Dr. Orma was recently interviewed by Men’s Journal for insights on motivation and how to create an excuse-proof workout routine.
Starting a fitness routine is the easy part. Sticking with it after the initial workout buzz and excitement fade is what separates the truly fit from the wannabes. That drop in enthusiasm is almost inevitable no matter how pumped you were when you first hit the gym. Creeping boredom, changes in your work or personal life, and a lack of noticeable results can all stunt your focus and give you excuses to skip sessions, says physical therapist Kosta Kokolis, cofounder of Bodhizone Physical Therapy in New York City. Instead of letting your fitness falter once training gets tough, boost your motivation up with these 11 tips and tricks. They’ll keep you energized, challenged, and on track to hit your fitness goals.
1. Do Activities You Like
Seems obvious, but think about all the times you’ve found yourself zoning out on the treadmill or checking your watch after each set of weights. If you don’t feel engaged, look for a new workout. When you’re not feeling excited or challenged, you get bored, and it’s unlikely you’ll stick with the activity very long, says Steve Orma, Ph.D., a San Francisco clinical psychologist specializing in motivation. Unless your goals are very specific, you can probably accomplish them with any number of workout routines, so find one that leaves you fired up and challenged.
2. Set Fitness Goals
“People lose their motivation to exercise when they don’t have enough positive reasons to keep at it,” says Orma. With this in mind, Orma suggests identifying your fitness goals, then writing them down so they feel more concrete and powerful. Maybe you want to bench press your bodyweight, or improve your marathon time, or get a leaner physique. Whatever it is, identify that strong motivating reason to workout and keep it in mind, so it fuels your drive, he says.
3. Solve Your Excuses
The fewer roadblocks you have keeping you from your routine, the fewer excuses you’ll have for ditching, says Orma. So bust those barriers ahead of time: If you often get stuck at work after hours, schedule your workout time in the morning, so late deadlines won’t derail you. If gyms crowd you out, set up your own gear in your garage or basement. If the right music helps pump your mood, keep a playlist on your iPod ready at all times.
4. Get a Workout Partner
Working out with a buddy forces you to be accountable to someone besides yourself. This makes you less likely to blow off your evening run or CrossFit class, since you don’t want to be that guy who can’t hack it, says Kokolis. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to start hanging around more with your fitness-enthusiast friends. For one thing, their motivation can rub off on you. “Also, your workouts are more likely to become your social life, so you’re no longer choosing one of the other, with the gym losing out,” says Susan Paul, exercise physiologist at the Track Shack in Orlando, Florida.
5. Measure Your Progress Regularly
Nothing sets your motivation back like a lack of results. After that initial weight loss or clear performance boost, your body may hit a plateau, and that’s tough to ride out. Which is why it helps to measure your progress regularly, say weekly or twice a month, so you can see that you are getting stronger or reducing the size of your gut, even if you don’t see obvious gains, says Paul. “Measure your weight, body fat percentage, mileage, run paces, and body circumference, and then compare measurements so you’ll know your gym time is paying off,” she says. Your mojo will surge when you see that your body is changing.
6. Sign up for an event
Whether it’s a local 10K or Ironman triathlon, registering for a competition gives you an automatic challenge and a goal, and that helps ignite motivation to win and succeed, says Paul. The trick is to make sure it’s a competition reasonably within your reach of finishing. Sign up for a 12-mile Tough Mudder without enough time to train your endurance and strength, for example, and you might fail spectacularly and leave your motivation in free fall.
7. Make Yourself Pay
If you knew you’d have to fork over a fee every time you skipped a workout, you might be more likely to get yourself to the gym. That’s the thinking behind apps like Stickk and Gympact (both free for Apple and Android), which use the concept of loss-aversion — your natural desire to prefer winning over losing — to motivate you. Both apps allow you to set a goal, then add the dollar amount you’ll pay if you don’t follow through. “The amount has to be big enough to make you really not want to lose it,” says Orma. In other words, paying $1 won’t motivate you the way paying $50 might, so make sure you tap in a dollar amount that hurts a little.
8. Mix Up Your Routine
Even if you’ve found a routine that you really enjoy, there’s danger in just repeating the same moves day in and day out. First, it’ll eventually bore you, and second, it’s counterproductive to your fitness goals because you’re doing the same motions with the same body parts rather than working out and building up new ones, says Paul. So every few weeks, vow to shake things up, even in a small way. Work bodyweight moves into your lifting routine. Change the incline on the treadmill and challenge yourself with an uphill run. “Hit up CrossFit or a boot camp class, which keep things changing without your having to think about it,” suggests Paul. Switching up the scenery can lift your mojo too, so try trail running or mountain biking instead of road running or cycling.
9. Take Care of Your Diet and Sleep
When you don’t eat right or clock enough sleep, fatigue, brain fog, and irritability take over. These do a number on your motivation and threaten to make your fitness routine a memory. Make an effort to maintain your energy level and stave off moodiness by eating healthy meals with complex carbs, veggies, and lean protein, and turning in at night so you score seven to eight hours of restful shuteye, says Kokolis.
10. Visualize the End Result
If your motivation to hit the weight room is muscle definition for the beach, imagine the physique you crave — it’s the carrot on a stick that keeps your motivation strong, says Paul. If you want to place high in a race, visualize yourself crossing the finish line and receiving a medal. If weight loss is your goal, picture yourself with a leaner, slimmer gut. Visualization is a powerful motivator, and you’ll be surprised at how fast it’ll fuel your resolve.
11. Recall Your Favorite Fitness Moment
Calling up the memory and focusing on it can inspire you to work out harder, according to a University of New Hampshire study from 2014. Researchers found that when students conjured up positive memories that had to do with working out, they exercised at a higher level than those who didn’t recall a memory. So even if your favorite moment was that homer you smacked out of the park during Little League, call up the memory and play it out all over again in your head to fuel your drive.
(Article by Esther Crain)