The Psychology Of Motivation

Sustaining the motivation to work out more consistently, and become more fit takes time. In one study, individuals who were trying to make positive life changes averaged 66 days of purposeful repetition before the habit became automatic. While this can be intimidating, science also says that developing certain “keystone” habits make others fall into place. In The Power of Habit, the author observes that people who improve their workout consistency also automatically made other positive life changes, including eating better, and becoming more productive at work.
It would be wonderful if pure willpower and determination were enough to get you to your fitness goals. However, research shows that a desire to be in better shape is not enough for consistent workout motivation. This is why it helps to have a number of psychological tricks that can push you toward the workout consistency you need. A few powerful strategies to include:
  1. Go back to the “why”.

    Exercise is not a pleasant activity for most people, especially at first. Focusing on the dull task itself does not make it any more attractive. Instead, zoom out and ask yourself why you are bothering in the first place. Do you want to look better? Become faster, stronger or more flexible? Protect your health? Having a clear reason in place will make those early morning or late night workouts seem more important.

  2. Go for five.

    Don’t feel like doing a full hour-long workout? That’s understandable; it can be a daunting task when you’re tired from work or it’s the weekend, and you just want to relax. Instead, set the timer for a five minute workout. You can do anything for five minutes, right? Chances are, you will keep going once that five minutes is up. Getting started is the hardest part. Once you are in the midst of a workout, there’s no reason not to do another set of reps or another five minutes on the treadmill. Over time, you will find that you can work out for longer, and enjoy it more. The important part is establishing that workout consistency. If you get in the habit of starting each day, keeping going is the easy part.

  3. Get a partner.

    Many find it much easier to stay accountable to someone else than they do to stay accountable to themselves. Find a workout partner who is also seeking regular motivation. If you make appointments to work out together, you will feel more obligated to show up, and keep the date. Exercising together also means that you have company and conversation, which can make your workout more engaging.

  4. Develop a mantra.

    Mantras can induce a meditative state that makes your thoughts clearer, and your motivations stronger. A number of high-powered executives, including CEOs of international corporations, use mantra-based meditation to make their minds clearer and stronger.

    Your mantra can be any words that work for you. It can be a cheesy statement from a motivational poster, a few words of encouragement or something else. If you don’t know what to choose, a good personal mantra to start with is “Do it now!”

  5. Get the right tools.

    The environment you are in can have a profound effect on both your enthusiasm and your dedication. A computer that is too slow, apps that freeze or a car that constantly breaks down can kill your motivation. Make sure that you can get to where you want to work out. Purchase clothes, and shoes that will keep you comfortable. Bring a water bottle along so that you stay hydrated throughout. Keep all of your gear packed, and ready to go so that you don’t risk losing your motivation while you are hunting for things. Avoiding the traps that sap motivation is as important as building it, and sustaining it.

    Having quality equipment for working out at home can also provide a motivational boost. This is not an area to skimp; if you do not like using the exercise equipment, chances are it will sit in a corner, and collect dust. Test a number of ellipticals, treadmills, exercise bikes, weight sets, and other types of home workout equipment to see what works best for you.

The change toward healthier habits and strong workout consistency will not happen overnight. You may backslide and miss a few days. Don’t dwell on it if you do, just start over building your workout motivation. Before too long, you will look forward to your daily exercise, and begin to see the changes that make it all worthwhile.