How to Stay Motivated
So, you have one week down and six more to go prior to race week. How do you stay consistent and motivated? This is an especially relevant question when trainings are cold, rainy, or otherwise unpleasant. Really, there is always an excuse not to train, and they are easy to find. This is true of everything in life when it comes to taking the easy way out of things. Even the most dedicated and consistent runners struggle with periods of lacking motivation. There are many mornings when I get up to run, and it is the last thing I want to do.
How do we overcome a lack of motivation or the temptation to take the easy way out and just not do it? First, it is important to understand that the maintenance of a healthy, fit lifestyle is very mental. It involves a pattern of thinking and a mindset that recognizes the temptation to stop will always be there, but you have ways of battling those temptations. Many people just hope they don’t lose their motivation and as soon as it happens, they quit. Well, hope is not a strategy. Rather, periods of variable motivation should be expected and considered the status quo; it is part of being human. So, rather than worrying about it happening, focus on the fact that it will and have a clear plan for what you will do about it.
Plans for overcoming these periods of limited motivation or desire to quit require a purposeful, directed pattern of thought. In other words, it involves focusing on things that will motivate you rather than being overwhelmed with the thought that you want to quit or skip important training sessions. For instance, if you find your motivation low, focus on the race itself. Think about how you will feel when you cross that finish line and how proud you and others will be of your accomplishment. Focus on your feelings of success and look past this short-term feeling of limited motivation. You may want to think more short-term about how you will feel later that day after you have completed the workout. You might also want to create some type of personal reward that you can give yourself for completing the training.
So, you wake up this Saturday morning at 7 a.m. and you think to yourself, “It is so cold out there; I really don’t want to get out of this warm bed to go run.” “It won’t hurt me to miss one Saturday; I will make it up later.” These are the thoughts we all have and for some, it is the “stinking thinking” that is the beginning of the end related to their training. In reality, most people who would miss that Saturday don’t make it up and eventually just give up. The trick is to counter these thoughts with other, more positive thoughts focused on the race and how wonderful you are going to feel when you complete it, a reward you have established for yourself for getting up and training, etc. Think past that impulsive, short-term desire to skip training. Remind yourself that you did this for a reason; you have a goal. The true difference between those who succeed in their goals and those who don’t is related to self-discipline and the ability of an individual to resist the easy way out in lieu of doing the hard work.
The children’s television host Mr. Rogers was an avid fitness person. In one of his books, he offered a very simple explanation as to how he had remained consistent with his fitness. He simply shared his belief that he made a promise to himself to be healthy and that he keeps his promises. You started this……so finish it.
If you are investing in fitness to help with weight management, it is important for you to be aware of a few research findings related to running and exercise. Human beings have a tendency to overestimate the calories they are burning during exercise and underestimate the calories they eat afterwards. In other words, people rationalize eating more by saying, “Well, I worked out today, so it is okay.” However, the calorie balance is often uneven. This is often especially the case for women, as research suggests they do this at a greater level than men. We don’t understand exactly why. However, we find that men and women will often begin an exercise program thinking they will have a dramatic change in weight or body mass and find it does not work. The key issue that is missing for them is the changes in eating. Exercise alone is not the secret for weight loss. Rather, there must be a strong focus on nutrition as well. It will be important as you move forward in this program to avoid the temptation of thinking that because you are now exercising, you can go crazy when eating.
There needs to be a balance. Make sure you get the calories you need, but also don’t think you can now just eat anything you want. I have found that My Fitness Pal* (smart phone app) is one of the most helpful tools in keeping a proper balance and perspective. It allows you to easily track calorie intake and compare it with calorie burn each day to be sure you know where you are. For instance, on days when I run longer and burn more calories, I eat more to compensate. On days where I run less, I eat less to compensate. It is a nice way to maintain a balance or create a slight deficit needed to lose weight. Approaching it this way is a balanced and healthy way of addressing weight management rather than crazy diets or excessive restriction. The app will also calculate calorie needs for you based upon your goals.
It is important to realize that weight management is about the food. Exercise is a critical component, but it is not the magic answer.
By: John Azar-Dickens, Ph.D.
Clinical Associate Professor of Psychology Licensed Clinical Psychologist
*The HarbinSTRONG portal provides a mobile app where you can track nutrition and exercise daily. Please see attached for instructions on how to download the app to your smartphone.