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March 1, 2017

How to Get Motivated to Workout and Stay Motivated

smiley face amid sad

Feelings, not hard facts, are the key to getting motivated to workout – and even more importantly, they are the key to stay motivated.

Knowing how to get motivated to workout is probably more important than the nature of the actual workout. Without motivation, people never start in the first place and without the ability to stay motivated, many will tend to simply give up at some point. 

A workout program provides a gradual return. Without motivation and the ability to sustain it, there’s little chance for success. It’s why lots of home gym gear ends up as a coat rack or just gathers dust.

motivationMotivation sounds simple. But emotions and feelings are not simple things, especially for guys. It’s typically not our strong suit.

Getting motivated to workout and staying motivated is all about positive emotion. This article will give you some practical tips on how to generate those feelings and keep them going over the long term.

First The Facts

I could tsunami you with study after academic study proving the benefits of exercise, especially for people like Baby Boomers. In fact, recent studies have shown that resistance training in particular can:

  • Actually reverse aging at the genetic level
  • Halt and reverse osteoporosis, sarcopenia (muscle wasting), shrinking in height
  • Reduce obesity and manage weight (muscle burns calories even at rest)
  • Prevent Type 2 Diabetes and better mange it for those who already have it
  • Reduce anxiety and depression and more

In addition, the American Heart Association recently found that those who adopt heart healthy habits, like regular exercise and weight control, can dramatically reduce the risk of heart attack and trim the risk of cancer by 38%. And another study found that regular exercise can take decades of aging off our skin.

If you want to see more information on recent studies, please see my menu category Reverse Aging. There’s several articles there with links to reports and studies.

And I’ve included a variety of them at the bottom of this post, as well.

It’s powerful information! And those facts might motivate you to make a plan to exercise, but they’re not going to motivate you while you’re actually sweating it out in the gym. Right?

It’s hard to get pumped up with a mental mantra in your head about mortality stats.

Think about it fellas… right before the big game, does the coach have the team quietly study the chalkboard and stare at facts? Or does he try to whip up their emotions for God, country and good ol’ Wossamotta U?

pixabay footballThe Mystery

I used to think that facts alone could and should motivate people, but it’s obvious that they don’t. Us Baby Boomers have gone from the healthiest generation to the least healthy in history. We are breaking records for obesity and heading for a health disaster as we age.

People are not stupid. They can read the facts here or anywhere else and understand what’s at stake. So, what is holding them back from taking action?

Why doesn’t everyone just grab a workout guide and hit the gym?

After all, us Boomers invented working out. The first gym chains, like Golds and L.A. Fitness, opened for us in the 70’s and 80’s. We jogged. Played racquet ball. Shot hoops. Softball Beer Leagues. Aerobicized with Jane and Jazzercized with Julie. We were all over it.

Then… middle age, kids, careers. What happened? We just kind of lost it. Got fat and gave up.

Here’s where feelings come in

James Gavin, a professor at Concordia University in Montreal, investigated our emotional motivations for exercise, from looking good to having fun. He found that for the Baby Boom generation, passion is most important when it comes to staying motivated to exercise.

Gavin says a person will be more motivated to put in time on the treadmill if he or she knows it will help have more fun skiing in winter, versus viewing it as a tedious punishment.

But he says Baby Boomers are not feeling the joy in our workouts. He says we need to find “deep personal meaning in the physical activity” and thinks the answer lies in getting the fitness industry to make their gyms more fun and engaging.

Makes sense. But hold on, professor…

There is also a growing body of research that says most people prefer a workout routine done solo versus a group or class setting. 

In an online survey conducted by Reuters, 77 percent of the 1,200 respondents said they prefer working out alone. Running and Resistance Training were their top two workout choices.

aarghAnd there’s the rub

Let’s assume professor Gavin is absolutely correct about passion, but let’s also recognize that things like resistance training and running do not typically engage people in a ‘fun’ team activity.

How do those of us who choose resistance training as our focus, and prefer to workout alone, manage our motivations and emotions? It might be easy if we’re talking about joining a beach volley ball league, but what about the weight room?

Science has has thoroughly researched motivation in the work environment and other places. The general consensus is that we are human and it is all about how we feel regardless of the activity. So, I figure that applies to us in the workout room, as well.

We think to build a plan

But we rely on feelings to make it work

Guidelines to motivate ourselves

So what do we do? Can we get motivated outside of fun team sports?

Yes. Here’s the proven formula for how motivation works on our feelings. And how we can apply that to our workouts.

Stay Positive

Sounds trite. But hear me out.cheer

Many of us are overweight or obese. So, we’re starting off in a tough spot. You may be unhappy with yourself and how you look and feel.

The little devil that lives on your shoulder may be sabotaging you with negative thoughts. “This won’t work, why bother, I always give up…”

You’re not going to get anywhere with negative thoughts about yourself. Monitor your self talk and catch yourself going negative. Be your own cheerleader. Replace those with positive reviews of your goals:

  • Your health and longevity are the most valuable things you have, you’re workouts will pay huge dividends for you and those you love
  • If weight loss is also a goal, remind yourself how much better you will look and feel over time. Think about a new pair of jeans and looking great in them.
  • If it’s about muscle, think about how great it will feel to be stronger
  • Be realistic as you move toward your goals. This is a gradual process, take stock of the small wins as you head toward the big goals. You’re not striving to be Mr. or Ms. Universe, just a better looking and feeling version of you.
  • Use tools like Google to find inspirational stories about people like yourself. There are tons out there. Here’s a nice one about a mom who used resistance training to drop 6 dress sizes while losing only 2 pounds of bodyweight (muscle weighs more than fat). She looks great. Not perfect, but great. 

Reward Yourself

rewardFor the same reason the Dog Whisperer gives his charges love and treats, we humans also respond to rewards for a job well done.

If we were at work, praise from the boss can make us feel great and want to go the extra mile, so can special recognition among our peers or a raise in pay.

Rewards work. In this case, you’re the boss of you. So, be a good boss…

  • A good workout will actually make you feel high. Naturally. Endorphins and other feel good chemicals are released in your body. It’s real and it feels great. Enjoy it.
  • Find some ways to give yourself a reward for completing a workout week. In this case, you might want to avoid the chocolate cake and a 12 pack, but maybe a full week of good workouts earns you a nice treat on the weekend: A reasonable slice of that cake, or a couple lite beers or glasses of healthy red wine.
  • You could consider setting up a challenge with another person. $100 for whomever accomplishes a set goal first or best. Depending on how competitive you are, you can make it so there are no losers because you’re both going to win in terms of health. Maybe winner buys a healthy lunch or dinner.
  • It can simply be continuously reminding yourself you’re doing something very positive. Take stock of those small wins each day/week and allow yourself to feel good about it.

Don’t go it alone

wooden figuresWe humans are social beings, even, if like me, you prefer to workout alone with the headphones on. I still get a lot of emotional support from my wife.

Luckily for me, she also works out and we occasionally even share our home gym space.

But more importantly, I have someone to talk to about what I’m doing and how it’s going. She gets it and gives me a pat on the back or a kick in the ass when I need it.

  • Keep your spouse or a friend aware of your efforts and ask them to help you stay on track, even if that’s just listening to your latest status. 
  • You can hire a trainer if that works for you.
  • Look for support, like a class or a workout partner, in your gym if you belong to one.
  • If you can’t find somebody, email me. I will try to help and offer encouragement. Brian@BoomerMuscle.com

Be Passionate 

older guyThis is about you. For you. Get fired up about yourself. This can change your life in so many ways, physically and mentally.

Care enough about yourself and those you love to really want this. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how experienced. You can realize tremendous benefits at any age or level.

To feel good. Look good. Live longer and better.

  • Strive for a Mind/Muscle Connection as you train. It’s almost like a form of meditation. You’re focusing on the feeling that the exercise creates in the muscle you are working. Tune into it and make it your focus.
  • Resistance training in particular can create a pumped up feeling in your muscles. A bit of soreness. It’s not pain. It’s blood flowing into the muscle fibers to repair and build them up. It’s a good thing.
  • Try not to think of the workout as tedious drudgery. Instead, tune into that Connection, get lost in the music you love and feel the endorphin high.
  • Stop thinking while you’re working out: Feel

The Thinking Part

Before you start, make a plan: 4 – 5 days per week, 30 – 40 minutes per workout

  1. Establish short term goals (simply doing the workouts on a regular basis at first)
  2. Long term goals — muscle gain and fat loss targets. Don’t go by pounds. Muscle weighs more than fat, go by sizes, inches and feelings.
  3. Start slowly at first and work your way up gradually
    • Check with your doctor if you have a current condition or concern

It’s not easy, but it is worth the effort

angel and devil

I’ve been working out for nearly 50 years now. I confess that nearly every time, I still have to battle the devil on my left shoulder who tries to talk me out of it.

In my case, I focus on knowing that I’m going to feel better during and after the workout. The endorphins will flow and I’ll get that natural high.

I’ll feel good about myself for conquering the left-shoulder devil. I’ll feel good knowing that I’m burning calories and building muscle.

And every single time, I do feel good.

Some days, it’s a struggle to get started. It’s us vs the negative devils.

But we can win.

The key is, just get in the gym and do that first rep. Then the second and so on. Before you know it, you will be in the groove. Focus on the Mind/Muscle Connection and rock a great workout.

I have a ritual:

  1. Two pieces of sugarless bubble gum, one for each side of my mouth. I’m one of those teeth grinders, so the gum helps me out
  2. Music! I love classic rock like Van Halen or modern bouncy pop. Have some fun building your own playlist or pick a station with upbeat tunes

You can do it, with or without the gum. But definitely use music.

If you’re not sure how to start…

Start slowly at first. Your first goal is simply to follow through on showing up for each workout day. Don’t get hung up if you’re not killing it in the first couple of weeks. It’s gradual. Ramp up.  You’ll get there soon enough.

You can do this!

BrianWhat are your feelings about motivation?

Do you have tips and tricks you use to get in the groove?

I’d love to hear them. Please share in Comments below or drop me a line: Brian@BoomerMuscle.com

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Brian

I've been resistance training for nearly 50 years. As a younger man, I used to believe in using ever-increasing amounts of weight. Until one day in my mid-50's, my aching joints could not take the punishment any more. I had to develop a new way of working out that was effective, but free of pain. I found it. It works great. I'd like to share it with you.

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