exercise motivation

Do you struggle to get started or stay motivated with movement and exercise?

Small black dog sitting next to a pair of dumb-bells, looking over his shoulder

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently because for the past month I have actually been using my spin bike twice a week without exception! And it got me thinking about what had changed…

I bought the bike last October, having wanted to own one ever since I gave up teaching spinning classes in 2009. At the time, it seemed like a really useful post-op recovery tool, meaning that I could work on my legs strength and fitness without having to do much with my right arm. I started off using it a few times a month, and then had months where I didn’t get on it at all.

Not using it caused me to feel disappointed in myself. As I reached past it to turn off the lights each night I noticed that I was feeling bad about myself for not having used it, again! And I started to think about how much it had cost me. And the fact that it was taking up space in my lounge.

And then a few weeks ago, all of those thoughts spurred me into action…

I promised myself I would use it twice a week – one mid-week morning when I wasn’t seeing clients, and one weekend morning before I set about my day – and so far I haven’t missed a session yet! There have been a few ‘I don’t feel like it’ days but they are becoming less frequent. And the more I use it, the better it feels so that in itself becomes a motivator #whoknew?

What is my motivation?

I realised that there are a few different kinds of motivation and I’ve come to think of them in time-frames:

Short-term motivation:

  • I don’t like to exercise after I’ve eaten so my primary short-term motivation is to get it done before the need for breakfast over-takes me (this is the one that gets me on the bike on the ‘don’t feel like it’ days)
  • I like how it feels once it’s done
  • I don’t want to break my twice-a-week streak

Medium-term motivation:

  • it’s getting easier now that I’m cycling twice a week & I don’t want to go back to it feeling like a struggle again!
  • I’m going on a 2-week pilgrimage in a few weeks time and I know that the cycling is helping my leg strength and fitness – I am imagining myself walking up mountains, feeling glad that I got on my bike in preparation
  • I like that I’m finally (at 58) learning to look after myself and now I’ve started I don’t want to let myself down again

Long-term motivation:

  • I don’t want breast cancer to come back, and I feel like being strong and fit is a pretty good insurance policy, just in case
  • I don’t want to be an ‘old’ older person – I can’t think of much worse than being unable to do things that you’d like to do, so I’m going to do my best to make sure that doesn’t happen
  • I really want to go back and finish the Pennine Way
  • I’d like to walk LEJOG

Do you struggle with exercise motivation?

There’s no one way to find what motivates us because it will be different for everyone.

For some people it might be joining a class, for others it will be buying a dog. You might be inspired by an event, a big challenge or taking care of your health. You might be motivated by helping someone else to exercise (maybe your son wants to do a 10k run and asks you to join him or you want to share a love of walking with a family member).

Once you know what motivates you it’s much easier to stick with something.

If you’re struggling with motivation to exercise here are a couple of articles which might help:

Ways to get started:

These are some of my favourite habits to keep me on track:

  • I put my workout clothes on the floor by my bed the night before (the old ideas are sometimes the best!!)
  • I don’t eat before my workout – it makes me feel sick and feeling hungry always gets me on the bike
  • I set a goal of doing it twice per week, which gives me some flexibility about when, but not if
  • it’s kind of in my diary – not actually written in but mentally it’s there
  • I add it to the list when I’m planning for the next day as I go to bed
  • I found a cycle class that I really enjoy (Les Mills The Trip in case you want to take a look)

Your ways to get started might look different, but it’s definitely worth giving them some thought and planning ahead because you’re much more likely to stick with it that way.

Ways that I can help you:

If you really struggle to get started, why not join me for one of my regular online fitness classes? You can pay as you go or sign up to a subscription – sometimes making a financial commitment & getting a good return on your investment really helps!

And if you’re old-school and prefer actual in-person classes, I teach one of those each week too. [Isn’t it weird that pre-Covid no-one ever used the term ‘in-person’??]

One-to-one sessions are another great way to get started and stay motivated. Your session is tailored around your needs and we’ll work together to get you where you want to go on your movement journey. Personal Training sessions can include pilates, fitness and walking, or a combination of all three!

One more thing…

I just remembered one more thing which really helped me with my motivation to look after myself better. I had some post-cancer/pre-surgery psychotherapy late last year and for literally the first time in my life I understood that I mattered. It was truly an enormous shift in my thinking.

When I first started exercising, in my late twenties, it was a mental escape from a life that wasn’t making my soul sing. And then I trained to teach fitness, and mostly it has always been about working with clients since then. I’ve been lucky to stay relatively fit off the back of that, but it’s not the same as working on my own fitness.

But now, for the first time, I’m doing it for me, because I’m worth it!

And so are you.

And when you believe that, I think that the motivation is much easier to find and easier to stick with…

Why do we ‘push & rest’ in class?

( just in case you thought I was being mean by making you work hard)

In pretty much every fitness session I offer, I use an approach of encouraging clients to push and rest. It works equally well in my online fitness for women classes and in my 1:1 personal training sessions because it gives a really effective, time-efficient workout and helps you to build lean muscle and burn fat.

Sometimes I will put together moves which are deliberately challenging, not because I’m nasty, but because I want you to reach the point of needing to rest!

So what does ‘push & rest’ mean?

The idea is to use a weight which is moderately challenging for your body, but still manageable enough so that you can do the work.

In other words, you can perform the movement pattern well, with good technique, but as you keep going you will reach a point where you will need to have a quick rest, before you can continue again with good form.

So you push yourself as hard as you can, with good technique, for as long as you can, and then you rest until you feel ready to go again.

Typically, at the start of an exercise/workout you will be able to keep going for longer, and then as you begin to tire you will maybe have shorter gaps between rests. So if we’re doing four rounds of a circuit, on the first round you might not need to rest very much; on the second round the rests might be more frequent, but quite short; on the third round the rests might be frequent and slightly longer; and by round four they might be a bit more frequent still.

If your dumbbells (DB) are not heavy enough you will be more likely to ‘coast’ through the workout, never really feeling your muscles burn, not feeling that your heart rate is elevated and not actually needing to take a rest. Whilst this might sound (& maybe feel) like a nicer option, it will not deliver such good results for your body. Sometimes we all need an easy workout session, and there’s nothing wrong with taking one, but it’s not the best long-term strategy if you want to build/maintain lean muscle mass, which becomes more important as we get older.

Find out more about this approach to training here

For some exercises, your ideal weight will be heavier than it is for others – eg. you’ll always be able to use heavier DB for a deadlift than you will for a side raise – so you might need a couple of weight options for your workout OR we can use some different training techniques to even things out…

Different ways to train to keep the intensity high:

Hybrid moves –

As well as encouraging you to push and rest, I will usually have you doing ‘complex’ or ‘hybrid’ moves, which involve using several muscle groups or two areas of the body at once – eg. squat & biceps curl or lunge and shoulder press. This helps to make your session very time-efficient and higher intensity because you’ll be packing in more moves in a given time than you would if each move was separate.

Performing hybrid exercises also helps to give you a cardio element to your workout without needing you to add impact to your moves.

Continuous format –

The exercises are also done one after the other, without any defined rest breaks, so that you can keep going at an intensity that suits you, rather than working with the clock. If you feel ok to move on to the next move right away, you do that; if you need a quick breather, you take one. It puts you in control of your workout and makes sure that it is truly self-paced as well as rest-based.

Pace –

We can also vary the speed that you move to vary the intensity of your workout. Generally speaking, if you have lighter DB, you will be more comfortable moving faster, so what you miss in load you gain in repetitions – although heavier would still be more effective overall! On the flip-side, slowing your movements down keeps your muscles under load for longer so sometimes that will give you a better training effect.

Range of movement –

We can also play with the size of our movements for each exercise that we do. Sitting deeper into a squat will obviously give you more work than staying higher up, and so long as it doesn’t cause any joint pain, it might be the most effective option. Sometimes we might change the range of movement by using bottom-half or top-half variations, or mixing up these two options!

What’s the best way to exercise?

With exercise there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ but it is probably good to vary your workouts as much as possible, to cover all bases and keep on giving your body new challenges.

  • vary everything – pace, ROM, weight, choice of equipment, length of workout, exercise selection – often
  • push yourself, but also tune-in to your body so that you can rest when you need to (& know that if you never need to rest, you’re not working hard enough!!)
  • aim to feel all of these things while you’re working out – feel hot; get out of breath & feel your muscles burning
  • don’t be afraid to pick up heavier DB – you can always put them down again but you might not need to!!

And if you’re still unclear about what is the best way for you to move your body, always find a suitably qualified trainer and let them help you. This is Archie. He is not a qualified trainer, but he’s happy to help also!

Click on the links for information about my online fitness classes for women and 1:1 PT sessions.

& let me know if I (or Archie?) can help you

October home workouts

This month I’m sharing some simple home workouts with you to keep you moving in between classes.

The moves can each be adapted to suit your body and fit the equipment and time you have available to you. My goal is that anybody can do these workouts but of course, if you have any health concerns please check with your medical practitioner before under-taking any new exercise routine.

Week 1 – 1st October:

This one is super-simple –

  1. squat & shoulder press
  2. bent over row
  3. deadlift & upright row/front raise

Do as many reps & sets as you choose, vary the order if you like, substitute other exercises if you need to. Aim to do these moves every day of the week if you can!

I did 1 set of 10 reps each on the first day; on the next day I did two sets of 10 reps each; on the third day I literally didn’t have a moment when I wasn’t working or prepping for work; today is day four and I haven’t done it yet but I’m aiming for four sets when I do…it’s not perfect but it’s better than not trying at all.

Week 2 – 8th October:

This week it’s a really effective format borrowed from Metabolic Effect – an up-chain workout. The idea is to sequence together several exercises and then add an extra rep for one or two of the exercises each round. To make it even more effective, go with a dumb-bell weight that challenges you…

home workout

I chose the following exercises for this up-chain workout, but feel free to change them to suit you (those marked with the * are my up-chained moves):

  • squat
  • lunge & biceps curl
  • biceps curl and shoulder press*
  • bent over reverse flye
  • body builder/burpee*

Last week I aimed to do the workout every day, but work overtook me and I managed only three days out of seven. So far this week I’ve managed one, but there’s still time to fit in a few more. My mindset is that anything is better than nothing so I’m not going to be upset if I miss a few along the way…

Week 3 – 15th October:

This week I have chosen four Pilates-inspired floor-based exercises, with options to add equipment for extra ooomph… It’s a slightly longer video so that I could include more detail on each exercise. Once you have nailed each move, you can put them together as a floor-based core workout or add them onto the end of another workout.

Pilates-based floor workout with equipment options

Week 4 – 24th October

This week I’ve put together a simple upper body workout using dumb-bells. It’s six upper body exercises and then some optional squats to give your arms a rest ready for your next set!

As always, change any moves that don’t feel comfortable for you and vary the number of sets & repetitions to suit.

Please let me know how you get on & ask if you have any questions at all.

& don’t forget to send me a photo of you doing your workout for a chance to win #goldstaraward1

gold star awards