Even the fittest, most self-disciplined people sometimes experience it: That vow to go for a run that seems harder to keep when it’s 6am and dark outside; the lap swim that sounded good in theory, until you dip your big toe in the pool and shiver; or, the temptation to veg on the couch in front of your favorite Netflix show, rather than haul yourself to the gym.
It is a common obstacle on the path toward becoming more fit, but low motivation does not have to win. In a recent interview, Dr. Beau A. Nelson, DBH, LCSW, an expert in cognitive-behavioral therapy and Chief Clinical Officer at the national behavioral health provider FHE Health, recommended these four motivation hacks for exercising.
Cut yourself a break. Agree to do just 10 minutes of exercise. Some is better than nothing. Stop at 10 minutes and, if you need to, go back to lying on the couch. Most people find that once they start exercising, they can keep going.
If you do need to stop at the 10-minute mark, that is still better than not exercising at all. You can pat yourself on the back for accomplishing 10 minutes of exercise. Next time, you might even try raising the bar just a bit, by telling yourself you’ll do 12 or 15 minutes of exercise.
This hack works well for those who prefer a sedentary lifestyle, may not like to exercise, or aren’t used to exercising—and need to start somewhere.
Take a selfie of yourself sitting on the couch and post it on social media. Share that you’re having trouble getting motivated to get off the couch and exercise to be healthy. Mention how disappointed you are that you’re not seeing results and that you welcome any suggestions.
This strategy can be especially motivating for those who care about what others think. Peer pressure can work in positive ways, after all. Your friends’ comments could be a highly effective nudge off the couch that is just what you need to develop healthier exercise habits.
If you miss a workout, force yourself to eat naked in front of the mirror for the next week. Add a week for each missed workout episode. The mirror won’t tell lies, and some of us are more susceptible to noticing the belly fat and love handles. That sensitivity can be harnessed as quick motivation to get back in the gym and on those exercise machines.
Your best thinking is to do nothing when you need to do the healthy thing, so stop thinking and just get up and go. Are you super jazzed every day going to the office? No, or at least not most of the time. You go to the office because you must. Work is necessary to make a living, pay the bills, and enjoy the benefits of a paycheck.
Exercise is also a “have to” when it comes to your physical and mental health, so stop debating it and do it. Remember action comes before motivation, not the other way around.
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