Many people struggle to maintain a regular and consistent exercise routine. Some people struggle with knowing exactly what to do, whereas others struggle with keeping up with consistent routine weeks and months and years on end.
It’s no surprise why: most of us are stressed out, have tons of obligations and commitments we must realize, and at the end of the day, if we have an hour to ourselves, few of us are inclined to spend that extra time exercising and instead opt for sleeping or vegging out.
The underlying cause of the struggle, in my estimation, is not necessarily motivation but a lack of systemic support. Human motivation waxes and wanes over time; it’s only natural.
Most of us can recall a time when we had the best of intentions to go after a big dream of ours — whether it’s finishing our first race, working hard on a project at work to get a coveted promotion or any number of other dreams — but then we eventually burn out and abandon our goals.
Without a doubt, sometimes our motivation falters because we begin to lose interest and we pivot to something else. However, for many of us, we falter on our goals and routines — specifically related to exercise — because we don’t create the right systems to support our dreams.
Below, I’ll describe in more detail some tips to help jumpstart your motivation and to help get you back on track for pursuing your exercise goals, be they to run your first race, lift a certain amount of weight, or simply go to the gym a specific number of times each week.
Tip 1: Prioritize
As I mentioned before, it can be hard to get going in an exercise routine when you feel like you’re being pulled in many different directions, between work obligations, familial commitments, caring for aging parents, completing schoolwork, and a host of anything else. You may wonder when you could possibly it in an exercise routine.
The bottom line? If it’s important to you — if it matters to you — you’ll find the time, somehow, someway. It won’t be easy, but treating your routine as something that’s a priority to you, an obligation, will allow you to assign weight to it.
Tip 2: Articulate how it makes you feel
Exercise is one of those things where it seems like the laws of entropy make it never appear to be in our favor. It’s easier to not exercise, to veg out on the couch, than it is to get up, get going, and get moving. We’re all human; we all feel that way, even the most regular exercisers amongst us.
Take some time to write down how you feel when you exercise or better yet, how you feel after you exercise. In doing so, you will probably realize that you usually feel great after the fact. Put this written reminder somewhere prominent so when you’re lacking in motivation or interest to get up and get moving, you’ll be reminded of how much better you’ll feel for doing so.
Tip 3: Goal-set like a champ
There is so much out there written about goal-setting — be they athletic goals, career goals, financial goals, and a whole host of others — and sometimes having a goal in place can help you get out of the rut.
You can read online elsewhere all about how to properly set an effective goal, but remember to set one that’s both challenging and feasible and — more than anything — exciting to you. Having a goal that you want to chip away at, day in and day out can help get you out the door.
Tip 4: Create some systems
There will surely come a time when, despite your best intentions, and your well-articulated goals and feelings, you’ll simply not want to do it. Here’s where having a system in place will pay dividends, particularly when your motivation is tanking.
As you begin (or resume) your exercise routine, create systems and put them into place, that helps you eliminate the mental faltering and guesswork. Remove doubt from the situation. This could mean always running at the same time each day; always lying out your exercise clothing each night; or agreeing to always meet up with an exercise (read: accountability!) partner during the week for your lifting sessions.
Some people find that working with a coach can be especially helpful in this regard because chances are that you’re paying for the coaching services and that you’ll have to report back each day or week about your progress. More than anything, having structures and systems in place to help keep you accountable can sometimes be the difference between flaking out and actually following through on your exercise goals and commitments.
Tip 5: Make it meaningful
Finally, sometimes the best way to kickstart your motivation is by making your goal not about you. There are many options out there, available for all types of different sports and activities, that can allow you to connect your exercise efforts and endeavors to service.
Perhaps you want to run a marathon to raise money for Parkinson’s disease, or maybe you want to tackle an Ironman distance triathlon to help raise awareness for a rare cancer advocacy and research organization. It doesn’t have to be an enormous endeavor like a marathon or an Ironman; it can simply be showing up to your local gym on a specified day to participate in some type of exercise “challenge” that will benefit a local organization.
In the days, weeks, and months leading up to your event day, you may find that you’ll be more likely to be accountable to yourself and your goals because you’ll want to fulfill your commitment and promise. There are literally people in the world who are so sick or endangered and who would give anything to be able to do whatever it is you’re doing; don’t squander your opportunity simply because you don’t feel like. A little perspective can go a long way, and participating in charity athletic endeavors can give you that much-needed perspective.
It’s totally normal for our motivation to wane from time to time, but it’s also important that we get on track and that we stay in control of our health. There are so many reasons that regular exercise benefits our physical and mental health, yet it’s very hard for so many people to get started and stay consistent. It’s my hope that my aforementioned tips will help get you out of your ruts with your routine and that it’ll help jumpstart your motivation.
To your health and good fortune!