To people who want to exercise, but can”t seem to find the motivation...
When you haul yourself out of bed to jog around the park, do you curse the dark mornings and think about
your aches and pains? Or do you slip into the sunrise and feel good about cranking your body into gear?
Although researchers know that 5 out of every 10 people starting an exercise program quit during the first
six months, they’re not sure exactly why. Now, a recent study has shown that your belief about the benefits
of regular exercise have a big impact on whether or not you’ll still be visiting the gym in six months time.
Joanne Schneider, Ph.D., questioned 364 women over 55 after they finished exercising. She found that
those who believed in the health benefits of working out tended to exercise more often, more intensely or
for longer periods than those with negative beliefs.
“It appears that if you can interpret your experience positively, you will want to exercise more,” Schneider
Scouring shopping malls and senior centers in Kansas City and Wichita, Schneider found 364 women
between the ages of 55 and 90 who attended an exercise session of their choice. She gave each woman
several questionnaires to complete after the exercise session was over.
One set of questionnaires measured exercise behavior — the number of times the women had exercised
during a seven-day period, how hard they had worked and for how long. They were also asked to provide
information about their beliefs in the benefits of exercise.
When Schneider analyzed the responses, she found that those who believed in the physical or psychological
benefits of exercise were those who exercised more often, more intensely or for longer periods.
So, to make exercise a habit, you have to literally sell yourself on the benefits. Think about it for a moment.
Everything that you and I do, we do for one of two reasons.
• Not doing it will make you feel bad.
• Doing it will make you feel good.
If you’ve ever started an exercise and diet program, then quit before you achieved what you set out to,
there’s really only one reason why. At some level, your brain associated some kind of emotional pain to the
idea of exercise. And this pain was greater than the pleasure you derived from the experience.
Of course, when I use the term “pain”, I’m not referring to physical pain. Maybe it was just the pain of
taking time out of your busy schedule.
Of course, most people don’t like to admit this. They’ll try to rationalize (a rational lie) that they don’t have
the time to exercise. But the fact is, there are always TWO reasons behind any decision — the real reason,
and the one that sounds good! When people say they don’t have the time, they’re often hiding the fact that
their expectations were not met. The time and effort they invested in their exercise and nutrition program
were not matched by any kind of tangible benefit.
And if you don’t perceive any benefit in what you’re doing, you won’t do it anymore! If you associate
exercise with a lot of “bad feelings”— which is often the case for people who hated exercise at school —
then trying to stick with an exercise program for any length of time is going to be almost impossible.
Here’s what to do.
Come up with as many reasons why sticking to a regular exercise and nutrition program is an absolute
MUST. Not a should, or a might, but a MUST. Create a vivid picture in your mind of how you’re going to look
and feel 12 months from now after working out and eating right each and every day.
How will you feel hearing compliments from friends and family about how great you look?
Ask yourself how great it would feel to wake up one morning, step on the scales, and see that you’ve
achieved your target weight?
Imagine what it would be like to reveal a six-pack stomach that has complete strangers desperate to
know, “what do I do to get a body like yours?”
Then, consider what it’s going to cost you over the next 5, 10 or 20 years if you DON’T exercise. Think in
terms of your health. Your energy levels. Your physical appearance. Don’t just think these things. Write
them down. Once you commit an idea or thought to paper, it takes on a life of its own. You make it
Whatever you do, don’t put this off and decide that you’re going to “start fresh” next week... or next
month... or next year. After all, if you wait for the river to run out before you cross, you’ll be waiting for a
Schneider, J.K. (1997). Self-regulation and exercise behavior in older women. Journals of Gerontology, 52,
Taken from Smart Guide to Getting Strong & Fit, Carole Bodger
“The rewards of reaching a goal and seeing your fitness efforts produce results provide powerful
motivation that can spur you on to even greater progress. Eventually, you establish a routine that
works for you and becomes part of your life. In short, once you understand how to do it and get
in the habit of doing it, your success encourages you to continue doing more.
Yet many of us throw in the proverbial towel before reaching that stage. 60% of the people who
start out drop out before that point where they’ve gained some benefits and gain that intrinsic
reward. And when you get that reward depends on your fitness level at the start, your age, your
body type and many other factors. To keep fit means keeping at it. No matter how good any
program is, it’s no good at all if you give up.
Here are some suggestions to help you stay motivated:
GO PUBLIC: Announce your intentions, and successes out loud. People who care bout you will
be encouraging, and those who don’t are likely not the sort of positive influences you want in your
life. Friends, family, coworkers will ask you about your progress as you go along; some might
even offer useful hints they’ve found helpful in their own lives.
PROCEED SLOWLY BUT SURELY: Don’t overdo it. You can hurt yourself physically and
frustrate yourself mentally. If you body isn’t used to strenuous movement, or many any
movement at all, the impact of starting out full throttle can be damaging. Start with small changes
in your activity level throughout the day.
ENJOY YOURSELF: Doing what you like to do proves the best motivation of all. Work out your
muscles in a way that isn’t torture. Taking a walk can provide more interesting scenery than
you’d get while tallying your miles on a treadmill.
DON’T GO IT ALONE: Enlist a friend. Not only will you gain the pleasures of companionship,
and the boon of sharing progress with each other along the way, but by making a commitment to
another person, you can bolster your commitment to yourself.
CHOOSE YOUR SURROUNDINGS: Don’t work out in a place you hate to be – whether that
means the gym, your dusty basement, or a track in a dangerous part of town. What’s appealing
to someone who enjoys the social aspects of a gym might mortify another who prefers a more
FORGET THE FAST RESULTS: At the start, after establishing your baseline measurements,
don’t even look at a scale or tape measure. You might be disappointed, and less likely to go on.
Fitness takes time. Give yourself a lot of it.
DON’T COMPARE YOUR PROGRESS WITH THAT OF OTHERS: Even on identical fitness
programs, different people get different results. Some start out strong and plateau. Some
maintain a gradual pace all along. Others seem to have nothing happen and then suddenly make
a major leap. Those who start out with a lot more to accomplish will also be more likely to see
results faster, simply because there’s that much more to do. Many factors are at work: your diet,
health status, medications, your state of mind. Keep a personal log to measure your own
progress against your own starting point.
STAY ENTERTAINED: Invest in a portable radio or CD player, or small TV. Working out should
be fun and relaxing; boredom and drudgery are not part of the plan. Find good music with a
SCHEDULE WISELY: The time at which you exercise, as well as the days you choose to do so,
can make a difference. Don’t plan to work out when you’re exhausted after the office, or when it’s
the only time that you and your non-exercising spouse have to yourselves. But do allocate time
in a regular basis – consider it an appointment with yourself.
REWARD YOURSELF: Set moderate, measurable, attainable short-term goals and reward
yourself when you reach them, with a new outfit, tickets to a concert or even or a day at the spa.
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF: Believe you can succeed. If you think you can, chances are you will.
WHAT MATTERS & WHAT DOESN’T
That you do something
That you enjoy yourself
That your fitness program “fits” you
That you make gradual progress
That your decisions are based on credible sources of information
Workout out every day of the week
What your neighbor is doing
Immediately visible results
Celebrity endorsements and promotions
THE BOTTOM LINE
Being physically fit is not an absolute or all-or-nothing proposition, but a personally defined and
constantly evolving state of health. The 3 main components: cardiovascular fitness,
musculoskeletal fitness, and body composition – each contribute to our overall well-being, and
combined with proper diet, rest and emotional nourishment, account for a better quality of life. By
increasing daily activity by even moderate amounts, most men & women can decrease the risk of
life-threatening disease, reduce stress levels, and attain a broad range of other benefits. If we set
realistic, achievable goals appropriate to our individual needs, desires, and abilities, physical
fitness is within our reach
WHAT TO EXPECT
EVOLUTION: Your fitness routine isn’t static. Think of your body as a sculpture. The first
few months you’re knocking away huge hunks of stone, then comes the fine-tuning and
detail work. As you go along, evaluate, appraise, and refine to reflect your changing goals
IMPATIENCE: Nothing happens overnight. Waiting for results can be frustrating, but over-
exuberance is dangerous. Losing weight, increasing strength – it all takes time.
ACHES & PAINS: Especially for the previously inactive, microscopic tears in newly
stretched muscles can cause next-day soreness and tightness. A proper warm-up and cool-
down can minimize the damage and the pain. Discomfort that persists or incapacitates you
is a warning sign that you’re doing too much or doing it improperly.”