Friday, July 4, 2014

How to push yourself like a pro

What motivates you?

 A picture of someone who is fit - a body shape to aspire to?             

Or perhaps someone exercising in a beautiful place?       


Or maybe it's words that may inspire you to workout.

I believe that motivation and inspiration can and should be found in many different forms.

People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing, that's why we recommend it daily. - Zig Ziglar

This is one of my favourite quotes. Motivation is something I feel I'm pretty good at - both for myself and motivating others, but it is still something I struggle with and am working on constantly.  I find motivation in so many different places, but find I cannot rely on one source entirely.   

Daily routine motivation

For a while I was putting daily motivational quotes on my Facebook page. Each morning I'd look for one that fitted with how I was feeling and my goals for the day. For a while it worked a treat, but then it started to become routine, and honestly sometimes a bit of a chore. I started to just pick random quotes just because that's what I did every day. I stopped doing it for the right reasons and it meant nothing. I sometimes barely read the quotes. This can also be reflected in workouts. If you're doing the same thing day in day out, it will after a while become routine, boring and won't be doing you as much good. To keep your motivation up, you need variety.  

Variety is the spice of life

Setting different short term goals each month for example can help keep you motivated.  Perhaps one month you may be aiming to lose weight, another to get a faster time for a run, or another to try a new workout programme.  I find doing different things helps keep my motivation up. Both setting the targets and goals, and also having a defined end to my workout plan- whether it be one month or three. There is a sense of satisfaction in completing it - seeing the days checked off the plan. Then a week of recovery afterwards to plan and anticipate the next challenge and programme.  

Motivation is what gets you started, habit is what keeps you going - Jim Rohn

So it's all very well to get yourself motivated, have your goals set and your plan worked out, but once you've got past the initial excitement and drive, then how to you keep going? In a workout, what motivates me to keep going is that I said I would do it. I've found that having a timetable or plan to work through is what really helps me. If it's written down or printed on a piece of paper, then I have to do it and tick it off, otherwise that blank space would haunt me, and the guilt would be awful. I would feel I'd let myself down. Once I've got my plan, I make it part of my daily routine. Find a time where you know you can fit it in - whether that means getting up early before work, going out at lunch time for a run, or working out in the evening. Once you schedule it in, you make it part of your day, and not something you have to find time for. Wanting to set a good example for my kids also keeps me going. I feel I can't berate them if they're feeling too lazy for their sports practice, unless I show that I stick to my own exercise plans. I may not have team mates to show up for, but I want to show by example how important it is to follow through with your plans and schedules - for your own piece of mind.  

I can't

I like my comfort zone. Working from home means I have to be self disciplined and motivated to get things done, to organise my time, and not give in to the temptation to sit on the couch and take a break, or just read another couple of chapters of that great book I'm reading just now, or even take a cooling dip in the inviting swimming pool calling to me from our back yard. It's the same when I exercise, I have to push myself mentally all the time. 

When it comes to a hard part on one of my DVD workouts - like  sets of 16 push ups and mountain climbers, I know it's coming, and try to prepare myself mentally.  When my muscles begin to struggle and shake and my natural instinct is to stop because it hurts, what keeps me going is that I've done it lots of times before, so the excuse in my head that is trying to say, "I can't" just doesn't stand up, because I know I can. 

 I think one of the commonest excuses in exercise is "I can't".  I know, I've used it a lot. However, the more times I have said "I can't" but subsequently found that "I can", the easier it becomes to overcome this excuse the next time. 

 For me personally, a huge step forward in getting over the excuse of "I can't" came during the birth of my eldest daughter.  Now whether or not you've experienced childbirth yourself, it is accepted that it is a painful experience.  I remember reaching the stage with the pain that my brain said, "I can't". Now I was well into labour, and there was no stopping. I was too far along for any major painkillers, so had to suck it up and get on with it. It wasn't a matter of self-discipline or pushing myself, I simply had no choice and had to do it! And of course I did. So sometimes now when I'm feeling the pain in a hard workout, run or climb, I flip my mind back to that moment when I really, truly thought "I can't", and I realise that what I'm feeling is nothing compared to that day, and what I found I could do. For me this works. Do you have a similar experience or point in time that you can draw on?    

Motivation to stop

So motivating yourself to get up and do something is one thing - I think I'm pretty good at that. However, for food, it's a different kind of motivation - not to push myself to do something, but instead I have to STOP myself from eating. I truly LOVE eating and when I'm exercising, I often think about what I'm going to drink and eat afterwards and looking forward to that helps me keep going, great - a form of motivation! BUT, I know I eat portions that are a little too big, and rather too many treats and sweet foods. I love cooking and baking and am sadly not so disciplined when it comes to snacking and trying the food as it's being prepared. 

 It's a constant battle with my mind. I exercise a lot and do get very hungry. I've always had the viewpoint that if I do a really hard workout, then I can treat myself to some 'bad food': coke and chips, chocolate and cakes.  But I do tend to overindulge in these treats, and the fitter I become, the more I notice the  negative effects of  not eating sensibly and healthily. I've never been one to watch my weight, although looking at photos of myself at certain stages of my life perhaps I should have!  

So what now?

I feel like I've learnt a lot about motivating myself to exercise over the past few years, and have reached a stage that I'm reasonably fit and enjoying exploring a variety of exercise and fitness options. Now my big challenge is to motivate myself to eat better, which I believe will in turn have a positive effect on my fitness.

 I think sometimes it's easier to motivate yourself when you've reached an extreme. If you've reached the stage that you're very overweight, or perhaps a health scare makes you reassess your eating and lifestyle habits. I have never been very overweight nor particularly unhealthy, but still feel that I need to make changes. What is important is your own feelings about yourself.  When I look back at some photos of me, I see clearly where I want my body to be, and that motivates me to workout and watch what I eat.  
Having kids also motivates me to lead a healthy and active lifestyle to teach them and lead by example.   What motivates you to take care of your body and your health? Do you have any tips to share on how to motivate yourself to either do something or stop doing something? What has worked for you?

 Photo Credit: mark shaiken : : photography via Compfight cc Photo Credit: h.koppdelaney via Compfight cc

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