Monday, June 15, 2015

How do you stay motivated?

Yesterday while at our regular group Sunday run, I was asked by a friend how, in regards to exercise and running, I stay motivated.  And I forget what I actually said in the moment, but it was probably just a rambling of things because at first it caught me off guard as I don't really see myself as a poster child for motivation by any means.  As we left the run and I went home and even throughout the day today as I got up to go to the gym before going in to work, the question stuck with me.  How do I stay motivated?

I think that, for me, it is a constant challenge and a constant struggle to stay motivated.  I have developed a number of different tricks over the years to help keep me motivated as I have been on this fitness journey.  I decided to spend a little time writing about some of those tricks, as I think of them right now.  As I mentioned, it's a constant journey so at different times different things work more and there are probably things that motivated me in the past or will in the future that aren't on this list.  Many of these are also intertwined with one another and overlap, so don't judge my list making skills.  Here we go.  These are numbered, but not in any particular order.

1.)  Create a habit.  For the past few months I have had the following quote written on the white board at my cubicle at work, "Motivation is what gets you started.  Habit is what keeps you going." And for me, that rings incredibly true.  I keep myself going by taking "choice" out of the picture.  I read a really awesome book earlier this year called "The Power of Habit."  It talked a lot about how certain things - like brushing your teeth - aren't a "choice" you consciously make every day, but are things that you just DO - out of habit.   So you CAN make other things, like exercising every morning, a habit as well.  I definitely think this is true and any time I have been in a good routine with exercise is because I have successfully switched my mind from thinking of things as no longer choices, but just WHAT I DO.  So, one way to stay motivated is to take motivation out of the picture and make a habit.  This morning I did NOT want to get out of bed in the AM.  But that's what I do on Monday mornings - I go to the gym.  So, that's what I did.

2.)  Make a schedule and commit to it.  I have a hard time denying things that I say that I am going to do and I like having a set schedule or training plan.  This has a lot to do with the first one on my list of creating a habit, but I am counting it as a different thing.  Right now I am in week 2 of training for the Chicago Marathon.  I spent weeks building out a "calendar" of a training plan and scheduling out workouts and a plan for what I thought my mileage and cross training should be for the week.  I color coded and printed out that training plan - which effectively tells me what exercise I am going to do every day for the next 18 weeks - and hung it on my wall.

Having things written on paper and having "committed" myself to it, helps keep me motivated.  On Sunday, I really did not want to run and I was not looking forward to dragging my feet through our weekly flagship run.  However, I showed up out of habit and kept myself going until my watch said 3 miles because I knew that I would come into the office on Monday morning and want to cross off that box and be able to say I did what I said I was going to do on my training plan.  I'd already committed, so I had to get it done even though I didn't feel very motivated at the time.

3.)  Set goals and track progress towards them.  Setting and achieving goals is a huge thing for me.  A huge way I set goals is by signing up for and running races.  Would I have ever mapped out my daily exercise plan from now until October 11th if I didn't have a race on the calendar?  Heck no!  Would I buy plane tickets for weekends away based on when I will have time to exercise if I didn't have a race on the calendar?  Absolutely not!  I keep myself motivated by knowing I have a goal in mind that is larger than what I am feeling on that particular day.  When I have a race on the calendar, something that I am excited about and working towards that is a huge motivator.

However, goals come in other shapes and sizes as well.  I started my speed training in January without a race planned out right away, but I had a goal of hitting a certain time/pace/speed.  I currently am not signed up for an Olympic distance triathlon, but I know that is a goal so it keeps me motivated.  During the month of April I had no races I was registered for, but was working towards the goal of running 100 miles that month, which I tracked and worked towards throughout the month to keep me motivated.  I also have weight/clothing/body goals that I am working towards to.  And it helps me a lot to celebrate little successes along the way towards the big goals.  The marathon isn't until October, so therefore I celebrate every successful week I get through my workout plan.  My weight goal may take me months to get to, if I ever get there, so I celebrate small benchmarks along the way there.  It is important to have long and short term goals to help stay motivated for me, so I incorporate them both into my mindset.

4.)  Find a buddy or support system.  Right now I have a number of different buddies that are very much helping me to stay motivated.  One of my favorite blogging buddies has also recommitted to Weight Watchers right when I did and even though we've never met in person we text almost daily to check in on one another and how we are doing.  Other good friends I also rely on when I am feeling weak, like my text message to Ari last Monday night trying to distract me from a binge.

I also have various fitness and exercise buddies that keep me on my toes, push me to be better than I am, and inspire and motivate me every day.  I am so thankful for all of them in what they do to help keep me motivated.

5.)  Make fitness social.  In addition to providing motivational support, fitness has now become a social thing for me!  I like going to my group runs on Sundays and Tuesdays because I also get to catch up with friends.  I try to fit workouts in to my schedule if they will help connect me with people I haven't seen in a while or maybe meet up with a different group.

I now meet friends for runs as often as I meet friends for drinks.  When I will be back in Schenectady in a few weeks, I will be catching up with friends over morning runs.  When I travel for work, I reach out to coworkers to see if they want to run with me and I get to know people better by joining them on the pavement.  I encourage others to join me out on runs or in fitness classes and make plans to meet at different times throughout the week to get runs in.  I have far, far less motivation to get out of bed in the morning when I am going to be running on my own rather than meeting someone.  I came into the sport of running socially, and I continue to run because of the social aspects of it.  Especially now as the majority of the people that I've connected with in Atlanta has been over fitness!  So when your friends were all made because you have a shared passion for fitness and running... well then there is never going to be a lack of reasons not to make it social!

6.)  Make it fun.  Seriously, make it FUN.  Try new classes.  Exercise with friends.  Get outside.  Join a kickball or softball team.  Make yourself a kick ass playlist.  Explore new parts of your city.  Sign up for a mud run or obstacle course run.  Go roller skating.  Treat yourself to something you love.  Try new flavors or foods in your cooking.  Switch up what you are eating or doing every day.  Whatever it is you love, find a way to incorporate it into your workout, fitness journey or eating healthy - and make it fun!  Fitness does not need to be slaving away on a treadmill or spending hours in the gym lifting weights.  Unless that is fun to you!  And if it is, keep doing it!  I love being outside.  I like getting sweaty.  I like seeing my city in new ways.  I like being with friends.  So that is what I do to make it fun.

This past weekend I ran 6 miles with a group of friends, went to brunch and then in the afternoon went for a long bike ride all through the city with another friend, ending with beer  People might think I am crazy for biking after running, but it didn't feel like exercise because it was FUN.  I was outside, with a friend, seeing my city in a new way, and I enjoyed it!  I am the kind of person that likes to have fun all the time.  Exercise is no different and I couldn't keep motivated if I didn't now find what I am doing to actually be fun.

7.)  I like seeing changes in my body.  Right now I am at an exciting point where I am at the brink of being somewhere that I have never really been before with my weight and body mass.  So, seeing changes in my body is one of the things that is motivating me at the moment - but I will also add that it is the most fleeting on this list.  However, I am curious and excited to see if I can get to "new territory" and it is something that is motivating me right now.

The reason that I write that this is the most fleeting is because if losing weight or toning was my only motivation, it would disappear quickly,  Because as much as I really want a flat stomach, I also really like beer and chips and candy.  The simple thought of losing weight, my appearance, etc. is the first one that goes out the window.  However, it is something that I would be denying if I did not mention it at all.  I have been weight training more this year than I ever have and getting excited as I see hints of muscle definition and changes in my body.  It excites and motivates me and causes me to take a lot more gym selfies than I ever have before.  Oh, and I've also learned that these are called "swelfies."

I try to be honest with you guys as much as possible, which is why I wanted to keep this one in here.  Although it is the most fleeting of what motivates me.

8.)  Finally, I am happier when I am active.  The signs at my gym say "Fit people are more fun." or something like that (I am not super observant nor do I have a good memory.)  But I do know that when I see them I agree with them.  When I am working out regularly, eating healthy, and progressing towards my goals, I am not only healthier but also a happier version of me.  Health is of course a big thing that motivates people but on a day to day basis it is hard to measure overall "health" - at least to me - but I can better measure my happiness on a day to day basis.  And when I exercising, I am happier.  I have more confidence in myself.  I feel I am able to tackle obstacles that come my way.  I get excited to try new things.  I sleep better.  The structure in my life from working out helps me to be more organized and structured in other areas of my life.  

And, with that, those are a few of the ways that I keep myself motivated.  It's not a system, it's not absolute.  I have good days and bad days or good months and bad months.  However, these are some of the things that continue to motivate me and keep me moving forward.  

Does this resonate with all of you?  What keeps YOU motivated?

No comments:

Post a Comment