It’s that time again … the last eight weeks of the year (known as “The Holidays”) where Thanksgiving (filled with turkey, pumpkin pie, and football parties), the Black Friday shopping frenzy and high-calorie holiday parties lead up to lofty New Year’s resolutions. Without fail, most of us look back on the year that just passed, and look hopefully to the year ahead as a way to right past wrongs (when it comes to pounds and inches gained).
Motivation, when it comes to adhering to any exercise program, is extremely important. Most people would agree that exercise isn’t fun, involves a lot of hard work, and (if you are consistent) you won’t see visible results for at least 8 weeks (and your friends won’t notice until 12 weeks).
Motivation is the psychological incentive or reason for doing something, which can be hard to understand because we can’t touch it or see it. That’s most likely why it’s hard to maintain it when we are working hard towards a fitness goal. To break it down (and keep things simple), motivation can originate from oneself (intrinsic or internal factors) or from other people (extrinsic or external factors).
Internal, or intrinsic, motivation is driven by an interest or enjoyment in the task itself. It exists within the individual rather than relying on any external pressure. Intrinsic motivation is based on taking pleasure in an activity rather than working towards an external reward. Examples of intrinsic motivation, as it relates to exercise and physical activity, includes positive feelings that results from:
- Completing a hard workout
- Reaching a new fitness goal
- The “adrenalin rush” after a long run
- Achieving a new “personal best” time or weight
- Knowing you gave everything you had in your workout (with no regrets)
External, or extrinsic, motivation comes from outside of the individual. People are motivated to take action in an effort to earn a reward (i.e., money, prizes, material things) or avoid punishment. Examples of extrinsic motivation, as it relates to exercise and physical activity, includes:
- Rewarding yourself with a shopping spree when you lose ten pounds
- Showing up at the gym every day to impress someone you’re attracted to (who is also there at the same time)
- Joining the company running team to fit in with your colleagues
- Starting an exercise program because your doctor said you are at high risk of type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease
Fitness Motivation for Long Term Success
Motivation isn’t always hard. It’s actually “easy” when someone else is doing the motivating for you (i.e., personal trainers and workout partners) while you are exercising. For the rest of the time we are on our own trying to stay positive and focused on reaching a fitness goal, motivation is “elusive” and hard to maintain for the long term. Below are encouraging messages and motivational tips to help you stay on track during the tough holiday months.
Take it one day at a time.
Looking too far into the future can be dangerous. Looking too far ahead at what is not yet a reality can set unrealistic expectations that can create frustration that can get in the way of your long term success.
Surround yourself with positivity.
When you surround yourselves with positive people, positive talking, and positive thoughts, you can accomplish great things! Not only is a positive attitude uplifting, it attracts great things to great people. Positivity acts like fuel to the efforts that go towards your goals. Surround yourself with positive and supporting people and build your library of positive thoughts and affirmations. They are ammunition against “giving up” on your fitness goals!
Create a vision board.
A vision board is a tool used to help clarify, concentrate and maintain focus on a specific goal. It is any sort of board (physical or electronic) where you display images that represent whatever you want to be, do, or have in your life. These are powerful tools that effectively help you to:
- Identify your overall vision and give it clarity
- Reinforce your daily affirmations (and positive thoughts about yourself)
- Keep your attention on your intentions and promises you keep to yourself
Make S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound) goals.
The latest research indicates that the simple act of setting goals improves our experience and our performance. It also shows that we are happier when we are progressing towards our goals. Setting goals helps us focus on what we want. Outlining SMART goals, more effective goals, is the best way to ensure success!
When you achieve something great (even when you achieve something small) feel free to reward yourself! It doesn’t have to be anything big or significant, but you have to do something that celebrates your achievements. You need to remember what victories you’ve made along the journey to motivate you to continue to the next “check point”.
Believe in yourself.
If you don’t believe in yourself (and your ability to succeed), you’re likely to have a very poor self-image and thus low self-esteem. Imagine trying to reach a fitness goal if you feel horrible about yourself. You end up with less desire to improve, don’t have that die-hard motivation required to make the necessary lifestyle changes for long term success. By knowing that nobody is perfect (and truly believing it), you can focus on yourself, and know without a doubt that you deserve unconditional self-acceptance, self-respect, and self-love. Learning to rely on yourself and believing you are capable of achieving your goals will make a huge difference with any challenge you take on.
Acknowledge your positive attributes.
For the most part, we are all “our own worst critics”. It’s really easy to point out negative attributes. Highlighting your positive attributes and characteristics can be really hard. You might not have trouble recalling positive qualities, but you may feel uncomfortable thinking about, talking about, or writing about the positive qualities you have. You might consider it as conceited, arrogant, or stuck up to think about such things. Regardless, in order to promote a balanced evaluation of yourself, it’s okay to notice and acknowledge your positive aspects, and to behave like someone who has positive qualities and who is deserving of happiness and joy.
Recognize your progress.
Recognizing your achievements will ensure you get a chance to celebrate what you accomplish along the way and helps you maintain a positive attitude. When you take on a lofty goal, that is destined to take several months to complete, it is very hard to stay positive knowing the end result is so far away. Identifying forward movement and progress is motivating and reassuring each step of the way.
Visualize accomplishing your goals.
Before you can believe in a goal (and that you can truly achieve it), you first need to have an idea of what it looks like. Visualization, a technique for creating a mental image of a future event, is incredibly powerful in staying motivated and pushing someone to reach their goal. When you visualize your desired outcome, you begin to “see” the possibility of achieving it. Through visualization, you can catch a glimpse of what is your “destined future”. When this happens, you are even more motivated to pursue your fitness goal.
Be kind to yourself.
When you pursue a fitness goal, many of you will put a lot of pressure on yourself to be “perfect” and are harsh judges every step of the way. This only adds more stress and negative consequences that make reaching your goal virtually impossible. To maintain a positive attitude, be kind to yourself. The ultimate kindness is to say, “It’s okay to be exactly as I am right now.” Whatever you’re doing, whatever you’re feeling, whatever results you’re getting – none of it matters. Remember, you won’t create change with force. You’ll create change with love and acceptance. That means being kind to yourself about where you are right now, but knowing you will reach your goal with persistence over time.
Don’t compare yourself to others.
At some point (whether you like to admit it or not), you compare yourselves to others and gauge where you are based on what you observe them doing. The thing about comparison is that there is never a winning scenario. How often do you compare yourself with someone less fortunate and consider yourself blessed? More often, you compare yourself with someone who you perceive as being, having, or doing more. This just leaves you coming up short. Ultimately, you want to know where you fit into the scheme of things and how you measure up. Instead, simply redirect the comparison to your past and a present self and measure your own progress over time (i.e., weight lost, inches lost, strength gained, etc.).
Regardless of your fitness goals, you can still enjoy the holiday season with family and friends, while still working towards becoming the best version of “you” in the New Year! Work hard, stay focused, and choose wisely!!