Lack the motivation to exercise? Don't despair


  • Fitness
  • Friday, 24 Jan 2020

Very few of us are self-motivated and can pursue fitness activities on our own.

In every aspect of life, staying motivated is hard. Very few of us can remain on a high every hour of every day of the year.

There are bound to be some down days when you might feel it’s just not worth pursuing something because the results have plateaued or are slow in coming.

Fitness is one of those things – it’s hard to stay motivated, especially if you’re not a physical activity lover.

After a few months of layoff, I headed back to the gym this week and stumbled onto a fellow gym-goer whom I haven’t seen for almost a year.

Once obese, she had trimmed down beautifully via discipline, hard work and diet.

Having lost quite a bit of weight, she disappeared from the scene and I assumed she had changed gyms.

But lo and behold, I saw a 20kg heavier woman, struggling to keep up in class.

Later in the locker room, I asked her what brought her back, and her cheery reply was, “It’s the beginning of the year, so you’ll see me more!

“But I’m back to ground zero and have to start all over again.”

Like many, she cited work, boredom and demotivation as excuses. All that hours she had put in had sadly been flushed away!

Unfortunately, she’s not genetically blessed and probably has a low metabolic rate, so the kilogrammes pile on much faster.

Let’s hope she’s able to stay longer in her fitness journey this decade so that she can better enjoy the fruits of her labour.

Until a few years ago, I used to be the rah-rah cheerleader who “charged” people up (it worked with some, not with others) and introduced them to different physical activities that they would enjoy and could stick with in the long run.

My motto is simple: I want you to love moving as much as I do, so that you can stay active and make fitness a part of your lifestyle.

Granted, it takes a bit of effort as not everyone takes to exercise naturally or is self-motivated.

These days, as I get older and wiser, I don’t push newcomers as much.

I’m better able to judge people and if they show little or no interest in looking after themselves, I drop the subject.

Only you can decide if you want to change.

In the meantime, here are some tips to help keep you motivated in your fitness journey.

Stop focusing only on physical appearance

We all want to look good, but exercising shouldn’t be done for the sole purpose of looking good.

When you set expectations that are too high and fall short, the probability of giving up is a lot higher.

I’ve had clients bring me photographs of bodies they want to attain.

“I want to look like him,” they tell me. One even brought me a slinky dress and said “I need to get into this in two months.”

Oftentimes, their goals are impossible to achieve because of differences in body type, anatomical structure, etc.

Or they hit their target and are happy for a while before slacking off.

So, instead of focusing on bigger, more elusive goals (e.g. chiselled abdominals), try setting small goals such as nailing a push-up for the first time, holding a squat position for 30 seconds or being able to bend forward and touch your toes without bending your knees.

Every small victory is a cause for celebration.

Two is better than one

Working out with a reliable buddy can make a world of difference.

Some people prefer working out alone, but for those who need a little push in the motivation department, scheduling regular workouts with a friend makes you less likely to hit the snooze button repeatedly.

Even a weekly walk is a good start. Build up from there.

Or work out with a friend once a week and try going solo on another day.

Find an individual or group that is slightly better or faster than you, so that you can challenge yourself.

No one likes to feel that they are lagging behind, so you’ll be forced to work a little harder to keep up.

Apparently, there is a group for slow hikers, and if you’re a nature lover, you might want to get in touch with such groups. You can also make new friends along the way.

Workout buddies can make exercising more fun and hold you accountable to your fitness routine.Workout buddies can make exercising more fun and hold you accountable to your fitness routine.

Shake up your routine

By nature, humans need change and variety to stay motivated.

Whether it’s a toning and sculpting class that changes choreography every week or a trail run that changes scenery with different routes, design your exercise routine around a variety of exercise methods.

Make sure you include activities you truly enjoy and look forward to doing. Think of a childhood activity you loved doing and pursue it again.

Listen to your inner voice when choosing the best workout for yourself.

Adding variety also challenges your body in unique ways, which may introduce you to new muscle groups you didn’t even know existed.

Put out your workout attire

Lay out your workout clothes the day before to serve as a reminder.

I do this a few nights a week when I’m not teaching. My shoes, socks, water bottle... everything is ready so that I can easily change my attire to exercise.

A buddy of mine leaves her yoga mat by the front door so that she can grab it the next morning and head for sunrise yoga sessions.

Yet another friend sleeps in her workout gear to save time the following morning!

What you wear can also make a difference to your performance.

Experts call this “enclothed cognition”, which refers to a sort of mental shift you experience when you wear certain clothes.

If you wear something that’s breezy and fun, you might, in turn, feel more fun and happy yourself.

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology suggests that clothing influences behaviour and attitudes because it carries a symbolic meaning.

So, what you wear is actually subconsciously changing how you act.

This phenomenon goes further than regular gym sessions – professional athletes can experience it as well, as they may gain a perceived psychological edge over their opponents by wearing certain outfits or designs.

Research has also shown that professional sports teams wearing black uniforms are more aggressive than those wearing non-black.

To attend a morning yoga class, get your mat and attire ready and set them out the night before.To attend a morning yoga class, get your mat and attire ready and set them out the night before.

Pen down on paper

Writing can be therapeutic, so put your goals down on paper. Seeing the benefits of regular exercise and writing your goals down on paper may help you stay motivated.

Do you want to lose weight? Increase your stamina? Sleep better? Manage a chronic condition?

You may also find that it helps to keep an exercise diary.

Record what you did during each exercise session and how long you exercised.

Recording your efforts and tracking your progress can help you work toward your goals.

Also, be realistic and honest to what you can commit to.

Exercise flexibility

If you don’t feel like working out, don’t. We all live in a multitasking world and have plenty of roles and chores to juggle, which can be overwhelming.

It’s pointless trying to do something when your mind and heart are out of sync.

Sleep in if you must or hit the sack earlier if you’re tired.

Be kind to yourself if you need a break and don’t feel guilty about skipping a day or two. But get back on track as soon as you can.

Revathi Murugappan is a certified fitness trainer who tries to battle gravity and continues to dance to express herself artistically and nourish her soul. For more information, email starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information contained in this column is for general educational purposes only. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.


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