The other day I received a sweet email from Brittany, a new reader of CET. Brittany and I have a lot in common (we are both Kappa Deltas!! AOT!!) including that sometimes we find it hard to stay motivated to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Brittany asked me a question that I think a lot of us can relate to, so I thought I’d share it on here.
Here’s what she asked me:
“Lately, I’ve been lacking the motivation to get back into the fit/healthy game. I’ve struggled with weight pretty much my whole life and have ranged from ‘normal sized’ to pleasantly plump to kind of a chub. I am trying to finally get everything under control now that I am mid-twenties with a stable job. Do you have any advice on how you keep yourself motivated? I tend to fall into a rabbit hole of bad decisions. The usual ‘oh I didn’t work out the past two days, whats a cupcake going to do to harm me’ etc.”
While I am definitely no expert, this is something that I struggle with all the time and I have found a few tips and tricks that work well for me.
1. Make a workout calendar
Guys, I swear by my workout calendar. It’s dry-erase and I bought it off Amazon for just a couple bucks. I adorned it with my Greatist Ambassador sticker for a little extra motivation, and every single Sunday evening I wipe it down and plan my workouts for the upcoming week.
This calendar is great because I can schedule my workouts around my other obligations. For example, if I know I’ll be really busy with work on Thursday, I will probably make it a rest day and use the other days for my more intense workouts. I usually like to schedule some strength-training days and some running days, but as you can see from this picture, I kind of failed with the strength part last week. It’s ok though- the point is to use this calendar to plan your workouts and then STICK WITH IT.
Let me tell you, checking off that little box feels so great. A lot of times I will check off a workout as soon as it’s done, before even taking off my sneakers or stretching. If I skip a workout, I am haunted by that unchecked box. I notice it every time I walk into the kitchen. I just hate looking at that empty box at the end of the week and I’ll usually wind up doing the workout at some point anyway, just to get the box checked off (maybe I’m just a little neurotic?). One more thing I should mention is that when people come over to my apartment, they can easily see my workout calendar since it’s right there on the fridge, and I don’t want a bunch of embarrassing empty boxes. To me it feels like it’s a big sign saying “I planned to do these workouts, and here are the ones I failed at.”
Maybe it’s just me being a little nutty, but this calendar really, really helps me. I definitely recommend it!
2. Get it done early
I know this strategy definitely doesn’t work for everyone, but as soon as I started working out in the morning I became a huge advocate of doing it. I know getting up extra early totally sucks. I know. The covers are warm and the bed is cozy and why would you ever want to get out of it any earlier than you absolutely have to?
But here’s the thing. I don’t think waking up at 5:45 sucks that much more than 6:45. Either way you were probably in the middle of a great dream and it’s going to suck, so why not just get up earlier? I know it’s tempting to go back to sleep for an extra hour, but you will feel so, so, so, so much better if you just get your workout out of the way.
I find that when I wake up and workout, my whole entire day is off to a better start. I am happier, I am more energized, and coming home from work is the best thing ever. With no workout lingering over my head all day, I just feel lighter and happier. I feel like I can spend my day however I want and I don’t have to dread working out after a long day at the office.
Plus the morning views are pretty awesome too, so there’s that.
If you are still having trouble with this, you should just try it for one week. One week! That’s it! Just try it. See if you like it. If after a week you decide like sleeping in more, then ok. You win. But I think you might just get hooked like I did…
3. Plan a fun route
This one is pretty basic, but whenever I’m feeling bored with my running and don’t feel like heading out the door, I try to plan a new and fun route. My favorite way to do this is to go on the RunKeeper website (not the app) and click on the “Route Creator” function. On that page you can click around and create a route until it’s the distance you want. It’s really easy and I use it all the time. Sometimes having a new route to run in a fun area is what helps me get out the door.
4. Find a workout buddy
This one is also not easy for everyone, but if you can find someone to workout with you and help motivate you, it really does help. There are some mornings where I am slacking and just want to skip a workout, but Fabio helps motivate me to get me out the door, and vice versa. We always try to be there for each other and motivate the other person when one of us is feeling lazy. If you don’t have a roommate, significant other, dog, or a friend to run with, try looking on meetup.com! They have interest groups for everything and I’m sure you could find a group in your area for working out. You can also stop by your local running store and ask if they have a running club. Most of the time they do, or they at least will know of some in the area.
5. Treat yourself to some new gear
This obviously doesn’t work for every single workout, but if you find yourself in a slump for a few weeks at a time, treat yourself to some new workout gear. Sometimes this can be something big like new sneakers (if you’re overdue for a new pair) or something as simple as a new headband to keep your hair out of your face. Whenever I have something new to use when working out, I always get excited to try it out.
Most importantly though, I believe that you have to truly want to be fit/healthy. Most of the time, it’s not easy. It’s not always fun. Sometimes getting up when it’s still dark out to go for a run just plain sucks. You have to have solid reasons for wanting to do this and they have to be strong. They will be put to the test. The reasons can be anything you want- to live longer, to be stronger, to feel better in your clothes, to run a race, to look good for an upcoming event- truly anything goes. But if you don’t have a solid foundation of motivation, then I don’t think any of these tips are going to help you.
If you feel like you’ve tried everything in the book and are still having trouble getting motivated, then you might need to take a step back, do some soul searching, and think about why you want this in the first place. Only then will you truly be able to succeed.
Questions of the day: How do you motivate yourself?