SOMEONE WHO has known me for 27 years asked
me the other day how I stay motivated to exercise. Ive
been exercising regularly since I was in the fifth grade, and
(with very few breaks) my exercise motivation has stayed consistently
Oddly enough, I never thought about this
before. I have something many people want consistent exercise
motivation and never thought about sharing it with others.
I took it for granted. But I know from experiences, these are
the best mental strategies to emulate (the ones that are natural
and automatic). So if youd like to duplicate my mental
strategy for exercise motivation, here is my answer to the question:
The immediate reward is the biggest motivation
for me. It has the most influence on my desire to exercise. When
I do something aerobic
something that gets my heart pumping and gets me breathing
hard I feel much better for the rest of the day, and usually
the day after too. Lifting weights or doing pushups or pullups
although these make me look better they
dont make me feel a lot better. Dont get me
wrong, any kind of exercise will make you feel better than being
sedentary, but aerobic exercise makes me feel better than any
other kind, and it is my desire for that good feeling that motivates
me more than anything else.
To make myself feel great, I have to be
breathing a bit and sweating a bit, and I have to keep it up
for fifteen minutes or more, but when I do, I feel noticeably
better for the rest of the day and into the next day. I sleep
better. I feel more relaxed and content and energetic.
Another important exercise motivation is
the joy of improvement. It's fun to see something getting better.
I can do something today, and a couple days from now I can do
more. I am getting measurably stronger. I am running measurably
faster or longer. That's motivating.
Vanity is another significant exercise
motivation. So even though my most important exercise motivation
is for aerobic exercise, I still lift weights and do calisthenics,
motivated by the joy of improvement and a desire to look better.
I think it's nice that exercise is "good
for me" but that doesn't really motivate me much, except
maybe in a general, vague kind of way. Its a weak motivator,
and if thats all I had for exercise motivation, I doubt
it would be enough to get me to work out very often.
One of the exercise motivations that has
the biggest impact on whether or not I actually work out comes
from the fact that I usually work out with my wife. When I say,
"let's go to the gym," it benefits both of us.
I have more motivation for both of us to work out than
I do to work out myself. I have a similar feeling about cooking
food. When were both eating, I spend more time to make
good food. When Im just making something for myself, Im
not as motivated to take the time.
These motivations are a mixture of long-term,
shorter-term, and even shorter-term motivation. One of my super-short-term
(but significant) exercise motivations is listening to music.
I dont drive much, and Im a writer, so when Im
at home I dont listen to a lot of music. But I love music.
One of the few times I can really turn up the music and enjoy
it is while exercising. I often do more exercise than I planned
because I want to keep listening to a song. And studies show
people who listen to music work out harder than people who dont.
The perceived effort while listening to music is
lower, so you end up working out harder.
At the beginning of a workout, I do something
else you might call motivational. I start slowly.
In the first ten minutes of working out, you might not feel like
it. You might not feel very energetic. But as you start to move
and your body warms up, usually youll feel more energetic
(especially if youre listening to good music). Youll
want to exert yourself more. Just follow your desire to
move. Don't make yourself go hard when you dont
feel up to it. Start slow and easy and let your motivation rise
as your workout proceeds.
When youre first getting into shape
(or back into shape) do what feels good. Use Jack LaLannes
first rule: Start easy, do what you can, and increase the intensity
and length of your workouts gradually. Learn
more about how Jack LaLanne works out.