4 motivational tips that will get you moving
You know all about the benefits of exercise yet you still can’t bring yourself to do any. You know it could make you happier, encourage your brain to grow stronger, protect against chronic disease and help you maintain a healthy weight, but you still choose to skip the morning sweat session and sleep for an extra hour instead.
Everyone needs a little extra motivation to move sometimes. Fortunately, there are science-backed tips that could help get you started.
1. Stop focusing on the unpleasant beginning
As with most things in life, taking the first step is the hardest part of developing a regular exercise regime. It’s like writing the first line of that annual report. By focusing on the long task ahead we psych ourselves out before we even get started. What we should be doing, is thinking about how great we will feel when the report is done and sitting on the boss’ desk.
And while reports are inherently unpleasant (in my book), exercise can feel pretty good once you get started.
Eric Barker, author of the blog Barking Up the Wrong Tree, quotes a recent study of 279 adults, which found that participants significantly underestimated how much they would enjoy exercising because of a myopic focus on the beginning of exercise.
By increasing the expected enjoyment of exercise, the short-sighted tendency could be harnessed and even overcome, resulting in an increased intention to exercise.
The results were consistent for both group and individual exercise, as well as moderate to challenging exercises and included workouts ranging from yoga and pilates to aerobic exercise and weight training.
Former world champion boxer Danny Green agrees.
“Rekindle that positive feeling if you’re finding it hard to jump out of bed or put on your runners for a jog,” he says. “If you can get started the hard part is over. Once you’re moving, the endorphins kick in and you’ll instantly start to feel better.”
2. Get a game plan
Now that you’ve got your head in the game it’s time to think about your game plan. And this could be as simple as talking to a mate about your exercise goals for the week.
Researchers studying personal habits in America, found that if people were asked in advance how much they plan to exercise, they would exercise more than those who were not asked. For example, college students who were asked about future exercising did about 94 additional minutes, or 138 per cent, more exercise than in the previous week.
If you really want to get serious about fitness, you’ll need to go beyond mere conversation. It’s worth writing down your goals and coming up with strategies to achieve them.
Barker quotes Heidi Grant Halvorson’s book, Nine Things Successful People Do Differently.
“Half the participants were asked to plan where and when they would exercise each week (e.g., “If it is Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, then I will hit the gym for an hour before work”).The results were dramatic: weeks later, 91 per cent of if-then planners were still exercising regularly, compared to only 39 per cent of non-planners.”
So why does writing things down means you are more likely to do it? Because commitments that are made actively have more staying power than those that are made passively, writes Barker.
3. Make it a game
You’ve heard of the saying ‘work hard, play hard’, but what if those two things could be merged into one and hard work could become enjoyable?
Barker uses an interview with Jerry Seinfield from Lifehacker to illustrate. When asked about how he developed the discipline to write everyday, Seinfeld said he made the task into a game.
“He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day,” said Seinfield.
“After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”
Turning fitness into a game has led to success for Steve Kamb, founder and rebel leader of Nerd Fitness.
Kamb created Nerd Fitness to help desk jockeys and nerds live healthier lives. The online community now gets more than 1.3 million page views a month, and the self-paced online fitness program has more than 20,000 paid subscribers.
“I truly fell in love with this idea of, ‘What if life was this movie that we’re currently playing a major role in?’” said Kamb. “I love the idea of the hero’s journey, of being a character that goes through trials and tribulations and emerges as a transformed, levelled-up version of themselves.”
Kamb has set up all the workout plans are like levels of a video game. The successful completion of a set of body-weight workouts, for example, means one can move on to the next level.
“We all start at Level 1. It’s getting wrapped around the idea that you’re not going to get into shape overnight but this also is not going to be miserable,” said Kamb.
4. Listen to your favourite music
Listening to your favourite jams is a great way to boost morale when you’re working out, even if you’ve been holding plank for five minutes.
How? By taking you to your happy place.
Otherwise known as “context dependent memory,” Alex Korb, a postdoctoral researcher in neuroscience at UCLA, says “one of the strong effects of music comes from its ability to remind us of previous environments in which we were listening to that music.”
“Let’s say college was the happiest time of your life. If you start listening to the music that you were listening to at that time, it can help you feel more connected to that happier time in your life and makes it more present,” says Korb.
Pumping out supersets to Ice Ice Baby won’t just make your workout more enjoyable, it can actually improve your performance too.
One study examined 15 participants who listened to preferred and nonpreferred music while cycling at high intensity to investigate the effect on their performance. When listening to preferred music the participants were able to exercise for a longer distance, while those listening to nonpreferred music tended to perceive more discomfort caused by the exercise.
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