Being healthy is more than just the right diet. You also have to stay active and work out your body and train your heart, lungs and muscle. The problem is that most casual exercisers struggle with finding the workout motivation to make fitness a part of their daily routine.
Even though it is true that once you want it enough you will find a way, for most people this piece of advice doesn’t work. Often it’s the same thing every year.
You get motivated to improve your fitness around new years and sign up for a gym membership in January. The first month you stay strong, but in February you start missing workouts and by the time March comes around you have already given up.
This happens every year all around the world, so don’t beat yourself up too much. But to avoid the same thing from happening next year, I want to give you a few tips that will help you get motivated and keep going in the long run.
There are in fact strategies that have been proven to be most effective when seeking motivation and I will share a few of them with you now.
The thing is to understand the difference between motivation and consistency. Imagine a fire. Motivation is like the spark that ignites the fire but consistency is the wood or whatever ever keeps the fire burning.
In fitness it is the same. Your motivation will get you interested in the gym or jogging and keep you going through the first few workouts. But what will bring you long-term results is consistency. And for consistency you need habits.
A Few Simple Tricks To Boost Your Motivation
In the first part of this post, I will talk about a few motivation tips for short-term boosts and then I will show you how to make fitness a habit. That way you don’t have to rely solely on motivation and the habit will get you to the gym even on rainy days.
So as for the initial motivation boost, the best options are music, friends and contracts. Let’s go through them one by one.
How To Use Music For Motivation
Music is pretty obvious: Its energizing effects come from the ability to engage our body’s nervous system. Basically, auditory signals like sudden sounds or quick increases in frequency or volume force the body to get ready for action. This is programmed into our DNA and you can take advantage of it.
A simple increase in the pace of the music you are listening to, for example, will increase your pulse and accelerate your breathing. This is a great way to get ready for exercise and your blood pumping.
How Friends Can Help Get You Motivated
There is a saying that we are the average of the seven people we most spend time with. I’m not sure if it’s entirely correct, but our friends definitely influence us.
Research actually found that encouragement and gym invitations from friends as gym buddies are more effective than $30 gift cards. That’s because we trust our friends more than some random gym ad and with the right circle of friends you will pretty much be forced to get fit and more healthy.
Lastly, I want to introduce the concept of “commitment contracts” to you. It might sound like a weird idea, but instead of just telling someone that you will exercise more, you actually sign a contract and make a bet with that person. If you fulfill your goal you get a reward, but if you don’t you have to pay a certain amount to that person.
Such a contract increases the risks involved in not completing your end of the deal and it has been shown to be more effective than normal promises.
In studies of people who made these online contracts via the site stickk.com, it was also found that those who signed longer contracts would end up exercising more than those who signed contracts for shorter durations.
That’s because the longer time frame made them see the long-term benefits of exercise, which acts as another push to keep going.
Pretty sweet, right?
Habits – The Key To Long-Term Motivation
Now that we talked about quick motivation boosts what about long-term fitness habits? What are they and how do you build one that is so strong that it will keep you going no matter what?
Basically, habits are rituals and behaviors that we perform automatically. This allows you to carry out essential activities like brushing our teeth, taking a shower or getting dressed for work every day without thinking about them.
Habits are mostly unconscious and don’t require a lot of willpower, which is great because that way you do them even if you are having a motivation low.
The 3-Step Habit Loop
What’s even better is that there is a structure to habits, that we can take advantage of. I will now walk you through this structure, which is called the habit loop, to help you understand the process of building a new habit.
1. The Trigger, which is the first signal that demands your brain to act and perform some kind of behavior.
2. The Habit, which is the action or behavior you will perform following the trigger. This doesn’t have to be a physical action, it can also be mental or emotional.
3. The Reward, which is some kind of positive feedback that your brain gets after performing the action.
Let’s look at the example of taking a shower in the morning to clarify this process:
1. Trigger: You wake up in the morning and walk to the bathroom
2. Habit: Once you have reached the bathroom and maybe used the toilet you step into the shower and wash your body and hair.
3. Reward: After you are done taking a shower you dry yourself up and feel fresher and definitely more awake and ready for the day. You know you’ve done your part in taking care of your hygiene and ensuring a positive appearance.
This 3-step habit loop can be found in ALL of your habits and you need to keep it in mind when wanting to create new ones. The secret is to make a habit so easy and rewarding that you can’t talk yourself out of it.
With this in mind, we can say that habits are like a tool to get us the outcome we want. The problem is that the further away this outcome lies in the future the harder it will be for us to estimate. Taking a shower gives you an almost instant energy boost, build losing weight and getting in shape takes a while even under the best conditions.
This makes it harder for us to build such a habit because we will have to trust it before we see the results. Therefore I don’t recommend you change or create several habits at once. Focus on one thing at a time, maybe two but no more than that.
If you want to know even more about building dieting and fitness habits, I have other videos and courses that go into more detail.
So to wrap up this post, understand that long-term motivation is made up of not just motivation but also habits and using the tips I gave you can start building your new and awesome habits today.