Why You Don’t Need Motivation for Exercise

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running-shoesThe question of motivation for exercise constantly comes up with clients. “How do I stay motivated?” Everyone has heard this refrain throughout the years: “You have to stay motivated to work out, you need to be motivated to work out.” But here’s the thing – I have found during my 25-plus years in teaching and coaching that… you don’t need to be motivated! That puts a tremendous amount of pressure on you. Here’s another approach I’ve found that really, really works.

Ready? Habit.

It’s all about creating a habit. Once you have a habit, it’s easy. You don’t have to think about it. You may not be motivated to brush your teeth in the morning, but hopefully you do. You may not be motivated to get some things done in the morning, but because they’re habit, you just get them done. Working out is the same thing. You just need to do it often enough so it becomes a habit. Now, you know that you’re going to love the results – I don’t have to teach you the benefits of exercise, as you already know that. You just have to get it done. I’ve talked about all kinds of workout programs that can completely transform your body, but what I’m talking about now is, just doing it often enough until it’s a habit to the point that you’ll feel weird if you don’t do it. For those of you who have never worked out or who hate working out, once you make exercise a habit and get used to it, it becomes a way of life. You get it – you like how it makes you feel, you like how it makes you look, you like how it changes your posture, and it changes your emotional health. A strong body equals a strong mind. It’s the same thing here. Just do it often enough until it’s a habit.

The next question is, how do you make it a habit?

It starts by making it easy. Here’s a tip that I have told clients for 25 years. I’m still in touch with them, and they’re still doing this today, and I know this is something I still do every single day and it works for me. People often ask, “When’s the best time to work out?” Of course it’s when you can fit it in, but I’ve found that if you work out in the morning, it sets the tone for the day. Also, in the morning, you have the most control over your time. As the day progresses, tasks, chores, responsibilities, errands, all kinds of things come up, and all kinds of demands gets placed upon you, and if exercise is not a priority, that will be one the first things that gets bounced off your list.

How can you get that workout in in the morning?

Let’s say you’re working out at home. I know, I speak to the busy person who just wants to find solutions that work. I know what it’s like to be busy – I have a business, four kids, six dogs, I’m in a PhD program, I’m writing a book… I get the busy thing. So, this is something that I’ve done forever and it works for me. Before you go to sleep, lay out your fitness clothes and make a deal with yourself. You are not allowed to leave your bedroom unless they’re on, and here’s why: sure, you may have to take out your animals, or get the kids ready for school, put up a load of laundry, pack kids’ lunches, or whatever it is that you do in morning. Or maybe you do some sort of spiritual practice or religious practice such as meditation, prayer, or journaling to set yourself up for the day. As you are wearing your fitness clothes though, it’s giving you this subconscious reminder that the first opportunity you have, you’ll get it done. It’s already giving you that running start. And here’s the other thing that’s happening. Let’s say you do all your morning activities – you get all your kids off to school, pack their lunches, take out the dogs, put up a load of laundry, load the dishwasher… whatever it is that you do. And then you go back to your bedroom and change out of those fitness clothes, not having used them. How bad is that going to feel? Pretty bad, right?

Maybe it’s a little trick, but I tell you, it works. All you do is lay out the clothes before you sleep and make a decision and a commitment that you are not allowed to leave that bedroom unless they’re on. Then the first opportunity you have, you get that workout done. If you want to go to the gym, that’s fine too. You can leave the gym bag packed by the door, leave it in your car, or whatever works for you. But you need to do it often enough so that it becomes a habit – you don’t have to think about it, you just do it, it just gets done.

Take the pressure off! Don’t worry if you’re not motivated to work out, just do it often enough so it becomes a habit, and habit becomes in a way of life.

Photo from here, with thanks.

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January 2023