Building a better life with your loved ones can serve as motivation to exercise regularly. (Credit: Getty Images)
We know that exercise is important for many reasons – boosting physical health, gaining stamina and improving mood, among others. But we may also face many hurdles when it comes to accomplishing our workouts: busy schedules, lack of training expertise and perhaps the alluring desire to stay in bed on the cosiest of days. Suffice it to say, it's easy to lose the determination that got you into the gym or on the yoga mat in the first place. So, how can you recapture that excitement and resolve to continue? It requires self-motivation.
Seven ways to boost self-motivation when you don't feel like exercising
Intrinsic motivation will make you persevere despite exhaustion or boredom. (Credit: AIA)
There are two types of motivation. The first, intrinsic motivation, is about pushing your limits or setting a new personal record because you find what you are doing fulfilling. The second, extrinsic motivation, is about finding something satisfying because of the rewards that come with it (an award, monetary prize or social recognition).
Take sports as an example. As an athlete, you are enthusiastic about swimming because you enjoy the water and the adrenaline rush of competition. But you may be extrinsically motivated to do an excellent job because you want to win and be declared the champion.
So, how do you harness the power of both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation? Here are seven motivation techniques to get you back on track to meet your fitness goals.
1. Start simple
Begin with the basics. Make your goals personally meaningful, realistic and attainable. You can even break them down further and create short-term mini goals. It is natural to get discouraged when you set the bar too high – but when you work your way up to larger goals, week on week, you'll find it easier to sustain your momentum.
2. Be flexible with your workouts
Keep your workout fun by switching things up and trying new exercises. Determine your aim for each session. This week's focus could be cardio, while next week's could be strength.Keep your workout fun by switching things up and trying new exercises. Determine your aim for each session. This week's focus could be cardio, while next week's could be strength.
Mixing up your routine keeps your fitness journey inspiring and stimulating to the brain. Join a yoga class, try a high-intensity interval training session at home or at the gym or get some fresh air with an invigorating hike.
3. Schedule your workouts
Monitoring your heart rate and calories burnt on your smartwatch is one way to track your workout progress. (Credit: Getty Images)
Jot your workout down into your diary, save it on your phone calendar or stick a note on your bathroom mirror. This will serve as a gentle nudge, reminding you of the action to take and reinforcing your motivation. Don't forget to tick it off once you've done your workout. The act of crossing out an accomplished task releases dopamine in the brain, functioning as a quick reward and making you want more of it.
4. Track your progress
Record your workout efforts on your phone, laptop or even in an old-school journal. Tracking your progress and seeing improvements in your performance will increase your motivation. Seeing the changes you've made in endurance, strength or simply form will make you feel good about yourself and help you stay consistent and disciplined. Review your progress regularly and when you need to boost your willpower.
5. Celebrate small wins
Give yourself a treat after successfully completing a personal workout goal. (Credit: Getty Images)
Exercise releases dopamine, the happy hormone, across your body. New workout clothes or running shoes you get yourself as a treat can do the same. Rewarding yourself is a simple yet powerful hack to harness self-motivation. It will make the benefits of exercising more tangible and immediate.
Think of a satisfying incentive after a week of training or whenever you reach a goal, however small. It can be anything you enjoy, like a 30-minute foot massage or a cup of your favourite coffee.
6. Set consequences when you miss a workout
Studies show people who set personal penalties for skipping a workout are less likely to quit. This practice improves discipline, focus and accountability.
The penalty needs to be substantial enough for you to be reluctant to cheat. It can be a monetary fine (a hefty contribution to a "Missed My Workout" jar) or a physical task (10 extra burpees during the next day's workout). Whatever you decide, it's also a good idea to share your workout commitment with friends and family who can help you take ownership for any lapses.
7. Find your fitness tribe
Exercising with a group helps motivate you to stick to your fitness commitment. (Credit: AIA)
Though you may be used to flying solo (there's nothing wrong with that!), a training partner can help you get the most out of your workout. In fact, research shows you become more consistent with your workout with a fitness buddy or a solid community.
The key is to surround yourself with people who will help you push through a challenging workout and build your confidence and strength. Simultaneously, you'll be doing the same service for them.
Invite friends or co-workers to join you on your walks or try a yoga class together. Work out with your partner or sign up for fitness classes – at a local health club or virtually – with your loved ones.
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Whenever faced with workout blockers, remind yourself what drives you, what you want to achieve and the reason you committed to your fitness in the first place. Plan your exercises, set your goals, track your progress, gather your cheering squad and keep things fun. Stay agile and make room for spontaneity. Allow time for recovery and be kind to yourself if you need a break. Remember to keep your eyes on the prize and focus on small wins to reach big goals. That's what self-motivation is all about.
We're rooting for you!
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NBER. National Bureau of Economic Research. 2010. Committing to Exercise: Contract Design for Virtuous Habit Formation. [online] [Accessed on 30 May 2022]