Exercise Motivation: Overcoming Your Mountain
Human nature makes us cyclical creatures. One minute we are motivated, inspired and full of gusto, the next we convince ourselves that it’s not worth all the effort. The persisting question is how can we ensure that the future version of ourselves will be just as motivated as the present version. Just thinking it will happen won’t make it happen, unfortunately. You and I need to take measures, tangible measures, to ensure that we stay on the path that we know we need to be on. Metaphorically speaking, you might be able to see the top of the mountain you’re climbing, but how can you make sure that you get to the summit without stopping for a long breather. Lets find out how exercise motivation can lead to overall success.
1. Define your main goal
For most people, this is the easiest step.
“I need to lose 20kg (44lb)” or “I’d like to run a marathon”
Knowing where we’d like to end up, or where we’d rather be is easy for us to visualise and thus desire. Its what we perceive will be the better version of ourselves. Although the goal might be a simple one, its much easier to be motivated for a real defined goal rather than saying phrases like “I need to lose some weight.” How can you get yourself motivated for an undefined goal? At what point will you be able to celebrate all your hard work? It is crucial to ensure that your exercise motivation does not wither away.
The first step of ensuring continued motivation in the exercise realm is to:
Define your main goal
2. Setting a deadline
In the same way that an undefined goal can cause us to stumble, providing an eternal timeframe to achieve said goal can be just as debilitating. It creates a lack of urgency. “I can skip today’s session, I’ll make it up later.” Setting a great goal without a strict timeframe is setting yourself up to fail. Its as if you allow yourself an opportunity to sit down half way up our figurative mountain and read a book. There’s just no urgency. Mankind works better when there is a deadline. We have an ability to channel all our energy to meet that deadline. In this instance, we can utilise deadlines to promote our exercise motivation
In addition, just setting a date might not be a bulletproof method either. It might work for some, but personally, there’s not much difference between aiming for November 1st and November 10th, or December 10th for that matter. They’re just dates to me. A better alternative is to have an event to aim for. Sometimes this can to be out of your control but you can manufacture an event – a grand unveiling, if you will. Here are some examples:
- Losing weight before a wedding: You have a defined timeframe to get to a specific goal and usually husband and wife always look their best in their wedding pictures. They had a clear goal, and a strict timeframe.
- Create a challenge with a friend: That’s a way of manufacturing a timeframe. If two or more people are competing for a similar goal in a similar timeframe its less likely one of them will give up.
- Join an already existing event : sign up for a local marathon, for instance. You’ll know the date and you have a timeframe to work your training towards.
Step 2 : Set a strict deadline
3. Decide on your checkpoints
Now that we know our main goal, and the timeframe we have to achieve it we can start to focus on the intermediate goals that we can work towards. These intermediate goals will help us connect the dots on our journey and make the overall goal less daunting. You don’t have to stare at the summit the whole time you are walking up your mountain.
Break the “climb” up into sections.
This provides the joy of little victories on the way towards your big victory, and who does’t like to have a victory! Be proud of yourself. Giving yourself an opportunity to feel rewarded will continue to drive you towards the overall goal. Additionally, it helps you know that you’re making progress and moving in the right direction. If you aren’t then you have a chance to evaluate your methods and training over the last “section” of your journey.
If you want to be able to run a 42km marathon, you can first aim to run 10km continuously, then 20km, etc.
I call these check points from the principle of an arcade game. You need to drive your NASCAR past the checkpoint in order to continue playing that game. You get a little bit of extra life every time you pass one of your checkpoints.
The number of checkpoints depends on how long your timeline is for your main goal. Don’t overdo it. Let each success have value and associated joy. Give yourself a chance to have to work for each checkpoint. And when you achieve it, enjoy it. Be proud.
Step 3: Set your checkpoints on your way to your main goal.
4. Make yourself accountable
This is often the most crucial point in ensuring you achieve your overall goal. Your exercise motivation is directly improved if you can keep yourself accountable. If there is no accountability then its easy for future-you to give up. We can’t let that happen. How do you hold yourself accountable and keep motivated? Tell everyone. Everyone! Share your goal, don’t be embarrassed. This is the largest obstacle to overcome. No one wants to fail, even worse, we don’t want others to think we are a failure. So we stay quiet. We keep our goals hidden away from the world. When we do give up, there’s no one there to pick us back up.
The world’s greatest athletes have a huge network of people holding them accountable. Coaches, sponsors, family and themselves. Who is holding you accountable?
- Family – They care about you. They’ll be supportive and encouraging and surely help you along your climb.
- Friends – If your friends poke fun at your goal then find some new friend (harsh, but true). Let them hold you accountable. They’ll think twice before inviting you to have a deep fried Mars Bar (yum!) if your goal is to lose weight. They are on your side.
- Strangers – The internet is a wonderful place. Find somewhere to log your progress. Even if its a small community, if its on the internet it will drive you to not give up. Our training logs are designed for exactly that purpose. To help me be accountable, and it can help you too. Let cyberspace hold you accountable.
Step 4: Hold yourself accountable
5. Equip yourself – Find useful resources
There are countless tools available that can help you achieve your goals. Weather you are aiming to maintain general motivation or specific exercise motivation, take a minute to find the resources that can help you on a day-to-day level in your pursuit of fulfilment. Of course your chosen toolkit will depend on your specific goal but that will be your survival kit for climbing your mountain. These resources allow you to ensure each step you take is efficient and leading you towards your main goal. Some examples of resources by goal are:
- For weight loss – Exercise programs, trainers, pedometers, food diary, calorie counters, cook books, meal plans, nutritionists.
- For fitness goals – Exercise trackers, experienced trainers, experts on the goal, books, programs.
Resources are ever-present no matter what field your goal is in. Make sure you know how you can go about achieving your goal from experts in that field. It will lead to a more efficient training program and more successful results. Don’t try and do it alone. Pack your bag for the climb ahead of you.
Note: There is a reason why I chose to put this step at #5. Many people spend too long researching and preparing a perfect game plan to tackle their goal. I’m not suggesting you delay your goal in order to find resources. Rather, once you have your goal, spend a few minutes gathering resources and you can use them as you need them on your journey. Reading a book isn’t going to get you to lose weight. You need to get up and do. Resources help you, they aren’t going to do it for you.
Step 5 – Prepare your toolkit
That’s it! Now enough reading. Think about what goal you have had in your mind but never actually laid out a plan in order to achieve it. Prepare yourself and you will keep your exercise motivation at max levels until you achieve your goal. Go and get it done. There’s nothing better than achieving a milestone or a goal that you set yourself. You don’t have to have world class will power, just have a plan, and stick to it. Go climb your mountain.
- Define your main goal
- Set a strict deadline
- Set your checkpoints
- Hold yourself accountable
- Prepare your toolkit