Finding Workout Motivation

finding-workout-motivation

Hello again everyone!. As we all know, the struggle of finding motivation to workout is VERY real among lots of people (and in my opinion, not discussed enough). As an internal couch potato, I have felt this struggle many times myself. Though I work out a lot, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve driven myself down to the gym, only to realize that what I actually wanted to do with my free hour was eat pizza and watch TV instead. Of course, don’t we all have these types of thoughts from time to time? However, it becomes a problem when these thoughts actually do keep us from working out and living a healthy lifestyle, which is why this is something I want to cover before I start posting a ton of health and fitness related posts. Before I can post those, I have to give you all some tips on how to stay motivated to follow them, or better yet, how to motivate yourself to be motivated.

First off, let me just say that working out and eating healthy sometimes flat-out sucks. Lifting weights at the gym will cause your whole body to feel like it’s on fire, and later you’ll feel like you’ve turned into an elastic sludge-ball. Riding your bike, going for a run, or going swimming will leave you out of breath, and your skin may turn the same color as your fruit punch Gatorade. Going for a brisk walk or doing yoga and stretching can make you hurt in ways you never thought were possible. Any kind of workout is going to make you tired, and why on earth would you want to be tired when you could be not-tired? On top of that, there are so many good things to eat that are unhealthy, but what stinks is having to HEALTHY food instead of all of that fatty, sugary goodness. Seriously, can they ever just make things that taste like cinnamon rolls or french fries  that are NOT bad for you. Let’s be honest here, no salad is ever going to taste as good as an enormous cookie or a piece of cake. If salads tasted like cookies, but were as nutritious as salads, the world would be a much better place. There, I said it. My inner couch-potato has spoken. Having a healthy lifestyle sometimes just stinks.

However, after having been on numerous sports teams growing up, I’ve come to realize that being physically active really does not have to be as miserable as it sometimes sounds. Perhaps you think going to the gym is incredibly boring and tedious, and doing workouts there feels like torture. Back when I was in junior high and high school, I hated going to the gym for those exact reasons, but I was still in really good shape. Why? Because I found a way to work out that just worked for me, and that was being on the track, cross country, and swim teams. When I graduated and could no longer be a part of those teams, I still kept up with swimming and running, and I still credit those sports as my primary source of motivation to work out.

Over the years, I have thankfully discovered numerous ways to keep myself motivated to workout on those days where it is the absolute last thing I want to do. I’ve also found that any workout you do is going to feel ten times worse if you have absolutely zero motivation to do it. If you’re a newbie to fitness and working out regularly, or if you’re in good shape but are currently experiencing a sort of “block” in your levels of motivation, here are some tips for you!

  1. Search for a physical activity that you ENJOY doing. I touched on this earlier, but if you have an activity that you really enjoy doing, you will be much more engaged with it, and thus more motivated to do it regularly. In addition, if you’re trying to fall into a regular workout routine, it’s going to be much more difficult if you keep doing some kind of physical activity that you can’t stand. I want to let you in on a little secret–it is completely okay if you don’t like to lift weights, do yoga, Pilates, CrossFit, circuit training, distance running, etc. There is no set of “right” and “wrong” physical activities to enjoy doing more than others. I personally do all of the activities I just mentioned, but my favorite out of all of them is distance running. In all honesty, I don’t think I ever would have gotten into those activities if I hadn’t gotten into distance running first. This was because I found that distance running was something I just enjoyed doing, and because I had found a physical activity that made me happy, I was more motivated to try other kinds of physical activities. Trust me, I don’t think I EVER would have gotten into fitness if I had forced myself to do CrossFit instead of running (for those of you who haven’t done CrossFit, all I will say is that it is really REALLY hard at first). Point being, first find something you like doing, even if it’s just going for a walk or playing frisbee.                                                                                                                                                                                   
  2. Set a goal. This is probably the main thing that allowed, and still allows me to, make it through incredibly hard workouts. Even today, having a goal in the back of my mind while I do tough track workouts is what keeps me going strong through all of them. As hard as some of those workouts are, I’m always thinking “This workout is hard, but if I quit it, then I’m not going to reach my goal of running this time.” Having a goal in mind while you are working out will give you a reason not to quit. If you want, you can write that goal on your hand or arm if you’re having trouble remembering it during your workout.        fullsizerender-6     
  3. First set a fitness-related goal, rather than a body-related goal. In my opinion, I think this is the first kind of goal you should set for yourself if you ultimately want to stay in a regular workout routine. Why? Let’s say someone starts going to the gym regularly because they want to lose 30 pounds. Losing weight is the only goal this person has, and it is the only reason they working out in the first place. Time passes, and this person eventually loses 30 pounds. Wait a minute, they’ve reached their goal. They had no other goals. They don’t actually enjoy working out. This person might stop working out regularly once they’ve reached their goal, thus falling out of their workout routine. However, with fitness related goals, you can ALWAYS keep challenging yourself to get better. Even if you can bench press 200 pounds, you can set a new goal for yourself to bench 230 pounds. That’s why it’s important to set goals that specifically have to do with a certain area of fitness. Of course, you can set a fitness related goal and a body related goal at the same time, but never forget about that fitness goal when you are working out. As tempting as it can be to think about exercise in terms of how it is a necessary step to achieving some kind of weight or body, never forget about how you want to get better at that activity.                                                                                                                         
  4. Plan out your workouts for the week. In my opinion, writing out all of your workouts for the week is incredibly helpful with keeping you on track with your goals. I find it even more helpful to set it up as a weekly checklist. Of course, you can plan out your workouts for 2, 3, 4, etc. weeks in advance if you want to, but I find that just having a shorter checklist of workouts to complete feels less daunting and more attainable.    fullsizerender-4                                                                                                                            
  5. Watch motivational videos on YouTube. Thankfully there is a super easy way to find motivation to workout, and it’s likely only a few taps on your smartphone screen away! Watching motivational videos always gives me an instant surge of motivation, and there’s no shortage of these videos on YouTube either 🙂                                                                                                                                                       
  6. Tell people about your goals. If you tell your friends and family about what your fitness goals are, they are probably going to start asking you about them regularly. Having additional support will definitely keep you motivated to work out. Imagine this conversation.

    Friend: “Hey, how was your day?

    You: “Pretty tiring. Work was so hard today. I think I’m going to go home and sleep.”

    Friend: “Oh shoot, that sucks! How is your 5k training plan going?”

    You: “Ugh, I stink at it. I think I’m going to skip my run for today.”

    Friend: “What?? How could you stink at it? You run 4 days a week!”

    You: “Yeah…well…..”

    Friend: “You run a lot more than lots of people I know! You’ve been really             dedicated! You’re going to do awesome at your 5k!”

     You: “Why, thank you! You know what, I think I’m actually going to go for                                    that run after all!”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          You see, other people can give us so much motivation, which is why it’s important to tell them about your goals. They can help you!!

  7.  Journal your progress. Keeping a journal not only helps you track your workouts, but it helps you see how far you’ve come since you started training. Let’s say when you started working out, you could only hold a plank position for 15 seconds. After several weeks of training, you can now hold it for a whole minute. Holding a plank feels so easy to you now that you’d forgotten how hard it had been for you initially, and looking back in a journal can remind you of how far you’ve come.   fullsizerender-7                                                      
  8.  Start a training group. Even better than having people cheering you on is having people cheering you on as they work right beside you! During tough workouts, if there is someone alongside you that feels just as fatigued as you do, but they’re still working hard, it will motivate you to work hard as well. It is important, however, to train with a group that has the same goals as you.                                                                                                                                                                                                 
  9. Reward yourself often. For all of the hard work you are doing, you deserve to reward yourself. Obviously you shouldn’t give yourself huge, excessive rewards every day, but give yourself something small every day or few days to make you happy! Put a face mask on, watch an extra hour of Netflix, or eat a yummy treat. Dark chocolate and ice cream are my favorite foods to treat myself to. Don’t worry. A small treat every now and then is not going to kill you. 🙂       fullsizerender-5  

How do you stay motivated to work out? Let me know in the comments below!                                                                       

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How to set (and achieve) realistic fitness goals

not-to-acquire

When I was in 6th grade, I made a burger costume for Halloween by myself. I planned the whole thing out; I made sketches, listed out all of the materials I needed, and set a budget. In my original plan, my costume was going to be 7 feet wide, even though I was only 4 ½ feet tall at the time, and I was going to spend $200 on materials. Then, I showed my plan to my parents. To make a long story short, I did not end up spending $200 to make a 7-foot wide hamburger costume. As ridiculous as that sounds now, when I was 11, I thought it was totally realistic. I hadn’t gone to college, had a job, done taxes, paid bills, or learned the value of money yet. I also hadn’t been aware of the fact that most 11 year-olds are incapable of building enormous, mascot-sized costumes by themselves. In all fairness, nobody had told me that truth, so I thought it was still possible. Ultimately, I ended up wearing a 2 ½ foot wide hamburger costume on Halloween that year, and I think I only spent about $30 or $40 on materials for it (all paid for by my parents, of course).

Though this is a silly example of unrealistic goal setting from my past, it is all too common for people to set goals like these for fitness, especially if they are new to fitness in general. For instance, imagine a girl who had previously been a couch-potato her entire life, but has all of a sudden gotten really into running. Now, let’s imagine that she can currently run a mile in 10 minutes. However, she has recently set a goal, and it is to get her mile time down to 7:30 in a month. Realistically, will she be able to drop a whole 2 ½ minutes on her mile time in a month? If you are already a runner, you would probably not think that it is realistic. However, if you are not a runner, you may not have been sure if it was an attainable goal or not. Why? Because people who call themselves regular runners are familiar with how the training works, and how their bodies respond to it. If you don’t know what it’s like to run regularly, you may not have an accurate sense of how much training and time it takes for you to improve by that much. If you do run regularly though, you are familiar with the true rate at which you can improve because you have already experienced the training firsthand, which is why you won’t think dropping 2 ½ minutes on your mile time in a month is realistic.

Of course, if you are a newcomer to any area of fitness, you might be wondering how you can set the most realistic goals. You might be wondering, “What is a realistic fitness goal for me, and what isn’t?” As someone who has set far too many UNrealistic fitness goals in her life before, here are some tips I’ve learned over the years on how to set goals that are realistic, no matter what the area of fitness is.

Set “micro” goals. Let’s say your long-term goal is to run 10 miles straight without stopping. This goal is engrained in your mind, and you think about it every single time you run. Right now, though, you can only run ¾ of a mile without stopping. However, if the only goal you are thinking about is running TEN miles straight, don’t you think that’s going to spur some negative thinking. “Shoot, I can only run THREE-QUARTERS of a MILE, but I want to run TEN miles without stopping! I suck!” Nope, wrong, you don’t suck. In order to keep these negative thoughts out, you need to break your long-term goal into smaller goals first. Before you can run 10 miles straight, you need to be able to run 5 miles straight, and before you can do that you need to be able to run 3 miles straight, and before you do that you need to be able to run 2 miles, and so forth. Instead of thinking about how you want to run 10 miles straight, you should first set a goal to run 1 mile without stopping. You can set as many “micro” goals as you want on the way to achieving your big goal. Attaining lots of small goals will keep you more motivated.

Give yourself as much time as possible to train, or don’t set a time limit at all. This one is more difficult if you’re a high school athlete doing off season conditioning, or if you’ve already signed up for a race or other competition that will be happening soon. If this is the case for you, try to give yourself as much time as possible to train. Why? So you will have enough time to adjust to the intensity of training you will be doing. Even for low intensity sports, such as yoga, your body needs time to get used to doing it. Having experienced this phenomenon more than enough times myself, if you set a short time limit for yourself to accomplish a certain fitness goal, no matter what that goal is, there’s a good chance you’re going to injure yourself. Taking the time to build up your strength will be completely worth it, and it is much better to do that than to risk injuring yourself.

Don’t forget about the rest of your life. As exciting as it may be to start working towards a new fitness goal, there are also certain times in our (busy) lives where it may not be ideal to train as hard as we possibly can. Let’s say you are taking a full course load in school, but it is especially important for you to keep your grades up this semester so you can raise your GPA. Having been in this situation before (more times than I would have liked to), I’ve learned that sometimes you have to work your fitness goals around your lifestyle. There were times where as much as I would have wanted to train for a 5k, I had to accept the fact that I only had time to do a few light workouts a week. While some people may be able to handle it, I’m sure that if I’d done intense training every day during some of my tougher semesters, I probably wouldn’t have had enough energy to study or do my homework (I know this because often times I barely had enough energy to do these things without a workout on top…..typical college student). In short, work towards your goals, but don’t feel bad if there are times where you can’t make it your first priority.

When in doubt, always ask for advice from someone who is more experienced at the area of fitness you want to improve at. I would always recommend asking for an honest opinion on your goals. To go back to my costume example when I was in 6th grade, I had a goal and a plan for it, but when I shared it with my parents, they gave me (brutally) honest feedback on it (“There is no way you are going to spend TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS on a Halloween costume! There is also no WAY you will be able to build a 7-foot wide costume yourself! You are 11 years old!”). I won’t lie, it did suck at the time to have my parents tell me that my goal was foolish. However, imagine if I had my own money, no obligation to listen to my parents, and a driver’s license at that age. If my parents had not voiced their honest opinion on that costume, I probably would have blown a ton of money on materials AND attempted to actually build a 7-foot costume. Something tells me that it probably would not have turned out incredibly well. This same reason, though, is why you should always ask for an opinion on your fitness goals, especially because if you over-train, you could injure yourself (not fun, trust me). If you go to a gym regularly, seek out a personal trainer or someone who specializes in the area of fitness (such as running, swimming, weight lifting, yoga, basketball, tennis, etc.) you are trying to get better at.

 

Have you ever set an unrealistic fitness goal? How did you learn to make your goals more realistic? Have you tried any of these tips before and have they helped? Let me know in the comments below!