Motivation. It’s the universal driving factor behind every athlete, from professional football players and Olympians to mall-walkers and aquasizers. Some athletes are motivated financially, some by scholarships or contracts, some just by their desire to be the best they can be.
For those of us for whom athletics and exercise are more of a recreational activity, motivation can be harder to come by. We’re busy people with jobs and families and responsibilities that don’t always leave us a lot of spare time. Dedicating some of those those precious free moments to being active is a wonderful accomplishment that none of us should take for granted. However as hard as we work, and as much as we have going on, eventually we’re bound to hit a wall. Even the most dedicated gym goers or runners who embrace and yearn for the runner’s high can find themselves dealing with a lapse in motivation.
But not to worry! Losing motivation doesn’t mean it can’t be found again, and the following eight tips might just help reignite that waning spark.
Get a Buddy – If you’re having a tough time getting to the gym or going out for a run or a bike ride on your own, finding a friend you can go with is a good way to get back on track. Knowing someone is meeting you or that you have to call and cancel plans makes it harder to back out at the last minute. Not only that, but having someone to talk to while you’re exercising can make experience more fun, causing future workouts will be something you enjoy rather than dread.
Try Something New – Motivational issues can often stem from feeling like you’re stuck in a rut. If you’ve been doing the same workout for awhile it might be time to shake things up a bit. Try a different workout class or join a running group, take a dance lesson at the community center or play in a recreational softball league. Even if it’s only temporary, trying something you haven’t done before could help you find your new favorite exercise routine, meet a new workout buddy, or give you the change of pace you need to feel excited by being active again.
Train for a Competition – Sometimes training and exercising can seem aimless and endless. If you’ve lost the love you used to have for running or can’t seem to make yourself get back into the pool, looking for an upcoming race or swim meet can give you a reason to get back into the groove. When getting ready for a specific event, you can create a training schedule for yourself with daily or weekly goals, either for distance or speed depending on what you hope to accomplish. Keeping on track with a date of completion can make the work seem more focused and less tedious, and your results will show you how all your efforts have paid off.
Set Goals – If you don’t participate in an activity that lends itself to competition (or you’re just not interested in such things), you can motivate yourself by setting goals unrelated to a specific event. If you’re an endurance athlete you can work to increase your range by adding more distance each week, or if you’re a sprinter you can set goals related to increasing your speed. More broadly you can just challenge yourself to go to the gym three times a week, or ride your bike to work every day. These goals can be as definitive or ambiguous as you feel they need to be to encourage yourself to meet them. Just be sure to choose goals that are reasonable to accomplish; setting the bar too high can lead to frustration and discouragement, which will only serve to further set you back.
Take a Challenge – Workout challenges are all the rage these days, from 30 day ab challenges on Facebook to lists of weekly exercises sent out via email at your workplace. Signing up to complete a challenge can be a good way to get moving without having to put in a lot of hours, which can be appealing if your schedule is extra busy. There’s the added motivation of potentially having to verify you’ve done each item on the challenge, which can encourage you to keep up with it, particularly if you’re more competitive.
There’s an App for That – In these days of technological advancement, a lot of us are already carrying around our smart phones while we exercise. There are dozens of applications (available both for free and for a small charge) that can be great motivators. From games you can play (like Zombies, Run!) to training apps for beginners (such as Couch to 5K) or more experienced athletes (Couch to 26.2) to apps that just track your distance, speed, and elevation change or create routes to follow (Map My Run/Map My Ride and Strava), there’s probably an app out there that can reinvigorate you. The ones I’ve listed here are primarily for running/cycling/hiking/walking, but there are tons of exercise related apps on the market. Doing a quick search on your mobile device might bring up the perfect app to get you moving.
Self-Accountability Tracking – Related to tracking/training apps, one good way to motivate yourself is to track your activity to keep yourself accountable. You can start as simply as checking your workouts off on a calendar or keeping a spreadsheet, or you can go higher tech and use a site/app such as My Fitness Pal or even buy a pedometer/wearable tracker like a FitBit or a Jawbone Up Band. Being able to see what all you’ve accomplished at the end of the week can be a good way to feel good about your progress, and can encourage you to keep up the hard work.
Treat Yourself – Everyone likes getting a reward for a job well done. And while getting active has a lot of good health benefits, sometimes we need something a little more immediate and tangible. But who says we can’t reward ourselves? If you meet a goal or complete a challenge, get yourself a little gift. Your reward can be anything, from a chocolate bar to a massage or a pedicure to a new workout top or a DVD. If you’re working toward a big accomplishment, give yourself incremental rewards to keep yourself on track. But be sure you set your objectives and compensations ahead of time (perhaps even write them down) and only pay out if you complete the task as designed. Make sure you do the work before you get your just desserts.
Motivation can be found in many different places, can take on all sorts of shapes and sizes. You may feel like it comes easily to everyone else, but the truth is even the most put together, active people will experience their struggles. As always make sure, first and foremost, to be kind to yourself and listen to your body, both physically and emotionally. We will all experience our rough patches; that’s part of what makes us human. But don’t let the low spots get you down. Take a breath, keep your head up, and, as soon as you can get your feet back under you, pick yourself up and try again.