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 March 8, 2019

How Adding Flow Yoga to Your Workout Routine Boosts Your Gains

How Adding Flow Yoga to Your Workout Routine Boosts Your Gains

When we fall into a workout routine, our moves become automatic, and the body quickly adapts. This is called muscle memory.[1] While teaching your body how to properly execute squats, push-ups, or crunches is a benefit, overly relying on these moves to consistently grow gains won’t yield the kind of results you want. That’s because the muscles work in the same way every time.

Simply put, they’re not being “surprised,” so they get lazy.

Supplementing your routine with flow yoga is one way of surprising your muscles, especially if you are new to the yoga practice and have never tried the postures. It’s like taking a new road home when you drive, deviating from your usual route. Science has found that by doing so, you’re creating new neuropathways in your brain.[2] The same is done in your muscles when you try a new routine.

How is this done? Let’s dive right into it.

How Flow Yoga Boost Your Gains in Your Workout Routine

Think about your current workouts:

If you lift weights, you rely on external tools to engage your various muscle groups. Over time, your shoulders, legs, or biceps will come to expect the weighted plates or dumbbells, in the repetitive sequences that you remember.

In flow yoga, we use the body as the weight. Add gravity and hundreds of different postures and combinations, and you have a workout that uses the same muscle groups, but in many different ways.

A pose such as plank is a full-body workout, with every muscle engaged to keep the body in one long line. While it’s a stationary pose, it requires muscle control and activation, with no room for passivity.

    A Flow sequence, on the other hand, requires your muscle to switch from one pose to another swiftly, providing you with a more balanced and wholesome use of your major muscle groups.

    Advertising

    Not only do these poses and routines re-energize the body in a refreshing way, they also allow you to learn something new, which is powerful for the mind.

    Bottom line? Complementing your exercise regimen with flow yoga is like hitting the shuffle button on your workouts, using your muscles in ways that “surprise” them, which in turn boost their growth and performance.

    Energizing Flow Yoga with Added Cardio

    Flow yoga is also known as “Vinyasa.”[3] In Sanskrit – the sacred language of the practice and its Indian roots – Vinyasa is roughly translated to “one breath, one movement.”

    This guideline, first and foremost, enhances your breathing, and teaches you how to go from our typical shallow, chest-only breathing, to a more deeper, belly-chest breath that uses the entire lung system.

    Not only is this beneficial for a myriad of healthcare reasons (combat allergies, eliminate toxins, reduce stress, ease anxiety), it also greatly impacts our muscles,[4] and therefore our workout.

    Flooding your muscles with rich oxygen will only keep them healthy, while the cardio benefit will get you warmed up to take on the more challenging postures in a flow yoga class. This prevents injuries and cramping.

    The best example of energizing cardio in flow yoga is the Sun Salutation sequence. Each pose is completed on an inhale or an exhale, until the sequence is finished. One full sequence may be repeated several times, encouraging you to take fuller and deeper breaths. The cycles warm up and loosen the body and prepare the muscles for stationary poses that are held longer.

    Here’s how to do a Sun Salutation Flow:

    Advertising

    Due to the Sun Salutations, the muscles are not thrown into a challenging workout, but rather primed and prepared with energizing breath.

    Why is this important, you ask? Because happy muscles are warmed-up muscles.

    The Best Thing About Flow Yoga

    The best thing about practicing flow yoga? You’re building strength and flexibility.

    Strength and flexibility are like the Mecca of a wholesome workout routine. Before we get into why this is important, let’s break these two down individually to see how they stand up on their own:

    Meet Strong Stan

    Strong Stan is at the gym, doing bicep curls with massive dumbbells. His muscles have peaked in size, and he proudly displays them.

    While he loves to lift weights, Strong Stan often skips stretching or warm-ups. He just doesn’t see how that could help him continue his muscle gains, so he jumps right into a heavy workout.

    While it’s not evident to a passerby, Stan’s muscles are hurting. Without sufficient flexibility or deliberate stretching, Stan’s muscles are shortening and getting tighter. This eventually leads to joint injuries,[5] because un-stretched muscles have limited range of motion.

    Big muscles are a sure indicator of strength, but here’s the kicker – choosing not to prioritize flexibility will keep them inherently at risk.

    Meet Flexible Fiona

    Flexible Fiona is in a flow yoga class, easing herself into a backbend.[6] She effortlessly gets into the pose, and “hangs” out there for a few breaths while the teacher cues the class.

    Even though the teacher instructs the students to engage their glutes and be mindful that this is an active pose, Flexible Fiona opts otherwise, and relaxes into the posture by sacrificing the strength she ought to be building.

    Advertising

    To many in the class, Fiona’s execution of the backbend would be a success – maybe even something to envy. However, what Fiona doesn’t realize is that her excessive flexibility is actually a detriment to her joints.[7]

    Flexibility has been defined as the “absolute range of motion” by Tony Gummerson, Martial Arts instructor. For people who are naturally flexible, that line of absolute range is often blurry and, in practice, overlooked.

    It’s very easy for Fiona to go above and beyond her range of motion, since her flexibility parameters are much wider than what Strong Stan may experience in a similar pose.

    Because she doesn’t feel the stretch in the same degree of motion as other students in class, Fiona has to push the envelope of her flexibility. This puts too much pressure on the joints that are already overworked, and it overstretches the muscles that are now prone to tearing.

    Your goal is to create muscle and joint balance and wholeness.

    What Strong Stan and Flexible Fiona have in common is that they’re both missing vital pieces of muscle awareness.

    In Stan’s case, heavy and tight muscles crave flexibility. Without it, not only would Stan hit a plateau in his gains because of a sure injury, but he would miss out on having the lean and toned muscles that we all want to have.

    In Fiona’s case, her overstretched muscles are not getting a workout at all. Rather, her excessive flexibility is resting on her joints, which leads to definite injury.

    So what can you do? It’s quite simple.

    You have to give your muscles the opposite of what they’re used to.

    If you’re a Stan and hate stretching, focusing on your flexibility is key. You will lengthen your tight muscles, and you’ll create new muscle memory by practicing routines that are new to you and your muscle groups.

    If you’re a Fiona and hate strengthening, focusing on this priority is vital. Your muscles are used to being passive as you stretch, so shaking up the usual and putting them to work will not only keep you injury-free, but that much closer to the muscle gains you’ve been looking for.

    Fortunately, flow yoga is the whole package, and can be the one-stop-shop for both Stan and Fiona.

      Final Thoughts

      If you’re serious about using flow yoga to supplement your workout routine to boost gains, sign up for a class at your local gym or yoga studio. There are a number of styles of yoga to try, but as we’ve discussed in this article, the Vinyasa style is your best bet to complement a moderate exercise regimen.

      Many studios offer beginner-style Vinyasa classes, where the instructor will explain the basics, and break down the sequences in a pace that is suitable for entry-level students. From here, the student can build upon their practice, and opt for more challenging, fast-paced classes, such as Power Flow or Ashtanga.

      Working out is a lesson in teaching your muscles. The gains that we grow are the result of that experience, and it all comes down to conditioning our body in a way that is healthy, efficient, and balanced.

      With a practice like flow yoga, we can offer supplemental training to our current regimen that will work our muscles in ways that are new, refreshing, and “surprising.” This method will keep our muscles toned and lean, as long as we prioritize the balance between strength and flexibility to ensure that we’re meeting both of these needs. Our muscle gains and body health depend on it.

      More Resources About Yoga and Fitness

      Featured photo credit: Edit Sztazics via unsplash.com

      Reference

      Read Next