Stay motivated to exercise

Stay motivated to exercise

One of the tricks to maintaining your motivation to exercise regularly is understanding how it all works. When you start exercising and before it becomes a habit or routine part of your lifestyle, you’re primarily ‘extrinsically motivated’. This means that external rather than internal things are more likely to motivate you, such as exercising with a friend, a personal trainer, committing to a team or signing up to a fitness event. So ensure you have some external motivators in place initially.

A few weeks down the track, when you can start to feel the positive difference being active regularly makes, you’ll start to become ‘intrinsically motivated’. That means your motivation is more internal, for example you enjoy the buzz or the health benefits, like an improved mood, feeling stronger or better sleep, that you get from exercising.

If you want to continue to feel great about the exercise you’re doing and remain motivated to keep doing it, here are a few things to bear in mind.

  • Choose exercise you enjoy. If you don’t like it, you’re less likely to keep doing it once the novelty of trying to do something active every day wears off.
  • Exercise needs to be convenient. In other words, it has to fit in with you and your lifestyle – you shouldn’t have to go out of your way to do it.
  • There needs to be an element of change. Your exercise program needs variety, regardless of what stage you’re at. It’s best to change what you do every six weeks so you don’t hit a plateau – mentally or physically. Small changes, even reversing the order of your exercise routine or walking a different route, can make a big impact here. Other suggestions include introducing a new activity to your exercise routine every season; exercising in a different location on weekends for a change of scenery; including hills, stairs or soft sand into your walk or run to keep things interesting; exercising with a new group or joining a team sport; and adding quick bursts of high-intensity activity within your usual low-to-moderate-intensity workout.
  • Setting yourself some goals will help. Research proves that being able to tick these off as you achieve them, is really motivating – provided you choose the right type of goals to work towards. The key is setting ‘process goals’ rather than ‘outcome goals’. Compared to ‘outcome goals’, which you don’t have 100 per cent control over (eg: my goal is to become the best netball player on my team), ‘process goals’ are those that you do have full control over, and are more to do with the journey rather than the destination. For example, my goal this week is to complete three on-court ball-skills practice sessions and go for three, 20-minute jogs.