 Another way of framing this same idea is the "law of initial value." When applied to exercise the law of initial value dictates that the worse you feel prior to exercise, the more opportunity there is for your mood to improve. Under this logic, the more unmotivated, cranky or tired you feel before a workout the more important the workout is.
 Another great ‘trick’ is the "10 minute rule." The next time you don't want to exercise tell yourself, "you have to do a minimum of 10 minutes. If you still want to stop after 10 minutes, you can." The rationale is this. Ten minutes of exercise is better then nothing, so if you do stop, that is OK. Usually once you have done 10 minutes you will continue and finish the workout.

The take away — the next time you don't want to exercise, remember that everyone has moments of low motivation. Remind yourself that you will feel better after the workout and find activities that you enjoy and/or that inspire you. Sign up for a race. Train with a friend. Catch up on your guilty TV pleasures. Reward yourself post workout with a pedicure or hot bath. Use whatever means necessary make your workouts more fun, or at least more palatable.

Kathleen Trotter, MS (Exercise Science), BA (Honours) is an ironman competitor, personal trainer and writer in Toronto. 

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