By Sarah Klein, Prevention.com
Motivating myself to work out is hard. At the beginning of every week, I have such high hopes for my healthy agenda. Then, within a couple of days, reality sets in and life flattens my workout motivation like a pancake. Could be long work hours or New York City's current heat wave that has everyone wilting -- and opting for ice cream.
Looking for inspiration, I asked everyone (everyone! I swear) about the ways they motivate themselves to exercise. Most of the answers made me want to bang my head against a wall--there was one large contingent of "I just do it," iron-disciplined, Type A fitness lovers who were countered by an equally vehement team of the "I just don't do it -- can you help?" variety.
It turns out, science may have a potential solution for those of us who struggle. A study recently published in Health Psychology found that people who used an exercise "trigger" were more likely to actually follow through with their workout plans. According to the study authors, that trigger could be as simple as seeing your gym bag parked expectantly next to the door, or it could be internal, like the time of day. (Struggling to get your workout in? Check out Fit in 10, the new workout program that only takes 10 minutes to do.)
Hmm... I don't know about you, but the old "gym bag by the door trick" ain't gonna cut it most days. So I decided to ask real women who found a way to figure it out and experts in the fitness biz for some triggers that might actually help the motivationally challenged among us to get moving. Here, some real-world tips from sources in the know. Some may be a little crazy, but hey -- it's all about finding what works for you, right? And, as I certainly know, some of us may need a bigger push than others.
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TRIGGER: Remind yourself how ridiculously busy your life is.
While an overwhelming world can certainly be an excuse, Marli Higa from Queens, NY, uses it to her advantage. "Whenever I'm about to skip a workout, I think about my schedule, and the fact that today, now, is really my only window. For example, I'll remind myself that tomorrow night I'm going out and can't go to the gym after work, and the next day I'll be too busy during the workday. So it's now or never."
TRIGGER: Try unabashed bribery (hey, if it works...).
"Shopping for new workout clothes" is how Liz Jamora from New York City stays motivated, but if you've been-there-done-that and it didn't work, maybe consider taking it one big step further. "One of my clients ordered a bunch of dresses and shoes for the summer and had them delivered to the gym instead of her home, so she had an incentive to work out," says Minna Ajo, a personal trainer at New York City's Crunch Union Square. "I'd give her one item every time a goal was met. A pair of heels she couldn't wait to wear motivated her to drop 10 pounds!"
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TRIGGER: Rethink your PJs.
If morning workouts fly by with you slamming the snooze button (5, 6, 7, 20 times), consider trying this trick from Jessica Cody Lessner from Boothbay, ME: "I often sleep in my workout clothes. It sounds funny, but it makes getting up at 4:45 AM so much easier." And since putting on your workout clothes can help get your head in the game, you wake up in the right mindset: ready to sweat. (OK, coffee first, then sweat. We're only human.) (Still find it hard to wake up? Find out why you're tired all the time.)
TRIGGER: Use the good ol' "buddy system."
Nope, it's not new, but according to quite a few of the experts and women I spoke with, it's one trigger that really does keep you on track. "A workout buddy can help because it encourages people to make connections with others who share common values and are pursuing similar goals," says Philip M. Wilson, PhD, associate professor and codirector of the Behavioural Health Sciences Research Lab in the department of kinesiology at Brock University in Ontario, Canada. (If you can't get to a gym, find out how to start a walking group in your neighborhood.)
For Cody Lessner from Boothbay, ME, it's the standard "I don't want to let anyone down" guilt that insistently nudges her out of bed in the morning. "I had a friend sign up for a class with me, and we alternated driving to it. I never overslept because I didn't want to be late picking her up, and vice versa," she says.
TRIGGER: Imagine your most embarrassing photos on Facebook.
"Some clients have had close friends keep embarrassing 'before' pictures of them with instructions to release the picture on social media if they don't stick with their workout plans... medieval!" says David Jack, performance specialist and founder of the activLAB at the Arizona Grand Resort in Phoenix. "But it's worked."
Related: 10 Mistakes You're Making After Your Workout
TRIGGER: Consider the prospect of nudity.
The idea of being exposed in front of a group of people on a regular basis may sound like torture, but Tiny Dee from Brooklyn, NY, swears by it. "Ever since I became a burlesque dancer, I have a different kind of inspiration to stay fit: getting almost naked in front of thousands of people on stage." Burlesque may not be for you (or me), but keeping your bathing suit out where you can see it every day rather than stuffing into a drawer could help.
TRIGGER: Tap into big emotion.
Totally over caring about how you look in a bathing suit? I know. It's time to go deeper. "We often get our clients to dedicate their workouts to an intention greater than themselves that genuinely moves them," says Jack. "Once people drill down into the intention -- for example, my mother who's struggling with illness, my daughter and her opportunity to rise at work, our new grandchild and their future -- they dedicate the exercise to that intention and it becomes deeply personal and powerful. We call it #idedicate and an #activprayer."
TRIGGER: Listen to songs that make you car dance.
Load your music player with your favorites and put them on when you're feeling too tired to change into your workout clothes. More often than not, you'll perk up and feel ready to work out, says Michael Everts, owner and founder of FIT personal training in Washington, D.C.'s Dupont Circle. "It gets you to the gym -- the hardest part of motivation -- and once you're there, you'll probably stick around."
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TRIGGER: Turn your whine into want.
"My client worked with a personal trainer who pushed him hard, and he hated the workouts, especially the endings, running up a steep hill fast," says Michelle Segar, PhD, author of No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness. "I suggested that he stop running so hard if he disliked it so much. I assumed he would based on our conversation, but the next week he told me something that surprised me. As he was getting close to that final part, he realized it was a challenge he wanted to do instead of something he was supposed to do. That switch in the reason and meaning changed his whole experience. He started enjoying it instead of resenting it." So changing the reason for something away from a "should" to a "want," something that is personally meaningful, is one of the top unexpected strategies I've found that radicalizes people's experience with exercising as well as their relationship with it.
TRIGGER: Or, just hold your wine hostage.
"Our group runs sometimes end with a trip to a nearby watering hole for adult beverages, which is always great motivation," says Carrie Stevens, JackRabbit Sports social media manager. Can't argue there.
By Sarah Klein, Prevention.com
This post "10 Weird Ways To Make Yourself Work Out -- Even When You Really Don't Want To" originally ran on Prevention.com.