fitness motivation

9 Helpful Exercise Motivation Tips

For most people, their main motivation for working out is to lose weight or to possess a fit looking body. Knowing that you’re improving your health, strengthening your bones, getting rid of stress, keeping your circulation and digestive system in good shape are also good reasons to keep exercising.

However, unless you find other reasons to stick with exercise, you risk becoming body obsessed. Here are a few helpful motivation tips that ensure that your fitness regime doesn’t become too body-focused.

Focus On How You Feel

Take away the emphasis on how your body looks during exercise, or as a result of it, and think about the way it feels to bend, stretch, reach and leap. Try focusing on the rhythm of the movement, the music or the choreography or action involved, rather than on whether you are jogging or whether your thighs are jiggling or whether your tummy is sticking out.

Don’t be discouraged if you fail to notice muscles firming up or kilos dropping off straight away. Remind yourself that positive changes are happening on the inside every time you work out, and be patient. Use your fitness program as a yardstick instead.

For example, when you started out, you could walk 1 mile (2.6 km) in 15 minutes. Now it takes you 13 minutes. Note down these improvements and congratulate yourself on them.

Have a Holistic View

Stop thinking of your body as a separate thing from the rest of you. It is the kind of thinking that makes you feel that the body is there to be ‘pushed into line’ and ‘kept under control.’ You are your body and your body is you and the many experiences that you have go far beyond the reflection that looks back at you in the mirror.

Research shows that female athletes have a greater level of body satisfaction than the average woman, and greater acceptance of different body shapes and sizes, and a better relationship with food. This is because they are so much more in tune with their bodies than the average woman.

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

While it is important to have an eagerness to progress and improve, but make sure that you use only your former self as the comparison – not friends, movie stars and elite athletes.

Like it or not, life isn’t a level playing field. Ok, so a woman you admire might have your idea of the perfect body, but that may be because she was born with a propensity to be lean and toned or strong and agile. It also may be because she has put in a huge amount of work to achieve that look.

Think of Jane Fonda, role model of so many women in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s with her super thin thighs, flat abs and sculpted arms. Only later did it emerge that she was battling bulimia nervosa and exercising obsessively each day to maintain that look.

Focus on Non-Body Benefits

Think of two or three of the benefits that exercise brings that are nothing to do with how your body looks. For example, it makes you think more clearly; it makes you feel invincible; it gives you time out from a stressful day. The idea is to stop seeing fitness purely as a way to get skinny.

Consider Food as Fuel

Think of food as fuel for your activity rather than as an enemy lurking in the fridge, waiting to make you fat. You will gain a better attitude toward eating if you see food as your friend, and you’re likely to make better food choices too.

Consider the Mental Benefits

The latest research suggests that exercise can help you think more clearly and make better decisions, as well as boosting memory, concentration and problem solving. Why does exercise help you to think more clearly?

Some experts believe it is to do with distraction theory, which means that being engrossed in your workout takes your mind off your stress and worries and allows you to see a solution more clearly.

Exercise also boosts blood flow to the brain, particularly the right hemisphere, which is associated with creativity and imagination. A study from the University of Illinois showed that 45 minutes of fast walking three times a week improved women’s ability to reason and made decisions, while a study from Nihon Fukushi University in Japan found that people scored consistently better on mental tests after taking up running.

Stuart Biddle, exercise psychology professor at Loughborough University says that repetitive, rhythmic activities such as swimming laps or treadmill running are best for cerebral benefits as they require little conscious thought.

To maximize your mental muscle:

* Plan ahead what you’re doing with your workout – for example, which machine you will use or what route you are running – then you won’t waste mental energy trying to decide.

* Decide what issues you want to resolve or contemplate before you begin your workout.

* Don’t go too hard or for too long.

* Focus on your breathing. Regular rhythmic breathing triggers a relaxation response in your body which can lull your mind into a light state of hypnosis.

Don’t tune out with TV and magazines but, if you want, use music to help you to stay focused.

Free Associate

There are two distinct ‘mental styles’ associated with exercise. If you are a ‘dissociator’, you are the kind of person who switches off from the experience. You think about what’s for tea, watch Cardio Theater or plan your presentation for work the next day. If on the other hand, you instinctively tune into the rhythm of your breathing, the sensation of your muscles moving and your heart pumping, you are an associator – someone who focuses internally and listens to their body’s feedback signals.

Researchers from San Diego State University found that novice exercisers exercised for longer when given a distraction than when told to focus on their body. However, the opposite appears to be true with experienced exercisers, who tend to do better when they focus internally.

Does it matter which style you are?

Not really, but you may find that switching strategies helps at times when you are struggling to carry on. For example, in a tough session, you could listen to music or chat to someone else (dissociate) to distract yourself from your discomfort or you could take your focus inside and visualize your muscles working, getting stronger and firmer (associate). It helps to tune in to your breathing to get into an associated state of mind.

Take it Outside

Increasingly, research is showing that exercising in a natural environment – be it the local park, woodland or beach – is more beneficial mentally than the man-made environment of the gym or indoor pool. Proponents of the ‘biophilia’ theory believe that this is because humans have an innate affinity with the natural world, which we are deprived of most of the time.

Treadmill runners experienced less of a rise in pleasure-seeking endorphins than outdoor runners, in a study from the University of Queensland, in Australia, while other research shows that there is an increase in negative ions in the outdoors (particularly in high places and by water) which are thought to energize us and make us feel more positive.

Why not try swapping your treadmill run for a muddy trail run, or getting off the exercise bike and giving mountain biking a go? There is also evidence that if you burn more calories on outdoor workouts, because of the constantly changing terrain, environment and lower air temperature.

Know When to Pull the Plug

While all of these motivational tips and tricks can help to keep you from falling off the workout wagon, it is worth saying that if you really don’t feel like exercising, or if you are in pain or discomfort, then you really should give your workout a miss. There’s no substitute for listening to your body, and the more of a regular exerciser you become, the more in tune you will be to determine whether you are shirking or are genuinely in need of a break.

Malcare WordPress Security