I’m lucky. I really like exercise. I (mostly) feel motivated to get out and exercise. Once I’m out, I love the feeling of moving my body; I like feeling strong and healthy; I like knowing what my body is capable of. I like being able to walk up hills, run for a bus, play with the kids without feeling slow, sluggish and out of breath.
So you see, my motivation to exercise comes from wanting something – feeling fit and healthy. That makes it easier to put on my running clothes in the morning, get out there and get started. Once you’ve got started, the motivation comes more easily. “Motivation is often the result of action, not the cause of it. Getting started, even in very small ways, is a form of active inspiration that naturally produces momentum.”
Actually, I hadn’t been for a run for 3 weeks. I’ve had a sore knee, then the never-ending cold, and the weather has been awful – in short, my motivation has been non-existent. I listened to my body, and rested until I felt like I was ready to get back on it. This morning, I was raring to go, and it felt so good to get out again.
Back in September, I blogged about doing the Couch to 5K programme. It should be a 9 week programme, yet here I am in December just about to start Week 5! Hey, it took me about 4 months to complete the 31 Day Yoga Challenge with Adrienne….
And this is the thing. I don’t beat myself up if I take longer than I *should* to do these things. It would be so easy to give up when I don’t manage to do my yoga every day, or my 3 runs a week. ‘There’s no point. I can’t keep it going, I can’t make it the routine that I’m supposed to. I might as well just give up and not even bother’.
But as the wonderful health coach at Run with Karen once told me, this attitude is crazy. If you drop your mobile phone, and crack the screen, she told me, you don’t then take a hammer to it and smash it up completely because it was a bit broken. You just look after it a bit more, get it fixed, and carry on trying not to drop it again.
And this is the important thing about motivation. Life gets in the way, things happen that need your attention and disrupt your routine. If you are motivated towards something – like feeling healthy – it feels much easier to carry on working towards that goal despite all the set backs. Whatever gets in the way, the goal is there so you keep on being motivated to work towards it.
However, when your motivation is directed away from something you don’t want, rather than towards something you do want, it is much more difficult to sustain it. For example, if you feel you should exercise because you think you are overweight, and you don’t want to be seen as ‘fat’ (we live in a pretty judgemental society, after all), or you have even tied in some emotional consequences: ‘no-one will find me attractive if I’m fat’, then those knock-backs are harder to deal with.
So, how do you sustain that motivation, or even re-frame your motivation towards a positive rather than away from a negative?
There are some great ideas in the article linked to above:
- Don’t wait for the motivation before you act; get started and feel the motivation afterwards! Make it easy to get started, make it something small and easily achievable that prepares you for the actual task.
- Get your routines sorted – mine is to put my running gear on as soon as I get up. This means that I don’t need to get dressed, get the kids to school, get home and then change into running gear – there are so many things that will distract me away from my purpose if I do it this way round. If my running gear is already on, I have already decided that I’m going for a run. It also means that I’ve been seen in public in my running gear – it’s like I’ve made a public announcement, so I am much more likely to carry on and actually do it.
- Use the ‘Goldilocks Rule’: make it not too hard, not too easy, but ‘just right’. Isn’t that a lovely way to think about what motivates you? A wonderful way to challenge yourself, keep yourself interested but without over-facing and overwhelming yourself. We love to achieve things, but not if it is too easy, and we give up if it is too difficult!
- Use your network; arrange to do things with others where possible – you are less likely to back out if you would also be letting someone else down. Tell other people your goals and aims – once you have said them out loud, you are more likely to achieve them. Have an agreement with someone else to be accountable for the things you want to do. Having someone else check in with your progress really helps to keep motivation going.
Keep in touch on my Facebook page, let me know how you’re getting on with motivation in your life.