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Starting a Fitness Routine at Any Age or Level: How to Stay Motivated
Finding one’s motivation to lead a healthier, more active lifestyle can be one of the greatest obstacles faced by humans. If you feel overwhelmed by the thought of tackling change, are too busy with work, family life or just feel your body is has changed as you’ve aged—you are not alone. Fifty-two per cent (52%) of people polled say that motivation is the reason they are not changing a behaviour that can have a positive impact on their health1.
We have been taught that to be successful in life, we need to set goals for everything from physical activity and dieting to saving money and being mindful. But let’s face it, it takes work to develop a new behaviour as part of one’s daily or weekly routine—namely, being physically active.
The forming of a new habit is a science, with dedicated research journals and thousands of books on the topic. We all go through periods of high and low motivation, which is perfectly normal. The key, however, is knowing what tools to use during times of low motivation, in order to stick with your new habit.
Know your why
The biggest tool to use is your why—it can ground you. It is key to figure out why you are deciding to start something, such as a commitment to exercise or healthier eating, and continue to come back to reason(s) time and again
Tip: write down your why and read it daily. If you feel comfortable, tell those close to you what you are trying to achieve, and why are you are trying to achieve it. Support from your network can be an important tool throughout this process.
Make it pleasurable
The second tool in the motivation kit is finding a way to make your change(s) enjoyable. Humans seek pleasure, sometimes in the form of alcohol, tobacco or drugs—which are negative coping skills, habits or addictions. All of these vices have something in common, they can make you feel good in the short-term. The same can be applied to cravings and eating habits. Some people crave sweets in their quest for pleasure. And while the initial indulgence of those sweets may feel good in the short-term, over the long-term, it will not be healthy if we succumb every time.
By applying this concept of humans seeking pleasure to new positive habit formation, making the new habit enjoyable will help you focus on the process, rather than the mere result. Studies show that defining behaviours and steps are very important in reaching the ultimate goal. Humans get easily demotivated when they set measurable goals, and then only focus on the outcome rather than their progress throughout the process. In order to stay on track, breaking down goals into milestones can help maintain motivation and positive emotions high2.
Tips for making new habits pleasurable
- Consider what form of exercise you will enjoy most (walking, stationary bike, outdoor cycling, virtual workouts etc.
- If you prefer solitude exercise, create a playlist that will keep you motivated and happy
- If group exercise suits you best, or committing to another person will keep you on track, team up with a friend to enhance the social aspect
- As discussed above, set milestones throughout your process so you can measure progress – which is associated with positive emotions
- Get excited about fueling your body before a workout with nutritious and delicious snacks to make you feel more energized and healthy
To bring this all together, picking snacks that can curb you sweet tooth, fuel your body and contribute to your overall health is a great way to break bad habits and create new ones. California Prunes are a great way to keep you satiated and are very versatile – they can be enjoyed on their own or in a variety of recipes. They are an excellent source of vitamins and nutrients that keep your bones strong, gut healthy and support immunity. This snack is recommended by dietitians from across the country due to the positives they bring to the body and mind.
There are hundreds of other tips and tricks to help on this pathway to forming a new habit, with some listed below.
Always remember, this is not a sprint—this a marathon. There will be times you skip a day or two and question yourself. That is the time to reread this article and remember why you are doing this.
- You must seek things in your life that bring you inspiration to be a better person. Reading success stories of personal change can bring belief that big-time change is possible.
- Let others motivate you. Maybe it is a mentor you can look up to and learn from.
- Create a supportive environment. Maybe it is joining a group of people that you find incredibly inspiring.
- Watch your internal speech. Stop ordering yourself around and speak to yourself like you would a friend. Be pleasant with yourself. When you order yourself around, you rebel against your own orders. Show yourself some respect.
- Do not focus on the unpleasant task—focus on the outcome. Rather than picturing yourself doing the task, picture the final product. Instead of thinking about doing the laundry, the anxiety of meeting a new person or sweating on a run, picture the laundry folded and put away, holding hands on a walk or sitting sipping coffee after a hard run.
- Remember why you are doing it. When you feel no motivation at all, it is normally because the reason behind what you are doing is not strong enough. Make sure your reasons are strong and emotional.
- Start small. When your motivation is gone; start small. You can build momentum form there.
In our world, we tend to only celebrate achievements that are large and visible, it is hard to start small. Keep this chart in mind as you work on your daily health.
Floss one tooth. Walk a little farther to your car. Eat one piece of fruit. Wake up and have one positive thought.
The difference between improving and regressing by 1% every day for a year
One little change a day can see a difference of 37.5%.
Whatever the inspiration, find it and keep it in your heart. Use this to keep going through difficult times.
More on California Prunes
California Prunes are sweet and can help with those times when pleasure drives what we want. Humans love sweet things, but you won’t have to feel bad after eating these because they are a low glycemic food, meaning you won’t get that “sugar rush” you normally get from eating other sweets. They will also help maintain bone strength as we age, so we can continue doing things we love doing. California Prunes are just one, simple addition to one’s routine that can make the world of difference from a health perspective, as well as providing the energy and strength we often need as we age.
- Schutzer KA, Graves BS. Barriers and motivations to exercise in older adults. Prev Med. 2004 Nov;39(5):1056-61. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2004.04.003. PMID: 15475041.
Darren is passionate about improving the total health of our community. Darren is a professional Exercise Physiologist and has worked in the health and performance field for nearly 25 years. He is Owner of two Wellness Consulting Companies in Halifax. He has consulted within corporations, with top level executives, Olympic Medalists, World Champion athletes and attended the Rio games as a sport scientist with team Canada.
Darren has a weekly column on total health in the Chronicle Herald and his most recent book can be found on amazon “Stop Wishing It Was Friday”. Darren is an adjunct professor in the school of health and human performance at Dalhousie. He has conducted research in high performance sport and wellness. Currently Darren is leading a three study in resilience in university age students. Darren enjoys not only researching but working with high performance athletes, groups and individuals even today.
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