Is your exercise program stuck in a rut? Has your motivation to keep active been fading? If so, you’re not alone. At some point in our exercise lives, we all experience setbacks or don’t see the progress we expect. If that happens, we may lose that motivation to exercise. Even the most dedicated, and hardened exercisers are not immune. And it can be especially challenging this time of year.
While the day-to-day act of keeping up with your exercise depends more on discipline and building it into your routine, motivation is still important. Motivation provides the high-level desire. It’s the reason why you exercise. It could be to improve your health, keep up your fitness, the thrill of competing, how it makes you feel, or all of them. Regardless, it’s not uncommon to have periods where you feel like you’re not moving forward, or even bored. If so, here are ways for you to get that exercise spark back.
Review Your Goals
Often times our motivation is derived from our goals. If you’re not meeting your goals, or unhappy with progress, this can be a gut-punch to your motivation. Take a step back and review your goal(s). Is your goal realistic and achievable? Have you met your previous goal and now wondering what’s next?
With the pandemic ongoing, a lot of things have changed, and you may need to revise your goal. While I get enjoyment from my daily exercise, my workouts are often focused towards a competition goal such as an open water swim. With those events cancelled due to the pandemic, I’ve had to adjust my goals.
For a goal to provide motivation, it must be realistic. Sometimes our expectations can exceed what is possible. If a goal is too challenging, or too easy for that matter, it fails to motivate. Likewise if it’s too far in the future. Consider updating your goal, or create a new one. Or perhaps a series of shorter goals to provide milestone achievements on the way to your bigger, long-term goal. Use the SMART principle (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) to guide your goal. A quick review of your goals, and any adjustments, can make a big difference to renewing your motivation.
Cross-training is simply the act of mixing up your exercise routine with different types of activities. It can be a mix of running and swimming, or tennis and weightlifting, or hiking and water aerobics, or any other combination.
It’s not uncommon once you’ve found your activity of choice to do it to the exclusion of all others. This may be especially true if you enter competitions. But there are many benefits to cross-training that can even help you with your preferred activity.
Building in cross-training works muscles you’ve previously ignored and in so doing increases your overall fitness. While there are endless ways to mix different activities, it’s a good to aim for complementing activities. For example, if you run, add in an activity that works your upper body. This can help prevent injury by alternating rest for muscle while you continue to be active. Cross-training also allows you to be more flexible if your gym/pool is closed or bad weather makes one type of activity hard to do.
You May Be Compensating
For many, weight loss is a common reason for being active. And while exercise is important to any weight loss routine, it produces marginal results if it isn’t paired with reducing calorie intake. That being said, you may be compensating, which can make it even harder.
When it comes to exercise, compensation occurs when one alters their eating or activity habits, or both, as a result of exercising more. For example, if you usually walk 6000 steps per day and on the day you exercise at the gym you do 4000 steps, that’s compensating. Or you may increase how much you eat on the days you exercise. Some people feel that exercise session can be rewarded with eating more food.
While many of us do alter our activity on days we exercise, the majority of compensation tends to be from increased in energy intake (eating more food). In a study of overweight adults, an exercise-based program resulted in much less weight loss than expected. Some people even gained weight. In this study, diet was purposely not adjusted, and people were allowed to eat as they wished. It turned out, most of the participants compensated by eating more.
Try Something New
While we like the consistency and predictability of routine, change adds variety, which makes life interesting. The same can go for your exercise routine. You may just be finding your exercise routine boring or not enjoyable anymore.
This doesn’t mean you need to do a total overhaul. It could be as simple as going on a new cycling route or running on trails instead of the sidewalk, or even turning it into a social occasion by doing it with a friend.
If you like to be challenged, pick something you’ve never done before. While you may be starting out at a low level, you’re likely to quickly pick it up. This type of change works well for people who get enjoyment out of seeing constant improvement.
If All Else Fails, Take a Rest
Sometimes what you might need is to take a break. Being bored, not noticing any improvements, or feeling cranky and tired, can be signs you’re overdoing it. Regular activity is important, and giving yourself time to rest and recover is equally important.
Being active should be something we do throughout our lives. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an Olympic athlete or just starting your exercise routine at the young age of 74 years, making tweaks and changes to your program from time to time can keep your motivation going.
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