Before I get started on today’s post I’ll jut get this out of the way, yes, the image for this post is amazing. That right there is some hand done art! Amazing! Take a few minutes to absorb its glory and then begin reading the rest of this post.
Today I’m going to talk about one thing, motivation. Specifically the techniques I used to get myself to the gym and then once there how I got myself through my workouts. It’s crazy to think you’re going to want to work out all the times that you’re supposed to. There will be those “off” days, maybe they’ll be few and far between or maybe every Thursday will be a battle for you. The trick to getting into shape and leading a healthier life is to make sure those days you dont want to go to the them still turn into days that you made it to the gym and those work outs you’re thinking of cutting short are seen through to completion.
Before I get into this let me be clear, sometimes it is appropriate to not go to the gym when you’re supposed to be there. If you’re injured or your body just isnt feeling right, rest. Pushing yourself beyond your limits will only lead to you getting hurt and not being able to work out for a long time. There is a big difference between not wanting to work out cause you want to go home to watch TV and not wanting to work out because your muscles are really sore or you think you’ve pulled a muscle.
Wouldn’t it be nice if just the very satisfaction of getting in a good run was enough to keep you going to the gym 3-5 times a week? Maybe it is, as it’s a great reason to keep going. But for most people the novelty of working out regularly will wear off after about two weeks. Even the most dedicated person needs some motivation from time to time. I’m going to share how I kept myself going to the gym and then how I kept myself running those last few miles during each work out.
Going to the gym or getting outside to go for a run during the day could sometimes be a drag. What I found to be a great motivator was to attach an incentive to my workouts. For example, if a book came out that I really wanted to get/read I’d tell myself that I could get it as long as I worked out every day I was supposed to for the next two weeks. The incentives would be salable to size of the goal, so running a marathon had a reward attached to it which was something I really wanted. But then I also had little daily goals like if I worked out that day I would allow myself to play video games that night. This series of small/large rewards for different feats really helped in keeping me motivated. You just have to make sure and hold yourself accountable otherwise this technique really doesn’t work.
If you can find a workout buddy, even if you’re both doing totally different work outs and have separate goals. Having someone remind you that it’s time to head to the gym is a huge motivator as now the other person is adding to how accountable you are for your gym visits. It’s also fun to have someone to run/work out with so if you’re lucky enough to have a run club you can join or a friend that is around the same running skill level as you try to get your work out times coordinated, it’ll do wonders in making sure you attend regularly.
Write it down
Get a calendar, get a big red marker, hang up the calendar, and put a big red X on the days you work out. Your first X is the first link in a chain, each following X is another link in the chain. Your goal is to not break the chain. This technique really appealed to my OCD, I wanted to see perfect rows of red X’s.
Now I’ll talk about how I got myself to actually finish my runs. A lot of the time early on my run work outs were a 5k (a little over 3 miles) so I’ll talk about how I kept myself running when I was 2.4 miles in and really really wanting to just turn the treadmill off.
The Fraction Game
Maybe I’m weird but I found this really helpful. Setting the treadmill to 6 puts you at right around a 10 minute mile, so 3 miles is more or less exactly a half hour. So when I was running this distance at that speed I would do the math of how far I’d gone and how far I had left. So a minute in I’d say “okay only have to do that 29 more times” then 5 minutes in I’d says “only have to do that 5 more times” and then when I was a mile in I’d say “do that 2 more times and you’re done”. Breaking the run up into smaller more manageable portions not only kept my mind occupied while I did the math but made the run not seem so daunting.
Think of it like a hill
We’ll stick with the 30 minute run example. Something that helped me visualize my run positively was to think of my progression as a hill. Think of the first 15 minutes as you running to the peak of a hill, and the last 15 minutes of you running back down from the hill. Another thing I’d do is think of it as running to a point and then running back. Something about those first 15 minutes being a count up to 15 and the remaining being a count from 15 to 0 made the run not see so scary or long.
Occupy Your Mind
Listen to music. I wont get too into that one, it’s a popular technique and justly so. Listening to music that gets you pumped up really helps distract you from the task at hand. Another trick I found if I was in the gym and near a TV was to have the closed captioning on and trying my best to read along with the show. Reading the captions was enough to help me lose track of time and really help the run pass much faster. Other things I’d do were listen to the rhythm of my feet or the pace of my breathing, the idea hear is to find a way to keep your mind off of the running and let it go somewhere else.
Think about food
This works especially well if you’re running in the morning before breakfast or before any meal/snack for that matter. Keep telling yourself that as soon as you’re done you can sit down and enjoy a meal. During my marathon training I cannot tell you how many time eggs and coffee helped me get through the last 6 miles of my 18 mile long runs. The food is also going to be a lot more satisfying cause you just worked out like crazy, it’s win/win.
Ultimately you know yourself, you know what is going to keep you dedicated. Some of the techniques I listed may not work for you, maybe you’ve got a different trick that works. If you do post it here in the comments, lets help each other out here. Keeping motivated is one of the most important parts seeing the results you want from any work out plan.