You’ve decided. The exercise program starts today. “Next week” is no more. You’re ready to go. First thing I’ll say is, congratulations! This is a MASSIVE milestone, no matter what your prior exercise experience is (even if you have none).
My first question is why.
Why are you starting an exercise program?
What’s motivating you?
In order to achieve success building and maintaining good physical health, you’ve got to stay motivated.
Some of you are lucky, and motivation comes easily. It could be your hobby or passion, or the way you like to spend your free time. It could be staying healthy for your family — knowing you’ve got to take care of yourself to best take care of them. Either way, you are intrinsically motivated — the energy and will to workout comes from within. It’s effortless. When you exercise, it brings you joy. When you miss a workout, it robs you of joy.
Most of you are less lucky. You have to rely on external motivators, which are always governed by external factors. Aesthetics. An age milestone. A negative health diagnosis. Other people. These aren’t necessarily bad motivators, as we’ll explore, but they’re certainly not as rock solid as intrinsic motivators. And as such, are more prone to failure.
But I’ve got some good news for you external folks: Becoming consistently motivated to exercise can be learned. In fact, over time, you’ll find exercise enjoyable. Something you look forward to. Really, I mean it! But you’ve got to put in the work now.
Join a gym or exercise facility
I always advise people who are getting into (or back into) fitness to join a gym or health club. There are literally thousands of clubs, gyms and group class facilities these days. You’ve probably got one down the street. The moral of the story: don’t buy exercise equipment for the home. Not at first.
With an exercise facility, you’re literally investing in your health, as you’ll have to pay a membership fee wherever you go. You’ve got some skin in the game. You don’t want to light that cash on fire. You’re paying for a product, you! A revamped and revitalized you with a healthier and physically fit body.
There are others at the club working just as hard on their goals as you’re working on yours. Other people can be great motivators. Don’t tell me you haven’t gone that extra set or pushed extra hard when you see your gym crush killing his or her workout. You can’t expect me to believe you haven’t tried your damnedest to beat the person on the spin bike next to you, as they try their hardest to beat you.
Should you need an extra push, all gyms or health clubs worth their salt have a multitude of personal trainers on staff. They’re excellent motivators and — for the most part — are experts in their field. It’s easier to get through your workout and stay on track if you’ve got someone over your shoulder, consistently monitoring your progress day in and day out. Same goes for exercise class teachers, whether it’s yoga, cycling, rowing, whatever.
Workout with a friend
Everything is easier with a buddy. The “buddy system” is a thing because it’s an extremely effective way for people to watch out for one another. It makes tremendous sense to apply this logic to your exercise regimen — find a buddy who’s ready to take charge of his or her health and make the journey together. This works best if your buddy shares your commitment to exercise, so pick your buddy wisely.
You’ll work to keep each other motivated through accountability. We humans place enormous value on reputation. Our social status. How we’re perceived by others. And for good reason — we’ve banded together in tribes for support and survival for thousands of years. You’re a lot less likely to bail on your early morning workout if someone is depending on you to be there. And vice versa. Take it from me, it feels good to be partially responsible for another’s success!
If you don’t have a buddy, don’t worry. Just take a look inside your club — there are plenty of folks there to recruit. After you join, you’ll quickly find out who the regulars are. They’re very easy to spot. They workout at the same time as you. They always grab the treadmill next to you during your class. Get to know these people. Say hi, grab them a towel. You’ll have a buddy in no time.
Embrace your results
Oftentimes we’re not satisfied with progress. It’s all or nothing. We want to achieve our larger objective, anything less is unacceptable. We’re looking to lose 40 pounds, so having lost 20 is not good enough. We want to break the 2 hour mark for a half marathon, so a personal best of 2:05 is a failure.
Stop thinking like this!
Results themselves are excellent motivators. In fact, they’re probably some of the best. Once you see your abs start to pop, once you hit a new record in the squat rack, once you achieve and surpass a minor milestone, whatever it may be, it motivates you that much more to push to the next level. It may not be your final goal, but you’re getting there.
Seeing your body visibly and demonstrably change before your eyes elicits a visceral response. I’ve known folks to literally cry with joy when they see a certain number flash on the scale. Or when someone achieves a personal best on the bench press. Whatever the case may be, they feel it on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. It may not be the end goal, but you’ll feel a sense of satisfaction you didn’t think possible with your physical fitness.
You’ll want to keep going, keep pushing, keep exploring the limits of your potential. Keep up with this mindset, and you’ll achieve your larger objective in no time.