10 ways to stay motivated
We all know that bitter feeling when the summer ends and fall starts... You recall those warm, sunny days, your holidays at the beach and all those ice creams you enjoyed in the hot weather… Often, together with those happy memories, the guilt trip begins. You realize you put on weight and abandoned your diet and sports. So when the summer ends we usually try to use the new summer energy to start living fit and healthily, to get back on diets and begin physical training. Unfortunately, after a while, it is difficult to exercise systematically - especially when the days grow grey, shorter and colder. So how do you keep going with your training plan? The key is your motivation. First, ask yourself why you want to do it in the first place. This might not be enough to motivate you, however, so here are a few ways to help you with this issue.
- Define your goals.
Before you start, decide what it is you want to achieve. Maybe you want to lose weight? Maybe you want to put on some muscle? Maybe you just want to stay healthy?
No matter how specific or general your goal is - name it and then define what it means to you. The easiest way to do this would be to ask yourself ‘how will I know when I have reached my goal?’. For some people getting fit could mean walking up the stairs to the 7th floor without losing breath. For somebody else, it could be running a marathon. If you want to lose weight, decide at the very beginning how much you want to lose.
Think about your deadlines. Set yourself a specific time frame to work on reaching your goal. Be careful not to give yourself too little or too much time. Both options can kill your motivation! If you are not sure how to do it properly, consult with a specialist - a trainer or a nutritionist.
If your aim needs a longer period of time to be achieved, you might want to divide it into several shorter stages. Again, decide on actions and deadlines for each stage. Smaller tasks are more accessible and less scary, so they boost your motivation, as you know exactly what to focus on.
Write it all down! Another clever way to help to keep your own motivation going is writing your goal and the stages you defined down. Be very thorough - it will help you in a few weeks when you feel yourself struggling with your resolution. Write down specific dates and exactly what it is you want to achieve.
- Ask yourself why you want to do it.
Your answer will be your booster when you find it difficult to go to class or are struggling with a hard exercise that you hate. This is an important matter to you after all, isn’t it?
Be careful! It is not always a good idea to try to prove something to another person, for example. However, if this person is very important to you or you know from experience that this approach works for you, remember about it and use it to your advantage.
- Choose something you like.
Sometimes this is not possible. But if you can, choose an activity that you find relaxing, joyful and fun. If you are looking to get fit but hate running, find an alternative. Maybe a workout at the gym, swimming, Ashtanga or Vinyasa yoga or a dance class is something you would enjoy. One of the best sources of motivation is discovering something that you like doing and it will not matter if you win or get praised. So find a sport you like!
- Reward your effort.
Rewards help you to appreciate the effort you have put into reaching your goal so far. We tend to see the amount of work that is still to be done and forget about everything we have achieved up to that point. Giving yourself little treats counteracts this effect and helps you to enjoy your achievements. Remember to choose your rewards wisely! Find things you like but that will not ruin your previous hard work. Maybe you would like to treat yourself with your favorite meal or a night out, i.e. going to the cinema or to your favorite restaurant?
The more, the merrier! Maybe you can convince your friends to start working out? They could join you at the gym or sign up for the same yoga class as you. You can introduce some elements of competition to increase your motivation. It can be fun and easy-going when you have people you know and like people to compete with. Maybe avoid competition when it comes to activities such as yoga, as they are not at all about that, however.
You can also try taking part in sports contests or public events, such as runs suitable for your fitness level or outdoor yoga sessions. Exercising with other people and meeting other sports enthusiasts can feed your motivation. You can use it as a source of your inspiration.
If you cannot or do not want to find a workout buddy to lift your spirits in difficult times and who can motivate you to exercise systematically, find somebody you can tell about your plans and, later, your progress. When people know your goals, it raises your motivation not to disappoint yourself and the other person - what will you say when they ask you how your training is going?
- Develop a routine.
Motivation is key when it comes to starting something new and difficult, and from time to time to remind yourself why you do something. But it is not your motivation that keeps you going every day. You need a routine to work out regularly and eventually reach your goal. It is worth developing a habit connected to your training plan.
- Don’t give up! Don’t make up!
Many people try to make up for the days they forgot to or did not want to train. It is still possible if you had a one day break but if it was longer, it might just be too much for your body. It can overwhelm you and kill your ambition and enthusiasm for physical activity. You might even give up on your dream completely. So start your plan every day again. It doesn’t matter if you did not go running yesterday. Do it today! Mistakes and breaks happen to everyone!
- Find suitable equipment.
We are not saying go and buy the best and most expensive sports equipment and clothing on the day you decide you want to start training. But sometimes just a pair of colorful yoga pants can really make a difference and raise your motivation for physical activity up a lot! Also, things like your own yoga mat can make your workout much more pleasant, when you know it is only you who uses it. Accessories also do not have to be expensive to bring you some comfort and fun and make your training more enjoyable.
- Be good to yourself.
Remember to plan your training in a responsible and caring way. Your body is an integral part of you, so don’t harm yourself by working out too long or too hard. It will quickly kill your ambition and motivation if you injure yourself.
Drink plenty of water before, during and after any physical activity and if your exercise is heavy and lasts longer than 2 hours, it might be a good idea to use coconut water or sports drinks. These are designed to help replenish carbohydrates and electrolytes used up during intense physical activity.
Don’t forget about a proper warm up before your workout. It takes about 15-20 minutes but it will help you to avoid any unwanted injuries during exercising. First of all choose a warm up according to the activity you are going to do. A marathoner does not warm up like a powerlifter (the same way an opera singer does not warm up like a contemporary dancer). However, there are always some similarities in all types of warm up. You will need to increase your heart rate and body temperature, move your joints and include some dynamic stretches (static stretching before the workout reduces strength in the stretched muscles).
At the end of your training session, remember to cool down. Both your mind and your body will be grateful to you for taking the time to relax and gently switch to a different mode. It consists mostly of deep breathing and stretching and only takes about 5-10 minutes, but has a huge positive impact on your fitness and health. It brings your heart rate and breathing back to normal, preventing any dizziness you might feel, reduces the build-up of lactic acid, prepares your muscles for the next workout and reduces muscle cramping and soreness. Focus mostly on stretching the muscle groups that worked the most during the exercise session.
Lastly, don’t forget to have fun! Otherwise, you will start associating physical activity with boredom, fatigue, and obligation. It should be a pleasant way of spending time socializing or having some quality alone time just for yourself. Seeing progress and improvements in your health, fitness and body shape will definitely help you stay on track. Also, the endorphins that kick in after an exercise session will do their job to keep you motivated. Start today! Don’t give up!