If you want to improve your motivation to exercise but don’t know how, you can try techniques that go way beyond cheap marketing slogans. By training your brain effectively you can improve and strengthen how you get yourself into a positive, effective mindset.
The most important thing to remember when working on your motivation is that you are not helpless. You can take control.
Research is revealing more and more about how our brains work, and that can help you to motivate yourself to train more effectively.
Train your brain to train your body
Most effective exercise plans include changes to diet and lifestyle, and these changes can have even more impact than you may think.
Research has shown that people with high motivation have different brain activity in the prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain influences decision making and impulse control, and it can be trained and improved.
By taking control of one aspect of your life, like sticking to a diet or quitting smoking, you are training your brain to resist negative impulses and get better at planning. It works the other way as well: better training habits can improve your diet discipline.
Ultimately, what you’re doing is training you brain to resist the negative impulses to give up or not start, while improving your ability to plan and do exercise.
Focus on success or just on the process
You may find that you don’t want to exercise because you lack confidence and believe you will fail.
To counteract this, one approach is actively envisioning success. When you start to think about failure, deliberately create the image of success in your mind. This gives your brain positive feedback and is a great way to get started.
You can also try focusing on the process rather than the outcome, a method used successfully by many people to deal with pressure. This approach takes the focus away from eventual success or failure and puts it instead on small tasks along the way.
If you struggle with confidence because you are intimidated or discouraged by others’ success, try using mindfulness techniques. These can enable you to focus and be at ease with your environment.
Look for quick wins to boost fitness motivation
A huge motivating factor for exercise is positive results, because you are more likely to keep going if you are succeeding.
You might not always see quick, obvious gains from a new exercise regime, but it’s not impossible. Talk to your personal trainer and work out when you want to see positive results.
One way to get quick wins to help motivation is identifying a strength and aiming to improve it, rather than only targeting weaknesses. For example, if you have a weak upper body and strong legs, it may take weeks before you can do a pull-up, but you could find a quick win by slightly improving your calf raises.
Establish realistic exercise goals
As well as looking for quick wins, try to set realistic and evolving goals. Nothing hits your fitness motivation quite so badly as working hard for weeks without making any progress towards an unrealistic goal.
Try setting progressive or evolving goals, so you celebrate success then set new goals based on your rate of progress. The effectiveness of this type of goal setting is one of the reasons video games can be addictive; you just want to get to the next level.
Seek positive role models and relationships
You may find that exercising in a group helps your motivation, as you all strive together and support each other. Those groups can even be virtual, as apps and on-line communities enable you to identify with others and share the experience.
A good role model can help, and it doesn’t have to be someone famous or highly successful. It may be a friend who has managed to lose weight, or someone you read about who has overcome adversity to run a half marathon.
Look for a pleasant exercise environment
Not everyone has access to a state-of-the-art gym, and not everyone wants to exercise in one anyway, but you should find an exercise environment you enjoy.
Some people love to get out running, while others enjoy their local gym or pool, or just do their best to fit small bursts of exercise into a busy daily schedule.
Even if you can’t find the perfect exercise venue, you should at least be aware of how a smelly gym or boring running route can hit your motivation.
Research has shown that you can improve your fitness motivation by training your brain and giving it lots of positive feedback. Set realistic goals and, most of all, look for ways to enjoy your exercise. The more you enjoy yourself, the more you will exercise and the fitter, healthier and happier you will be.