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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.

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“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.

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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.

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“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.

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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

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Last Updated on January 14, 2019

7 Ways To Make Exercise Fun For Everyone

7 Ways To Make Exercise Fun For Everyone

From Atkins to Paleo to eating gluten-free despite not being one of the rare few people afflicted with celiac disease, fad diets are everywhere. It drives me crazy because I believe these diets do more harm than good. Your body is made up of a variety of vitamins, nutrients, and minerals, and losing weight healthily isn’t possible when you fill your body with unnecessary synthetic plastics, sugars, and powders. There’s no easy button in life.

What you need to do is exercise, which isn’t very appealing to many people. Workouts take work, so there’s already a stigma involved in going to the gym. Starting a healthy workout regimen becomes easier when you make it fun. If you want to live long and prosper, get off the couch and try these methods to turn your workout into a playout.

1. Take the scenic route.

Walking is an easy way to transition to a healthy lifestyle, and it’s free. Not only do you burn calories (check out this calculator for how many calories you burn based on your weight), but you see the world in a different way. Hiking in nature is great if you have access to it, but don’t let living in an urban area deter you from walking.

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Whenever I’m creatively stuck I get my head straight by walking a couple of miles. It’s also how I discover new paths, meet new people, and stumble upon hole-in-the-wall spots I never would have found otherwise. You could drive past the same place every day and never appreciate the beauty, nor even notice it’s there.

2. Distract yourself.

No matter what exercise routine you choose, use the time to meditate. You may wonder how marathon runners are able to put so many miles on their bodies. It’s because the pain from running that you avoid is something they’ve learned to harness to enter a transcendental state. If you’re aware of the benefits of meditation and exercise but don’t have time to do both, you can combine them, killing two birds with one healthy stone.

3. Listen to music or podcasts.

There are few experiences in life more pleasurable than turning up the music and drowning out the world around you. With so many podcasts and music apps available on your smartphone, you can easily find entertainment options perfectly suited to your personal tastes. Never worry what people may think of you when working out;instead, crank up the volume and get lost in your own world. You’ll be in shape before you know it.

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4. Bring a friend.

Some people can’t go anywhere alone. While I highly recommend dining out and seeing a movie in a theater alone, having company while exercising is very helpful. It allows you to pace yourself with someone else, and gives you a coach to motivate and push harder than you may have on your own.

Many exercises are safer when done with a friend, and some sports can only be played with another person. Involving others in your goals can mean the difference between success and failure. Just remember to continue exercising if the other person flakes, or they’ll be in control of your health.

5. Accessorize.

There are accessories that can make exercise easier, and sometimes buying a new toy can add some much-needed fun to your routine. With apps like RunKeeper and Nike+, your smartphone is capable of tracking your vitals and progress. Wrist weights can add a new dimension to your workout, and, if you exercise at night, a headlamp can help you see what’s in front of you so you don’t trip.

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For urban runners and power-walkers, one of the biggest obstacles is other people. It’s difficult to get in your meditative zone and enjoy your music when you constantly have to dodge people. To resolve this vexing issue, Runbell, a startup in Tokyo, has developed the runner’s version of the bicycle bell. With this lightweight brass bell warning people you’re approaching from behind, you’re free to maintain your transcendental state while continuing your workout. Head to their Kickstarter campaign to pledge your support.

6. Compete.

A little healthy competition can motivate you to push yourself further in your workout regimen. There are apps like Zombies, Run! which turns your run into a video game, and MyFitnessPal which allows you to connect with others in the exercise community. Whether you’re directly competing with a friend, an online community, or against your previous self, setting goals is the key to reaching them. Running with no destination can feel like an impossible task, and it’s easy to get distracted.

7. Relax.

The best part about exercising is how much you enjoy the downtime. If you think laying on your couch all day is enjoyable, it has nothing on that hour you spend as a couch potato after a rigorous workout. Jay-Z said it best, “in order to experience joy, you need pain.” The harder you push yourself while exercising, the better you’ll feel when you’re relaxing.

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With that said, don’t relax too much, or it loses the effect. It’s okay to indulge every so often. Treat yourself to some junk food you’re craving, imbibe a drink here and there, and spend a day vegging out on your couch. Staying healthy doesn’t have to be torture. Just turn down when you can and dedicate some time to better the health of your body. You only get one.

Featured photo credit: tpsdave via pixabay.com

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