Oh lawd! I stepped on the scale this morning and have gained 5lbs since the LA Marathon! 5lbs! On men, that might be what they gain just after a lunch (and then promptly lose by dinner), but on me (I have a small frame, currently covered in a thick layer of blubber) - 5lbs is a lot. And it's a lot because losing 5lbs takes so. much. work. Amirite?!
Now, obviously, I have big goals! By the end of 2016 I want to both run an ultramarathon AND become a certified personal trainer and run my own business helping others achieve their own fitness potential. However, I have to first lead by example! I can't just simply relay the scientific knowledge of how to get fit if I can't also help INSPIRE others to get fit by having done it first myself. I'm sure most of us know the basic science of weight loss (calories burned > calories consumed) ... but it's the HOW we personally can achieve this, in this world of sedentary office jobs and snacking temptations that are literally everywhere, that most people require assistance with - including myself. I KNOW what I need to do to lose weight, but you know, sometimes I get busy, and I forget to eat, and then once I get a chance to eat, I forgo my salad that I brought from home and grab that grilled cheese and fries, because I'm just soooooo hungry by that point that I can no longer make a wise decision. Or I start craving something sweet, and because I've done so good and hit my calorie goal for the day, I'll just treat myself to a little bitty slice of this cake ... ok, maybe a medium slice of cake ... ahhhhhhhhh, to heck with it, I'll eat a gargantuan slice of this cake, because ... cake!
I got so addicted to sugar these past few months (training for a marathon is NOT the way you want to lose weight, lemme tell ya. You're constantly hungry. Constantly.) that I found myself munching on Twizzlers BEFORE breakfast one morning. That's when I knew I had to change things and change things fast. I had to find what would motivate me to stay strong through the cravings that were about to come once I went cold turkey on the cakes, cookies and chocolate.
Below are a few of the motivation exercises that I implement to try and stay strong through the difficult times (and in the beginning or restart of your fitness journey, be prepared for a lot of them). I use both intrinsic (factors that come from within me) and extrinsic (factors that come from outside of me) motivation. Generally, most people start down their fitness path using extrinsic motivating factors, but as they get stronger and feel better, they are more strongly motivated by intrinsic forces. Neither are more right or wrong, but it's important to know what moves YOU, and then use them to your advantage to achieve your goals!
Thinking about just how GOOD you will feel after you workout. Let's say you're poopy-tired, you don't want to work out. Or you just don't want to eat another freaking salad with another freaking lean protein on it. You want the good stuff! But then stop and think; how are you going to feel after you eat what you shouldn't? And I don't mean emotionally (although, there's that guilt component too), I mean physically. How is your body going to physically feel once you eat what you know you shouldn't? Are you going to be bloated? Are you going to be fatigued? Are you going to break out in zits? Are you going to have gastrointestinal distress later? How about a headache? Is it really worth it? *Most* of the time, if you play the tape out in your head and really see what you'll be experiencing in an hour or so, you can let go of that cookie or cake and reach for that fresh and delicious whole food your body truly wants and thrives off of. And if for some reason this doesn't work, I, at the very least, force myself to eat the good food FIRST, and then if I still have those cravings afterward (it's rare) then I'll allow myself that treat.
Same goes for workouts. Sure, you're exhausted now, you don't think you'll have the energy to complete the workout, but the only way you'll truly know is to try. Get up and get moving. Even just commit to 10 minutes at a time or 1 mile at a time. If you're still dragging after you've started moving a little, then perhaps your body really does simply need some rest right now and you should probably listen to it. But I'm certain, 99% of the time, once you tap into all those happy endorphins that are going to be flowing, you'll not only be able to get started, but you'll be able to finish, or at least come very close to finishing what it is you needed to do. And you'll feel SO good and so full of energy by the time you're done. And what's more, you'll be proud of yourself and your accomplishment, and that will translate into more intrinsic motivation. It's a happy, healthy cycle!
Visualization Exercise: Close your eyes and see how the people you want to impress the most in your life are going to light up and gush when they see how all the hard work you've put in has paid off. See how they twirl you around and feel your brand new muscles (in appropriate ways, of course ;-)). See how they smile for you and are truly and happily impressed with what you've accomplished. They want nothing but the best for you and are so stoked about your victory. They are also inspired and want to know how you did it and how they can do it too. See them cheering for you and rooting you on!
On the flip side of this coin (and what can sometimes be an even more powerful motivator) is visualizing the "haters". Those that don't think you can do it. Those that are rather unhappy with their own lot in life and want to bring others down who are trying to self-improve and thrive. See them and their reaction to your victory. While this might not be the healthiest mental approach (and ideally, as you grow stronger, you will move away from this type of motivation and look within yourself for your strongest motivating factors), sometimes it's what you need to get that jump start to get up and get moving or to back away from that cookie. I've found in life that I've sometimes been the most motivated when someone has told me I can't do it.
Pshft! Lemme just show you how much I can do it!
I even go as far as to keep a list of names in my phone - of both the supporters and the haters, and when I don't want to work out or I want to eat that pizza, I glance at the names and it (*most of the time*) gives me the strength I need to push on!
Put your money where your mouth is: I'm definitely motivated by money! I don't want to lose a penny. There are now apps that you can download where you can bet on yourself and your success. I signed up for one today. I put in $25 and in one month, I need to have lost 3% of my body weight in order to win back my share of the pot. In my challenge there are at least another 400 people also participating - and you have to imagine not all of them will cut their mandatory 3% in one month (because they are not awesome and motivated like us). And when they don't lose their 3% they then lose their $25 to the pot. But, those that DO make the 3% (and I certainly plan on being one of those peeps!) get to then share the pot. Easy peasy! And each month I do this until I hit my goal weight. Am I going to retire off my winnings? No. But it sure motivates me because I hate the thought of losing $25!
Intrinsic & Extrinsic:
Vision Board: Having visual reminders of what's important to us is vital. Even subtle ones. I always have a "vision board" up at my work desk that I update frequently. Even though I may not be staring directly at it for hours on end, having those visual reminders subtlety placed so that my eyes glance over the photos every time I answer the phone, or every time I grab for the computer mouse, helps me commit those images to memory. The goals that are visually represented on that piece of paper become burned into my subconscious. And that helps! In today's day and age, where we are literally bombarded with advertisements from the moment we wake to the moment we sleep encouraging us to consume, consume and consume some more, we need to be able to offset that with positive images that fulfill and inspire us. We need a gentle reminder of what's important to us, because it's certainly NOT that Twix bar you've seen advertised 14 times already today. We need to inundate ourselves with anti-advertising reminders. Reminders like the importance of family, serenity, peace and health. I strongly encourage everyone to create a vision board that represents what those ideals mean to you. Everyone's will be different. Perhaps some of you are targeting a family vacation for some chill and bonding time. Perhaps some of you want to lose weight in order to become healthy and more engaged in life. Perhaps some of you are looking to come out of debt in order to establish financial peace. Or, and as is most likely, perhaps all of you are looking for some combination thereof. Put photos on a piece of paper that represent this and then hang it where you can see it often. Advertisers are VERY smart with their subliminal suggestions about the things you really don't need in this life, it's time to start doing a little something to counteract them!
Watch for our Vision Board workshops coming soon to Hamboody Strong!
What are some techniques that YOU implement to stay motivated??