Whether you are a pro athlete or just starting to exercise regularly, there are days when we all need a little bit of extra motivation to suit up. Here are a few tips for when you are tired, it’s cold and rainy or you had the most frustrating day at work.
You know you should exercise. But how do you keep up your dedication to the gym or a training routine when your schedule is overloaded with a million other things, from work to household responsibilities to travel and other social engagements? Or how do you push yourself to start working out if it has been years (or forever) since you last had a good self-imposed sweat?
Understanding the big picture of why physical activity is critical for your physical and mental well-being is a good place to start.
Ever experienced that classic “runner’s high”? It is not just in your head. Exercising releases hormones called endorphins that promote feelings of euphoria and help you focus.
Working our also improves cardiovascular health and sleep quality, both of which improve your energy levels throughout the day and reduce the risk of a variety of other diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
Moving your body more is also associated with a reduced risk of depression. And exercise may help people who already have depression.
Pretty impressive. You may have all this knowledge and still find yourself wanting to hit the snooze button when it comes to those early morning workouts-or your couch if you are an afternoon exerciser.
That is why intentional, strategic habits change, based on your personality, schedule, likes, and dislikes can make all the difference in whether you stick to your workout plans or get thrown off track.
Here are a few tips for finding a workout you will enjoy and stick with for the long haul.
Find a Workout You Enjoy and Look Forward too: Just because all your friends love spinning, or Cross Fit does not mean you do too. Finding a workout, you genuinely like will make you that much more likely to stick with it over time.
Begin by really thinking about the things you enjoy – nature, group settings, playing sports, quiet time, or being challenged. Then look for activities that meet one or more of your criteria.
Consider your personality, too. Do you like competitions? Then working out with a friend who challenges you or taking a group fitness class may be helpful. Do you like immediately seeing the results or your efforts? Then workouts associated with an app that tracks your progress may be very motivating.
Pick Workouts That You are Good At: We know humans have a desire to be good at something so we would encourage you to not only seek out things you find pleasurable and enjoyable, but also things that you are confident doing or would like to become more proficient in.
That does not mean the activity will necessarily be easy for you. Unless it is an activity recovery day, every workout should push you in terms of endurance or muscle building. But there is no need to struggle through a Zumba class because you hate memorizing the combinations.
On the other hand, if you excelled in sports as a kid, joining an adult basketball or soccer league may be a huge confidence booster (as well as deliver all the health and fitness benefits of a workout). Or if there is a physical skill you have always wanted to be able to do, such as self- defense, you may love suiting up for kickboxing or jiu-jitsu.
Put It on Your Calendar as You Would Any Other Appointment: Once you have a workout (or even a few) that you want to try, give yourself a slow and steady break-in period. Do not start off by trying to make radical changes. Schedule a few days a week and put it on your calendar like any other important appointment.
Giving yourself a workout range for the week can also be helpful. If you set a goal of working out five days and only go four times, that is often perceived as a failure. Instead, give yourself a more realistic range, like three to five days a week.
Break Up Your Workout into Shorter Spurts: Are you skipping your workout because you do not have time for the full routine? Break up your physical activity into a few shorter 10-minute spurts through the day. Taking shorter walks throughout the day, as opposed to one longer walk that takes 30 minutes to an hour.
Set Mini-Goals: Many people set huge outcome-oriented goals, such as losing 20 pounds, getting six-pack abs, or running a marathon. While these can be motivating, they do not tell you what you need to do right now, and in the days and weeks to come, to accomplish them. To stay motivated, ensure you do not get bored, and keep progressing at a steady rate, setting smaller process goals can help you.
Try increasing the length of your run by a half mile every week or increasing the duration of your plank by 15 seconds every three days. If you are unsure how to safely increase the intensity of your exercise and set realistic process goals, consider enlisting the help of a personal trainer.
The feeling that you have accomplished something each week (in addition to over a longer period) can help motivate you to make each and every workout count along the way.
Work Out in the Morning and Get It Out of the Way: Some people find it easier to stick to their workout plans if they do it in the morning, getting it out of the way before an excuse comes up to skip it. By the end of the day, you are often tired, random things have come up, and there is always something else to do instead of exercise.
More benefits of a.m. exercise, morning workouts have been shown to lower blood pressure among older adults and people with overweight or obesity.
Plus, people often feel more energized throughout the day after exercising. That means an early-in-the-day workout could help you tackle your responsibilities (like work or chores) with greater ease.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to exercise. So, if morning workouts feel like torture, try a few different times of day and see what works best for your body.
Always Carry Workout Clothes: Even the smallest obstacles, like having to go home after work to change into clothes before heading to the gym, can mean the difference between working out and skipping it. The simple but incredibly helpful solutions, bring your workout clothes to work for evening workouts (or work from your home office in workout gear).
Have a Plan B Workout: So, it is pouring outside, and you cannot go on your usual morning run around the neighborhood. What now? You could skip your workout, but that might make you lose all that great exercise momentum and motivation you had going. Make a contingency plan or two.
If you usually exercise outdoors, find a backup workout or class you can do at the gym or at home (indoors) in case of inclement weather; and for moments when you are just feeling tired and do not want to leave the house, or if you are traveling with no access to a gym, put together a bare minimum workout with a few simple moves such as squats and planks that you can do anywhere.
Play Some Music to Keep Your Energy Up: Pumping some tunes could be just what you need to go the extra mile. Research has found that playing music while exercising increases the duration of workouts for both men and women without a perceived increase in effort.
While any type of music is beneficial, some suggest music with a faster beat may help you pick up the pace during your workouts
If you are the type of exerciser who finds monotonous cardio (like running or walking) uninspiring, try listening to an episode of your favorite podcast, or even an audiobook, which can be a great way to make your exercise feel more like a self-care ritual. You may find yourself looking forward to that time you get to lose yourself in your book or series.
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