Gateway Health News

3 Science-Backed Ways to Motivate Yourself to Work Out

2016-08-15

Are you looking to make your occasional gym or spin session a regular thing? Many casual exercisers want to sweat more often, but they struggle with finding the workout motivation to make fitness a part of their daily routine.
You’re told you have to “want it” enough. Or that you have to do something 21 days in a row before it becomes second nature. But what do you do on the 29th day when it’s cold outside and you’re dying to skip your run and sleep for another hour instead?


1. Give Yourself a Real Reward 
Sure, some people might be motivated by vague goals such as “better health” or “weight control.” But if that’s not doing it for you, making the benefits of working out more tangible, such as by treating yourself to a smoothie or an episode of The Leftovers afterwards.
It's described as creating a neurological “habit loop,” which involves a cue to trigger the behavior (setting out your spinning shoes next to your bag), the routine (making it through spinning class) and then the reward. A tangible reward is so powerful because your brain can latch on to it and make the link that the behavior is worthwhile. It increases the odds the routine becomes a habit.”
Over time, the motivation becomes normal, as the brain begins to associate sweat and pain with the surge of endorphins — those feel-good chemicals released in the brain that are responsible for that “I-feel-freaking-amazing” rush you get after a great gym session. Once you’ve trained your brain to recognize that the workout itself is the reward, you won’t even want the treat.


2. Sign a Commitment Contract
We can make promises to ourselves all day long, but research shows we’re more likely to follow through with pledges when we make them in front of friends.
You can up the ante even more by signing a contract agreeing to pay a pal R20 every time you skip. It’s a simple notion of changing the cost. I say I’m going to make a commitment to do something for a certain amount of time, such as exercising 30 minutes three times a week for 12 weeks. If I don’t do that, I’m going to pay some kind of penalty, whether it’s monetary or the embarrassment of having friends know I didn’t live up to my word.


3. Rethink Positive Thinking
Devotees of positive thinking have long promoted visualizing the benefits of a behavior as a motivational strategy. For example, when I’m deciding whether to get out of bed to go running in the morning, it helps to imagine how the sun will feel on my face as I run around the dam. Or how delighted I’ll be when I see my new muscles developing.
Here’s the rest of the formula: After identifying your wish and visualizing the outcome, you have to identify what’s holding you back - and come up with a plan to stick to your goal.
Feel too tired to go to the gym after work? After you imagine the obstacle, you can figure out what you can do to overcome it and make a plan. For example, you can switch to morning or lunchtime workouts or go straight to the gym instead of stopping at home first.