Staying motivated can be tough, especially when you’ve got lots going on in your life outside the gym, but it’s important to keep focused on the physical and mental gains you’ll get from exercise. Plus, it’ll be much easier to tick off the rest of your to-do list once you’ve cleared your head on the treadmill. Here are some strategies to help keep that determination alive.
Motivational psychologist Professor Stuart Biddle says there’s a solution to keeping focused. Or rather, a number of solutions. It’s all about finding the right kind of motivation to get to the gym. Unsurprisingly, you’re much more likely to accomplish your exercise goals if you’re motivated by a personal desire to achieve, rather than by guilt, or a feeling that you should exercise.
Humans are complicated creatures, and there are three things we need to feel before we can achieve this kind of motivation. You have the choice. We need to feel like we have control over our choices and actions. Luckily, this is easy to achieve, as all you need to do is set yourself a plan of action and decide:
- When will you exercise – today/this week?
- Where will you exercise – gym/home?
- How will you exercise – classes/weights/cardio/running?
Write these down in a plan, and then imagine yourself at the gym or on your running track: see yourself in action. Finish by imagining the benefits and the post-exercise ‘feel-good effect’. You’re making a difference. We need to feel like our efforts in the gym are effective, and that we’re seeing and feeling the rewards of our behaviour.
A great way to achieve this is by making sure you track your results in the gym so you can see how your training is helping you go further. You’re not alone. We like to feel that we belong, and are connected to other people. Simple – head to the gym, join a class or sign up to a local event. It’s always better to work out surrounded by other people, whether you’re with friends or just in a busy gym.
Meet the expert: Professor Stuart Biddle
Stuart Biddle is Professor of Active Living & Public Health at the Institute of Sport, Exercise & Active Living at Victoria University, Melbourne. His areas of expertise include the psychology of physical activity and psychological well-being. @stuart_biddle