BY DR. RANDY STINSON
Change is hard, old habits are hard to break, and new habits are hard to create. I have heard it said that change only happens once a person reaches the point of having a visceral reaction of disgust and finally refuses to allow themselves to remain the same as they have always been. It isn’t until we reach that point that we generally have the will power to push through the struggle it takes to truly create change in ourselves. This happened a few years ago for me when it came to my weight and my fitness.
I had always been an athlete, involved in running and weight lifting as well as a myriad of outdoor activities, but suddenly I found myself in my mid 30’s, 45 pounds overweight and looking at having to go up a size in my paints, again. I got angry at myself for not taking better care of myself, for not being a better example to my children, and for not being a better example to my patients. I was disgusted, and I found the strength to make a change. Since that time, I have had many people ask me how I stay motived to workout regularly and keep the weight off so here goes my list of what I explain to people on how to stay motivated on fitness.
1: ACCEPT WHERE YOU ARE AND START FROM THERE
One of the hardest things for all of us when we start trying to get back to working out after a few years hiatus is that we try to start back at the same place we last remember ourselves being. This doesn’t work, ever, and it is often a very large hurdle that stops a lot of people from keeping up there attempts for longer than the first week or so. Accepting the hit to our ego when we realize just how far we have fallen is a very difficult thing to face and nobody likes the humbling effect it has. For me this was a very difficult one. I had to start my running and my weight lifting at levels that I believed were way too low intensity for as fit as I used to be, but I wanted to change where I was at the time and you can only start where you are. I had to reduce my running distances down to 1 mile, which for my ego was a blow beyond anything I thought I could accept, my desire to change made me able to swallow that hard pill. My only advice here is to throw out the ego and start where you are, set goals for where you want to be, but recognize your starting point for what it is, the place you are trying to leave. Once you do this your journey to staying motivated just got a lot easier.
2: ACCEPT THAT IT IS ALWAYS AWFUL AT FIRST
When we first start any new project, be it changing our health, our financial situation, or learning something new it is always uncomfortable and hard at first. This ties a lot into the previous point but is still a separate one for the simple fact that even after throwing out your ego and starting at a level that is realistic for your current fitness level, it will still be hard. Many of us give up at the beginning of our resolutions to change our health because it is just so hard at first and it just isn’t fun, unfortunately, that is a phase that just has to be pushed through initially, but the good news is that it does get better. When you first start just making it through a workout feels like torture and you find yourself asking why you do this to yourself. Workouts don’t get fun until you have made enough progress that just making it through kills you and instead you start being able to play and have fun with seeing what you can do now. My advice here is just push through it for at least a month and see what happens.
3: FIND SOMETHING THAT YOU ENJOY AND CHANGE IT UP AS OFTEN AS YOU NEED
The last two points have kind of been tough ones for a lot of people to accept, the answer to getting over them both is to just suck it up and do it anyway, that answer only goes so far. From here it starts to get more fun. In the last point I talked about pushing through for at least a month, but what happens if after a month you still hate every minute of your workouts, you have pushed through the first month and it is still just awful for you? I always tell people to try to find something they enjoy so that workouts are less miserable, but sometimes what you enjoy is not what you expect.
Even if you used to be a dancer and you loved it, that doesn’t mean that you still enjoy it or that it is something that you will want to do every day. Our bodies do better with variety than they do when we try to force them to always do the same exercises over and over again. Shake things up, change your routine, try new sports. Boredom is just as bad a killer of motivation as pain.
Some of the things that I use to keep variety are:
- Changing up workout between bowflex, free weights, and body weight exercises.
- Add in swimming for variety in cardio.
- Run up the canyon for a change of view.
- I go to Beachbody.com to stream a variety of different videos depending on what I feel like that day. https://www.beachbody.com/product/fitness_programs/on-demand-workout-videos.do?code=SEMB_BOD_MSN&utm_campaign=&utm_term=beachbody%20on%20demand&trackingid=sCpQDoIu1
- Stack 52 cards to create randomness in the workout.
- Just try new things whenever I want.
4: TRACK YOUR PROGRESS AND NOT JUST ON THE SCALE
Small daily changes add up over time to make big changes. Sometimes those changes are so gradual that we forget where we came from and have a hard time keeping track of the progress we make. When we don’t feel like all our efforts are making a change , it kills our motivation. The scale is not the only way to track this and is often not the most accurate. If you want to use the scale, weigh yourself at the same time every day, usually best to be first thing in the morning before eating and while not wearing clothes. The reason for this is that we weigh different amounts depending on the clothes we wear, what we have in our pockets, and even what we have eaten so far. Consistency in circumstances of taking weight will do a better job of showing accurate change. Other options for tracking change that I have found to be useful are:
- Take a before picture and occasionally take a follow up picture of yourself wearing the same clothes.
- Runtastic app.on my phone https://www.runtastic.com/en/apps
- Myfitnesspal app on my phone. https://www.myfitnesspal.com/
- Keep a journal of how you feel with your workouts and what you are able to do, look back at it every few weeks and recognize the change.
5: GET OTHERS INVOLVED AND NEVER BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP
We all know that person who posts every workout on Facebook or talks about their workout routine every time you see them. They do this for a reason. Telling people about their workouts is a way of being accountable, which works to motivate you to keep going. If that person you know suddenly stopped talking about their workouts you would think it was weird and you would aske them about it (maybe not the first time, but eventually) and they would hate to have to admit that they haven’t been doing it. Having someone else involved, even if it is just to be accountable to helps keep motivation up. When you don’t know how to do an exercise, or you want to learn something new find someone to teach you. If you want find others who are doing the same thing you are and work together to help each other out.
6: DON’T STOP JUST BECAUSE YOU MISSED A DAY.
Never forget that life happens. You don’t live to workout, you workout to improve your life. There will be times of illness, injury, busy days at work, family events, or plenty of other things that will get in the way of getting your workout in every single day. When that happens don’t beat yourself up. Don’t try to make it up by cramming in two workouts the next day, and don’t decide that there is no point in working out for the rest of the week because you are off your routine. Accept that what happened yesterday is over and can’t be changed. Do today’s workout and move on without worrying about the workout you didn’t get done yesterday.