A few months ago, I wrote a post about finding the motivation to get motivated. The bottom line was that I spent most of my life looking outside myself for sources of motivation and blaming others for why I had gotten to where I was – obese, unhappy, and unhealthy. It wasn’t until I accepted responsibility and realized that the potential for change was within me that I was able to slowly start making positive changes and really take control of my life.
As a much delayed follow up to that original post, I wanted to share some of the things that I do that help keep me going.
1. Set realistic and attainable goals, and start small.
Realistic and attainable are the two key words here – I don’t set myself up to fail by setting a completely unrealistic goal of running a half marathon in one month if I haven’t started training. When I first started to run (read this post if you haven’t!), my main goal was to not die during the 90 second jog intervals. After slowly conquering the c25k program one day at a time and having run for about 5 months total, I moved on to the goal of running a 5k. Once I did that first 5k, I ran 7 more races (between 5k and 10 miles), before setting my biggest goal of running a half marathon. Now that I’ve run two half marathons, my new goal is to finish a full marathon later this year. In this way, make goals for yourself that are based off of where you are right now in your journey, and that build off what you’ve already accomplished.
2. Look at healthy living as a positive thing and think about what I can add to my life rather than what I must take away.
This one is super important for me because the moment I start restricting anything, I get an incredible desire to rebel (read binge and/or abort mission on the exercise front). Any time I set weekly or monthly goals for myself, I look to add things to my life rather than take it away. For example, rather than saying no french fries, no drinking, no pizza, no nachos (what kind of life is that to lead anyway!?) I focus on trying a new recipe each week, adding in a workout each week, reading a new book, and/or sleeping an extra hour each night. This way rather than focusing my goals on staying away from things I can’t have, I focus on what I CAN have and adding things that are good for me to my life.
3. Keep it interesting.
This goes for both food and fitness, and is especially important the further along you are in your journey. At the beginning, everything healthy was new to me, but I could only eat oatmeal for breakfast, a salad for lunch, and grilled chicken with steamed veggies for dinner for so long before I got sick of it. Find new recipes, new ingredients, new restaurants, new cuisines, new fruits, new vegetables, or new grains to try. The more varied my diet is, the more fun living and sticking with a healthy lifestyle is for me. In the same way, I need to keep my body guessing with exercise because it gets used to what I do. Whether you focus on signing up for a new class, getting an exercise buddy, fitting in strength training in addition to cardio, trying a different form of cardio, doing a new workout video, doing a pushup or a sit-up challenge – you get the idea. Keep both your body and your palate guessing!
4. Write it down or say it out loud.
One of the things that really keeps me sticking with my goals is to write them down on here and tell everyone who will listen. I realize not everyone is as extroverted as I am, but just putting your goals down in writing makes a big difference in sticking with them. Also, when I have a big run coming up on the weekend, I try to sike myself up for it and tell people that I will be running X miles so that there are many people who will follow up to see how my X mile run was. It really helps.
5. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
Realize that ebbs and flows in motivation are natural and should be expected. You WILL fall off the wagon. Things will come up. You will have one too many drinks some nights and not be able to get up early the next day to get your workout in, even though you already have plans after work. It happens. The trick is, if you’re consistent with healthy living most of the time, those sometimes when things come up are not a big deal at all.
6. Keep a motivational photo, quote, or journal with you.
I used to have a little journal I carried around in my purse where I would write small victories, like “So and so told me I look great today,” “I didn’t eat the pizza that was ordered for lunch and ate my pre-packed lunch instead,” or “I said no to the cookies because I wasn’t hungry.” I did this for several months at the beginning of my journey, and it was pretty crazy how quickly the book filled up and how refreshing it was to look over if I was struggling. Or, carry an unflattering photo of yourself reminding you of where you came from (or if you’re just starting, where you don’t want to be anymore). It won’t work every time, but there were many times that this photo that I carry with me came in handy when I was wavering.
7. Reward Yourself.
This one is really important too, because you need to make sure that you’re giving yourself credit where credit is due. I’m not talking go out and buy yourself a new wardrobe because you worked out in the morning, but there are lots of small things you can do for yourself that will make you feel good and reinforce the healthy choices you’re making. Get some bubble bath or a bath bomb at TJ Maxx or Marshalls, buy some new nail polish, get a new book, or put a smoothie in the freezer while you go out on your run or are working out, so it’s waiting for you when you get home (try this if you haven’t yet!!).
So to sum it up, the main things I do are – take responsibility, set concrete goals, be positive, mix things up, share/write down my goals, forgive myself for slip-ups (and expect them), keep something with me like an old photo or a quote journal, and do little things for myself as rewards. Wow. That was quite a bit more concise than the post itself.