What do you do when you’re just not motivated to exercise? In physical therapy we assign homework for patients so they can recover from their injuries and prevent recurrences. Commonly patients are semi or non-compliant with their exercises. How do we motivate ourselves when intellectually we know that it is beneficial to exercise, stretch or make lifestyle modifications? Here are some suggestions to keep you on track:
Set up a reward system. This is along the lines of “work before play”. I recommend that the reward after doing your exercises should still have an element of being relatively healthy versus rewarding yourself with a candy bar or sitting down for 3 hours to watch a ballgame. Sample rewards could be making sure you stretch prior to meeting friends.
Tell yourself that you’ll just exercise for thirty seconds. Once you’ve started to exercise, whether a stretch or strengthening exercise, it’s interesting to see how you become motivated to continue after just thirty seconds. Our minds get into the task at hand and stay with it.
Correlate activities. I’ve done this with brushing my teeth. I can’t brush my teeth without the overwhelming urge, even call it guilt, that I must stretch my calves at the same time. I’ve been strengthening this correlation every day for the past 5 months. Research shows it takes 66 days or just over 2 months to develop a habit. I suggest making a correlation between exercise and something you do daily. For example, if everyday you boil water for tea or wait for your tea to steep 3 minutes, use that time to do some form of exercise. If you read the paper or the catch up on the news on your smart phone, stand up and stretch or do balance exercises during that time. The important thing is to choose an activity that you’re guaranteed to do every day and correlate it with 1 or 2 exercises that can be safely done. After 66 days, you’ll notice that it will be odd not to correlate the 2 activities.
Designate a special time. We designate times to wake up, start work, or have lunch. Why not do the same with our exercise regime? I designate a time to meditate. During that time, I make sure that I’m not disturbed by anyone and that my cell phone does not vibrate or beep with calls, texts or notifications.
Involve your loved ones or friends. Guilt works as does peer pressure. If you know that your friend or family member will be meeting you at a group class, gym or out in nature for a walk, you will be more likely to show up. You don’t want to let whomever you’re meeting down!
If you would like some additional information on how to motivate yourself, I recommend reading the Psychology Today article, “How to Make Yourself Do It When You Just Don’t Want To”, by Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D. And if you need direction on what exercises to do to keep you on track, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’d be glad to lend a helping hand and motivate you!