For many of us, being consistently physically active is an idea and nothing more than that. The horrifying prospect of either dragging yourself out of bed before sunrise to go and workout, or doing so after a long & arduous day at work. It becomes easy to pick neither - trust me I've been there.
Even in the circumstance that we do successfully take the time to exercise, if we don't derive enjoyment or satisfaction from our workouts, maintaining motivation over time is unlikely. An internal battle often begins - we remind ourselves of all of the Netflix shows we could watch instead. Once this happens, it's practically game-over.
Still, as farfetched as it may seem, building the habit of consistent exercise is more than achievable. In this post I'll outline what I believe are 5 key factors in long-term exercise success and adherence.
Understand Your Why
Before even setting foot in the gym or exercising, understanding the reasoning behind your decision to start is essential.
Without establishing our 'why' - the deeper motive beneath the actions we choose to undertake - and having a clear aim, our progress is undoubtedly limited. Without a 'why', we are aimless, and without aim it's nigh on impossible to remain motivated - whether that be in fitness or in life.
So, take the time to think about what your motive is. It could be to build strength and/or lose weight to improve your overall health, to build strength & fitness for performance purposes, or to establish a better connection between your mind & body, just as examples.
By knowing and consistently revisiting your why, your motivation and connection to your workouts will be far greater; especially as you progress closer to your idealised self.
Outline Your Goals
Additionally, goals allow us to measure progress - hugely significant. Few things in life are more motivational than the realisation that we are moving towards an objective we've set for ourselves. In the process, we experience a rush of dopamine - 'the happy hormone'. This incentive-reward system provides us with huge motivation to pursue our goals even further.
Finally, setting goals provides us with accountability. By outlining something for ourselves to achieve, there's a sense of disappointment when we fail to reach that target (hence the importance of realistic & achievable goals). On the flip side, by having a target to aim for, we begin to take on greater responsibility for ourselves and our progress towards the aim. This increases our willingness to persist.
Plan Your Workouts
What's more, it means that significantly less time is spent roaming the gym-floor thinking of exercises to do, just so you can feel as though you've achieved something. It's actually pretty nice when all the thought is taken out of the equation and you can just focus on the exercises written down.
Try and get into the habit of writing down all of your workouts at the start of the week. I prefer pen & paper, but the notes app on your phone works too. Do this routinely. Check off the exercises as you complete them & be sure to make any necessary comments for your next workout (e.g. easy, increase weight next time).
The thought of making such drastic changes to your regular schedule can be daunting. But really a routine is just a set of habits we've ingrained. The same way set of unhealthy habits leading to an undesirable routine can be formed, the opposite can too.
To help with this, break down your desired routine into the set of habits needed to form it - "micro-habits". For example, say you wanted to start waking up at 6:00 am and going to the gym before work.
Maybe you start by setting your alarm for 6:30 or 7:00 am and gradually pushing it earlier (5-10 minutes each day). Take the time the night before to prepare everything you need for the day, so you can just get up and go. These small habits you incorporate add up, making it easier for you to eventually achieve your original objective.
Shift Your Perspective
Finally, shift the perspective you hold towards exercise. It's all too easy to view working out as something you have to do - I've been there myself. But, here's a crazy idea, why not try altering that viewpoint?
Many of us are fortunate to have the opportunity to be able to take control of our health & well-being so easily. Try viewing exercise as exactly that - an opportunity. Often, when we begin approaching things with a different attitude, we'll experience different outcomes as a result.
You might actually find that exercise can be pretty liberating when it's approached with the right mindset.
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