Sometimes the hardest part of exercise is finding motivation, or staying motivated. Live Well Utah teaches us that there are two basic types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic. Here’s what they have to say about each type:
Extrinsic motivation refers to behavior that is driven by external rewards such as money, fame, grades and praise. This type of motivation arises from outside the individual, as opposed to intrinsic motivation, which originates inside the individual. Extrinsic examples: working to receive a bonus, gaining a reward for an accomplishment, receiving recognition, changing habits based on how you think others may see your body or losing weight to fit into new clothes or look good for a beach vacation.
Intrinsic motivation is defined as performing an action or behavior because you enjoy the activity itself. Whereas acting on extrinsic motivation is done for the sake of some external outcome, the inspiration for acting on intrinsic motivation can be found in the action itself. Intrinsic examples: losing weight because your body feels better, working because you enjoy making a difference, reading a book because you are curious about the subject, etc. Intrinsic motivation is much stronger than extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation can empower individuals to reach their goals and can help sustain an active lifestyle.
To stay motivated, find a source of intrinsic motivation. Focus on what the healthy behavior is doing for you, not how other’s might perceive it. When you find your motivation taking a dip, consider these tips to bring it back up:
- Don’t think about the finish line. If you think too far ahead, the task seems bigger. If you focus on what’s happening right now, things seem more doable. Focus on walking the first lap, performing the first pushup, or jumping rope for 30 seconds, rather than focusing on the entire workout at once.
- Ask someone to join you. If someone is depending on you, you’ll be more likely to show up. Use a friend or family member as your crutch when you’re feeling unmotivated.
- Reward yourself. Who doesn’t like a reward? Set yourself up to complete a certain goal and plan what your reward will be when you get there.
- Have a plan. When something is planned out, it is more likely to happen. While flying by the seat of your pants may be fun, and work in some instances, over time it is your plan that will keep you going. At the start of the week, schedule your workouts for each day, plan out what type of exercise you’ll do, or pack your gym back each night so you’re ready to go in the morning.
- Get some new tunes. Music is a great motivator. Knowing that you have some new music to listen to while you exercise can give you the desire to start. Listen to music that is upbeat and makes you want to move.
- Eat well. If you are eating well, you’ll feel well. Feeling well will push you to keep doing things to benefit your body. Good nutrition and exercise go hand in hand.
- Do something you enjoy. If you hate lifting weights, don’t lift weights. If you love dancing, find a Zumba class to attend. If you like being around people, find a group fitness class. If sports are your thing, sign up or start a team. If you’re having fun exercising you’ll be more motivated to do it again.
- Don’t worry about all or nothing. Everyone has off days. If you’re feeling unmotivated, just do something…anything! It may not be your best performance, and you may not be meeting any personal records, but at least you did something.
- Log it. Tracking your exercise by writing it down is a good way to see how far you’ve come. It is also a good way to push yourself further. Maybe you started out by running 1 mile. Now you’re up to 5! Comparing where you started with where you are now just might push you to run 8. Or maybe exercising one day a week led to three, and now you can push yourself to 5. Keeping an exercise log will help you see your growth.
- Tell yourself you can. A positive attitude goes a long way. Don’t say, “I can’t”. Instead say, “I’ll try”. By trying you just might find that you can!
To help you with step 6, eat well by trying recipes like Fruit and Cracker Pizza.
These are so easy to make you don’t even need a recipe. Grab your favorite crackers, whole wheat is best. Top crackers with a smear of low-fat cream cheese. You can use flavored if you like; just watch for added sugars. Lastly, place chopped fruit on top. Use whatever fruit you have on hand, or what is in season at your grocery store.
Now lace up those exercise shoes, and take steps to keep yourself motivated. I know you can do it. Enjoy!