As a personal trainer and general fitness enthusiast, I find myself being asked the same question over and over again. This question has cropped up again recently and seems to be one of the biggest hurdles most people have to overcome to get on the right path to becoming fitter and healthier. The big question that I have to answer time and time again is, “How do you motivate yourself?” This blog is all about telling you what motivates me and my tips on how to motivate yourself.

Personally I think the majority of people have the wrong mind set before starting a workout, which can ultimately be the main reason why they talk themselves out of going for that workout. Many people look at the negatives rather than the positives and it is easily done. I’ve heard excuses like “I haven’t got the time” or “I’m too tired” or my favourite, “I can always do it tomorrow” which as we all know can end up being the next day, or the day after that and sometimes just not doing it at all. The longer it’s put off, the harder it is to finally do it!

I believe many people think about how hard a workout will be or how much effort it will take and the more they think about it, the harder the workout becomes in their head and the less they want to do it. I’m a firm believer that whatever equipment or tools you have to help motivate you, you should use them! When I first started running longer distances I could hear two voices in my head, one telling me I’d had enough and just to stop and another telling me not to quit and to complete what I had set out to do. I found some runs very boring until I came across Nike+. Nike+ is my motivation tool! As I am such a competitive person, the Nike+ watch, sensor and website enables me to compete against people all around the world. The great thing about that is, there will always be some better than you, fitter than you, stronger than you, quicker than you etc and for me it keeps me wanting to improve and catch/beat the person in front of me, that has run 5 more miles than I have. When you find yourself chasing and improving it becomes addictive and the adrenalin and energy it gives you is like a drug… want it more and more.

The fact of the matter is, we all want to see results with the minimum possible input but I believe if you want to achieve in life you have to work hard to succeed. I have come up with a list of do’s and dont’s that might help you find motivation.

  • Do – Firstly, a big motivation tool is setting goals. Think of a goal which you see as a long term goal, such as, losing four stone in weight or running a marathon. Once you have a long term goal, think of some short term goals which will help you achieve your long term goal. These are like rungs of a ladder or stepping stones and are very important in breaking things down into smaller, manageable goals. This way you achieve results often, which will keep you going.
  • Don’t Don’t push yourself too hard to start with or set yourself impossible goals, as it’s very easy to give up when you feel like you’re not achieving anything or every workout is impossible. Build it up gradually and change your workouts regularly to keep them fun. If you enjoy them, you’ll continue to do them!
  • Do – We all love to see proof but some of us go overboard and it can be demoralising if things don’t happen as quick as you want. When weighing yourself, make sure you do it first thing in the morning and all the elements are the same, such as, with the same scales and on the same surface wearing the same amount of clothing.
  • Don’t – Weighing yourself once a week is enough, don’t get caught up in weighing yourself daily or every other day, your bodyweight can fluctuate daily depending on food and fluid intake.
  • Do – I like to take a photo log of my body every couple of months. This is a great way of seeing changes in body shape that you won’t notice from day to day. If you do this too often, changes won’t be so noticeable. Again remember to take the photo with the same lighting and in the same place etc.
  • Don’t – If you plan on having a workout after work, make sure you just go and do it as soon as you can. Don’t make the cardinal sin of sitting down on the sofa telling yourself you’ll go in half an hour because it more than likely won’t happen. Once your body is relaxed it is very difficult to find the drive to exercise. 
  • Do – Be positive and think about how you will feel when your workout has finished and the sense of achievement it will give you. You will feel more energised by exercising regularly and it will leave you with a buzz after a workout. Use this feeling as a way of lifting you when you need it. 
  • Don’t – Finally, don’t think about working out for too long beforehand as your mind has a tendency to try to talk you out of it, just make up your mind and go for it. Before you know it, it will be finished and you will be happy you chose to get up and make it happen.

Everyone is different with different personalities, so you have to find what drives you and use it. There is enough time to fit in a workout and all the other excuses can be pushed aside too…..only you can put in the hard work to make a difference.

What’s more of a motivator than seeing results from your own hard work?

 (Originally posted on Sunday, 30 January 2011)