Advertising
Advertising

4 Scientifically Proven Ways to Get Workout Motivation

4 Scientifically Proven Ways to Get Workout Motivation

A large number of people who exercise casually would love to engage in it more often, but they have a hard time finding proper motivation so as to make physical exercise an integral part of their daily routine.

Contrary to what you might think, there aren’t any popular or well-known ways of getting used to the fitness lifestyle, at least not to the point where you would say something like, “I can’t meet you for brunch now. I have to complete my run first.” They say you must “want it” really bad. Or that you must engage in an activity for 21 days in a row before you become really accustomed to it. But nobody tells you what to do on the 30th day when the winter’s cold is biting outside, and you’d give anything to cancel your run and stay under the covers for a couple of hours more.

Fitness Motivation Made Simple

Luckily, psychologists and economists have long tried to decipher the code behind the reasons that make us do certain things against our will, over and over again. Here’s what they’ve come up with.

1. Reward Yourself  

For some people, dubious goals such as “improved health” or “weight control” might work, but if you are not one of them, journalist Charles Duhigg, writer of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business suggests making the benefits of exercise more concrete; for example, like treating yourself to a smoothie or watching an episode of your favorite TV show afterwards.

Advertising

“An external reward has such a strong effect because your mind can grasp it and make the association that the act is worthwhile.”

He explains how to create a neurological “habit loop,” which entails a cue to stimulate the act (placing your running shoes by your bag), the act itself (complete a running session) and then the reward. “An external reward has such a strong effect because your mind can grasp it and make the association that the act is worthwhile,” he says. “It makes it more likely that the act becomes a routine.”

As the time passes, the motivation becomes internal, because the brain starts relating pain and sweat with the release of endorphins – those chemicals that are endogenously produced in the brain and are responsible for that feel-good sensation you have after a great workout. After showing your brain that the real reward is exercise itself, you won’t even crave for the external reward.

2. Commit In The Presence Of Others

While making self-promises is something we do every day, it has been shown that the odds of following through on commitments are much higher if we do so in front of friends.

Advertising

You can even raise the stakes a bit more, by signing a pact where you pledge to pay a friend $20 every time you miss a session of Pilates. “It’s the simple idea of increasing the costs,” says Jeremy Goldhaber-Fiebert, PhD, who is an assistant professor of medicine at Stanford University, an expert in the field of health decision. “I pledge to engage in an activity for a specific amount of time, such as completing three 30-minute workouts weekly, for three months. If I fail to keep that promise, I am penalized, either with money or with the embarrassment of having everyone I know watch me failing to honor my word.”

Goldhaber-Fiebert et al. conducted studies of people who created contracts online, and found that the ones who signed the longest contracts ultimately exercised more than their shorter-committed counterparts.  “We have to overcome the first unpleasant feelings to realize the benefits that come in the long-term,” he says. “The hard part is to devise instruments to help make it a reality.”

Another example of really committing in front of others, even if they’re not there, is to join a virtual group of like-minded enthusiasts. While this isn’t a new idea, there are a few twists on it that have combined social media, technology, and real time streaming to really take it to the next level. For instance, my friends are all part of a closed Facebook group called ‘The Biggest Loser’ not unlike the popular TV show. Each day all my lady friends weigh in, update their points, and take snapshots of their progress. It’s a great motivator.

3. Re-imagine Positive Attitude

Supporters of positive attitude have long advocated for the visualization of the benefits that result from a certain attitude as a strategy that gives incentive.  For instance, when I am debating with myself if I should leave my warm bed to go for a run in the morning, imagining the sun’s light on my face is really helpful. Or the feeling I will derive from admiring my new muscle gains.

Advertising

“When you visualize the obstacle, you can decide how to run past it and plan accordingly.”

However, these positive-feeling visualizations are only effective when you accompany them with more realistic problem-solving techniques. At least this is what Gabriele Oettingen, PhD, a psychologist at NYU and the writer of Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation maintains.

This is what you have to do: After zeroing in on your desire and picturing the result, you have to figure out what’s stopping you – a method called “mental contrasting.” In a study of fifty-one female students who stated they wished to eat less junk food, the participants were requested to imagine the benefits of opting for healthier snacks. The ones who could figure out the factor which prevented them from snacking on healthy food –and could devise a method of eating fruit to quench their craving- had the most success in remaining focused on their goal.

Are you too exhausted to hit the gym after work? Visualize the obstacle, and discover a way to run past it and devise a plan”, says Oettingen. For instance, you can try working out in the morning or during lunchtime, or hit the gym directly after work, avoiding passing out at home first.

Advertising

4. Get Paid

Still having trouble? Maybe you should resort to hard, cold cash. Research investigating financial incentives and exercise showed that people who were compensated with $100 to hit the gym had 100% higher attendance rate. “All you need is have people to continue doing an activity, and compensating them for it was effective,” explains Gary Charness, PhD, a behavioral economist at the University of California at Santa Barbara and study author.

If you don’t have access to generous donors, you can take a look at the likes of Pact, an app in which a network of users will actually pay you to follow your schedule. If you fail to do so, you authorize the app to charge your PayPal account or credit card. When you hit your target, you get paid out of a common pot financed by yourself and other pact-breakers.

Regardless of the way you used to get there, when the day comes that skipping your workout is simply out of the question, you’ll know you succeeded. Name it an escape, pleasure or addiction. However, what counts is that it has become a regular habit, with a purpose to serve you and only you.

Featured photo credit: Nicholas_T/imcreator via imcreator.com

More by this author

Who’s at the Wheel? Technology Causing Distracted Driving and Other Stories of Multi-Tasking Is Your Website Costing You Sales? Staying Afloat: Why Kids Should Learn to Swim If You’re a Burned Out Entrepreneur There’s a Solution Common Signs and Symptoms of Depression in Parents

Trending in Exercise

1 8 Yoga Poses to Help You Achieve Strong and Toned Inner Thighs 2 5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly) 3 3 Home Exercises To Fix Your Rounded Shoulders In One Month 4 Workout Every Day: Thursday Music Playlist 5 Cut down on drinking! Time for a post-holiday detox

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Published on July 18, 2019

11 Best Core Strengthening Exercises to Do At Home

11 Best Core Strengthening Exercises to Do At Home

No matter where you are in your fitness journey, chances are you wouldn’t mind a little more definition in your midsection.

Whether you have a six pack or a beer belly, those abs could probably be a little bit sharper. Not to mention developing better core strength is hugely important when it comes to improving your overall strength and athleticism, as well as protecting you from injuries.[1]

The good news? Your abs and core muscles can handle a lot of training.

While most of your muscle groups do best with just two training sessions per week,[2] you can hit your abs every other day to great effect. You don’t even have to leave the house!

Here’s my guide to the 11 best core strengthening exercises you can do at home with no equipment.

1. Planks

Let’s start with the mother of all core-strengtheners, the plank.

Planks not only work your abs and obliques, they challenge those core muscles deep inside your body that help promote stability and power. They can also reduce back pain and improve your balance and posture.

Get down into pushup position, feet behind you, hands under your shoulders. Lock out your arms and legs, squeeze your core muscles, and hold your body stiff (like a plank!) for as long as you can.

For a more challenging variation, try a forearm plank with your arms out in front you. Lay your forearms on the ground for support, with your elbows under your face rather than aligned with your shoulders.

2. Side Planks

To hit your obliques even harder, try this challenging variation: the side plank.

From plank position, rotate onto one side. Prop yourself up on your elbow and one foot with your body straight and stiff.

Don’t forget to squeeze your core as you hold this position for as long as you can.

Advertising

Switch sides and repeat to avoid creating muscle imbalances.

3. Reverse Crunches

The regular stomach crunch is a fine exercise, but when it comes to abs and core strength, you’ll want to opt for moves that are a lot more challenging.

When you can crank out 50 crunches without a problem, it’s probably time for something new.

The reverse crunch packs a wallop for your lower abs and can be done anywhere, anytime, just like the standard crunch.

Lay on your back with knees bent in crunch position. Place your hands flat on the ground by your side and lift your pelvis, bringing your knees up toward your face, then back down again.

Engage your lower ab muscles to do the work, not your back. Repeat for a few sets of 12-20 reps.

4. Flutter Kicks

The lower abs are a problem area for a lot of people, so we’ll want to work them hard.

If that sounds like you, flutter kicks are just what the doctor ordered.

Lay flat on your back in leg raise position, hands at your sides or pressed into the floor. Raise your legs together about 6 inches off the floor, then alternate lowering one and raising one a few inches in rapid succession.

It should look like you’re kicking the air, and it should give you quite a burn in your abdominal area.

5. Arms High Sit-Ups

Imagine a crunch, but way harder!

Lay down on the ground in sit-up position, knees bent, feet flat on the floor in front of you.

Advertising

Raise your arms up to the sky and keep them elevated as you perform a few sets of sit-ups.

Engaging your arms in this way makes the move extraordinarily difficult and taxing. You’ll get a lot more mileage out of this move versus traditional crunches.

6. L-Sits

The L-Sit is outrageously difficult to perform well, but if you can build your strength here, the benefits are phenomenal.

To perform an L-Sit, you’ll need a stable surface to press off of. You can do them on the floor, but it’s a little easier if you can elevate yourself on a pair of dumbbells, two sturdy chairs, or a similar apparatus.

Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Lock your arms in place at your sides, palms on the ground or surface, and press. Bring your legs into the air, perpendicular to your upper body, using the tension from your locked arms.

Hold this position as long as possible for an intense strength building workout.

7. Stomach Vacuums

And now for something different!

It’s easy to work your front-facing abdominal muscles, but there is another muscle group in your core that’s frequently overlooked: The transverse abdominis.

This muscle isn’t visible through your skin, but it’s incredibly important in stabilizing your body, creating good posture, and holding your belly in tight to your spine.

To strengthen this muscle and get a flatter stomach, try stomach vacuums.[3]

Standing straight and tall. Exhale all of the air out of your body and simultaneously pull your belly in tight. Imagine sucking your belly button back into your spine.

You’ll feel the transverse abdominis engage. Hold as long as possible, rest and then repeat.

Advertising

8. Star Planks

Planks are too effective to not utilize multiple variations of them in your routine.

The star plank engaged similar muscles to the traditional plank, but is a lot harder to hold for time.

From the push-up or standard plank position, walk your feet out wide and your hands, as well.

Your body should form an X position. Elevate your core off the ground, squeeze tight, and hold for as long as possible.

9. Boat Pose

Yogis know all about core strength, so if you want a tighter tummy, you should take a page out of their playbook.

Boat pose is an extremely difficult isometric hold that builds exceptional balance and core power.

Star in sit-up position. Crunch yourself up toward your knees, then lift your feet off the floor until they’re about level with your face. Balance on your butt, squeeze your core, and hold this position as long as you can.

Your body should form a V with the only point of contact being your butt on the ground. Holding boat pose should be extraordinarily challenging!

10. Mountain Climbers

Ab work alone won’t shred stomach fat. But when you combine abs and cardio, that’s when you’re onto something magical.

Mountain climbers fit the bill if you’re looking to blast your core and also work up a good sweat.

Get down into plank position. With your arms locked and your body tight, drive one knee at a time off the floor, up toward your chest, and then back to its original position. Repeat in quick succession.

It should look like you’re climbing a hill, and it should exhaust you in a matter of seconds!

Advertising

11. Russian Twists

Finally, let’s give the obliques a little more love.

Get down into sit-up position and perform a crunch toward your knees. From here, lean back so your torso is at a 45 degree angle to the floor, clasp your hands in front of you, and twist side to side in rapid succession.

You’ll feel your obliques engage after just a few reps.

For a more difficult variation, lift your feet off the floor similar to boat pose while perform the move, or perform the twist using a heavy medicine ball for added resistance.

The Bottom Line

The biggest piece of the puzzle when it comes to six-pack abs is a low body fat percentage. That’s best accomplished by sticking to a smart diet and building your fully body strength.

However, if you want to improve your athleticism, overall strength, or even your longevity, you can afford to work your abs a bit more frequently — 3-4 times per week is perfect.

If you hit them hard enough, you’ll probably see some great improvement in definition as well!

Cranking out endless crunches is one way to go about core training, but there are so many better and more challenging moves you can try without ever having to leave your living room.

Give them a shot!

Featured photo credit: Luis Quintero via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next