Picture this: it’s the Monday morning after a relaxed weekend, where exercise was bypassed in favor of lunch out with friends, watching movies and sleeping in. The alarm buzzes not long after dawn, and as you open your eyes you’re hit with the weight of the working week ahead. You hardly have the oomph to get out of bed let alone head to the gym, so you plan to push your scheduled workout until tomorrow.
You’re not alone.
For many people the desire to exercise doesn’t come naturally. Couple that tendency with a busy schedule—or a full social calendar—and skipping the gym can easily become a regular occurrence.
The problem is that the less you exercise the less you want to exercise, which is why postponing your workouts is a slippery slope. On the other hand, the more active you can be (to a healthy extent, of course), the easier it is to stay committed to your movement routine.
Finding The Motivation To Workout
Contrary to popular belief, your motivation to workout doesn’t start with a great fitness instructor or buying a pass at the best studio in town. While those things help you build a habit, the initial motivation must come from you.
In fact, what you do for exercise is actually less important than why you do it. Find your “why” and your love of fitness will follow. To do this, start by thinking about the things in your life that matter most to you, and how they would be improved or sustained by your ability to be physically fit.
- You may have a health goal that you’re working towards—be that managing stress, maintaining a healthy weight, or even reducing symptoms of chronic disease—and you know that exercise is a useful tool for reaching that goal. (1,2,3)
- It may be that you’re a keen traveller and have set your sights on hiking to Macchu Picchu with your best friends for your 35th birthday.
- Or perhaps your motivation to stay fit and active is born from the desire to play with your grandchildren as you age.
Everyone has a different reason for wanting to exercise; make it a priority to find yours.
There’s No One Right Way To Exercise
Now that you’ve discovered the burning reason why YOU want to be fit and active, the next step is to actually take action and commit to working out on a regular basis.
Here I want to point out that there is no one right way to exercise. While some people get a lot of joy from intense activity, many others are best suited to a gentle fitness practice. Luckily, fantastic results can be achieved from both approaches.
Your next step is to experiment with your current workout routine and find what works best for your unique body type—this could mean swapping heavy lifts for Pilates and sweaty runs for long nature hikes, or vice versa.
At the end of the day, success comes from doing activities that you enjoy, because you’ll want to show up for them on a regular basis. So if you haven’t yet been bit by the exercise bug, keep looking for the routine that feels right for you.
Build Your Fitness From The Ground Up
Having the freedom to pick and choose the types of exercise that you prefer is a game changer for your movement motivation. However, it’s easier to fall in love with working out once you reach a certain level of physical fitness. To get there as quickly as possible, all you need to do is keep things simple.
Spending time on the basics will not only help you get fitter faster, it’s also vital for preventing injury and maintaining a lifelong love of working out. Start by conquering the most simple body-weight exercises, such as the squat, the back lunge, walking lunge, and a full plank.
Next you can improve your cardiovascular fitness by gentle walking and incline walking for 30-60 minutes at a time (before you take up jogging).
Finally, pay attention to mobility and stability exercises that keep your joints and muscles in tip-top condition.
Realistically, it may take six weeks (or a little more) to build your base level of fitness, but once you’re done, you’ll find yourself wanting to pop on your sneakers every single day. Boosting your fitness levels will increase your motivation to stay fit.
Redefine “Working Out”
At this stage I think it’s important to note that “working out” doesn’t only mean going to the gym. An interesting area of research highlights incidental movement as being equally important for your long term health as the 30 minutes you spend on traditional exercise each day. (4) Great news for anyone who isn’t a fan of lycra pants and communal water coolers!
So tell me this, is your lack of exercise motivation primarily associated with gym-specific workouts? Or does it extend to any physical activity?
Would you prefer to skip barre class tonight, but will happily throw around a frisbee on the weekend or take your dog for a walk after work? Or do you really hate doing anything that gets your blood flowing?
This is an important distinction to make because you may be already have more motivation than you think, and if you simply redefine your definition of “working out,” then you could fall in love with fitness as quickly as today.
To get your brain buzzing, here are some of my favorite gym-free types of exercise:
- Walking to the shops (and carrying groceries home)
- Washing the car
- Playing with the kids
- Body surfing at the beach
Team Up With A Friend, Coach, Or Class
While the recommendations above will do wonders for getting you out the door, you may need a little more assistance to actually cross the finish line. This is where recruiting a workout buddy, hiring a trainer, or joining a group fitness class can really come in handy.
You don’t need to go on this journey alone, and in fact you’ll likely achieve more—and have more fun doing it—when you have company and accountability. Think of one or two people with whom you can share your goal (to fall in love with working out!), and let them know about it today.
Schedule It On Your Calendar
The final piece of the puzzle is to actually make time for exercise. By scheduling your workout on your calendar you are showing yourself that you’re committed to following through.
In fact, that would be a great activity for you to go and do right now. Open up your calendar and block out 30 minutes a day for the rest of the week for movement (gym class, solo workout, or non-gym activity). Invite company if you like, and most importantly, commit to yourself that you’ll show up for this meeting every single day!