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…