This is part 2 in my experience with learning to love exercise. In my first post, I covered non-scale victories, and the role they play in exercise motivation, consistency, and enjoyment. Today I want to go deeper with a few action-oriented strategies for consistency and the way that they will help you build a love of exercise that you might not already have.
Just do it!
Nike had it right with this slogan. We can't wait until we feel like doing something in order to do it, otherwise we would never make progress in areas that don't excite us. The good news: feelings follow action. You just have to decide to take action. It sounds too simple to be effective, but if you are willing to trust me on this one truth, and if you will implement it, I promise it will help you overcome resistance in all areas of your life.
You can manufacture a new feeling about something by taking action in a way that reflects the feelings you would like to have, but don't at this point yet have. Even though I love exercise, I don't always feel like working out. Does that surprise you? Please understand that even the most dedicated and committed exercise enthusiasts don't always feel like getting a workout in. What they have done is structured their training in such a way that it is a habit. They look to their NSVs for motivation, but do not rely on motivation alone. They use habit and routine to carry them forward despite times of not feeling like it. They don't wake up and think about if they want to work out or not, they schedule it and follow through.
Make it an identity.
Instead of telling yourself that you "have to" work out, tell yourself (and others!) that it is "what you do." When you link a behavior to your identity, it becomes a part of who you are, and you are more likely to stay committed to the behavior.
Invest in small things that remind you that you are someone who exercises. Have dedicated exercise attire that triggers you to get in the persona of an athlete when you wear it. I'm not saying that you need somethings expensive or fancy. It could be a pair of shoes or a hat that you wear when you exercise. Maybe you have certain T-shirts that you wear only when you work out. Perhaps you have an armband for your phone that you strap on to listen to music or podcasts. The important thing is that it triggers your ownership of the behavior as part of who you are.
Follow a program.
There are several benefits to following a training program. Following a program streamlines things for you so that you are not spending extra time and energy on figuring out what workout to do—or even worse, deciding at the last minute. With most programs, you will know what kind of time commitment and exercise equipment will be needed ahead of time. Planning your programming into your schedule up front allows you to keep the habit going without the stress and decision making of just figuring things out on the fly. This helps with staying consistent. Most programs encourage tracking progress, which offers extra built in motivation to push yourself.
There are several 3-4 week long challenge programs in the Dashing Dish exercise archives to choose from if you are comfortable with working on your own and following a plan. You can also sign up to work with Katie one-on-one for 4 or 8 weeks. Those packages include more than just exercise planning! If you are a member of a gym, you can also see what they have available. Some gyms offer free training plans for members, and others offer personal trainers for hire if you want that too. Sometimes just knowing you have put money into something helps with accountability because you have "skin in the game." Depending on how you view monetary commitments though, this may be a better accountability tactic for some than others.
The best way to stay accountable is to have a workout buddy. On the days you might feel like skipping your workout, you will be less likely to give in to the temptation if you know they are counting on you! It can also be more fun to have someone to interact with. If you can't meet in person, you can have phone check-ins with a friend or family member, but this approach is not as motivating for most people as an in-person buddy would typically is. You can also join online group challenges that have app trackers for your gym check-ins. There are even ones where you pay into a prize pot, and if your don't show up for the number of workouts you commit to, then the others get to split the winnings. If you do follow through, you get to split the earnings, or at minimum, get your money back. Like I stated before, the process of investing in your commitment with money is a good motivator for some, but for others it might not work. Choose what works for you!
Teach someone what you know.
You don't have to be far ahead of someone in order to add value with what you already know. You simply have to be a few steps ahead and willing to be transparent about your journey and the lessons you have learned—struggles, successes, and all. When you help others along the journey, it is a positive reminder that you are capable of growth. That helps to boost confidence and makes you more likely to push yourself further in the areas that you are trying to grow in and master. Teaching keeps you accountable in a different way than a peer relationship does. When you are teaching, you are more likely to maintain the discipline yourself and avoid cutting corners, because you know that if you aren't doing things right or progressing, it will be apparent to the person you are mentoring.
Set deadline goals.
Sign up for a race or an event that you will need to push yourself in order to improve for. For beginners, a 1, 3, or 5 mile run is a great place to start. For more advanced, an obstacle race or a longer run might be a good challenge. Perhaps you have always wanted to do something like white water rafting, hiking a mountain, or rock climbing, but know that you need to get more conditioned in order to be ready for it. Book the event and then get to work training for it!
Set mini goals.
Mini goals are things that help you stay the course while on a journey to a big destination goal. They help you to celebrate small wins throughout the journey so that you don't get overwhelmed, burned out, and give up on the large, long term goal. I do not recommend setting goals for things like pounds or inches lost. While these can be a useful measure of progress, they should not be your focus when it comes to healthy behavioral reinforcement. The goals here should be about improving things like your run time, exercise duration, number of reps, or pounds lifted.
Work toward little rewards.
Another idea is to use your workouts as a way to earn something you would like to splurge on. For every workout you keep, you save a dollar amount. Then, once you save up enough for your prize, you make the purchase. It can be something smaller like a massage or a new piece of gym equipment that only requires you to have saved a dollar for each workout, or something larger like a trip if you are able to save more with each workout. The only recommendation I have for this is that your "prize" aligns with your healthy goals. Don't spend it on something that reinforces unhealthy behaviors you are trying to part with.
Have you tried any of these strategies? If not, which do you think might be helpful for you? What action-oriented tips do you have that weren't covered here? Let us know below!
Don't forget to grab Katie's new book, Nourish for more actionable tips on how to start living a healthy, active lifestyle!