I know that a lot of people have trouble finding the motivation to keep exercise a priority so I’ve been thinking on how I have been able to keep it a high priority for over 8 years now. I make it a priority not because I am some sick masochist who enjoys running up and down hills when it is cold and raining outside.
It’s not because I get a runner’s high – I think I’ve had a total of three in my entire life (I get totally shortchanged in the runner’s high department). It’s because I have to do it.
I would bet that most of us do something we don’t particularly love every single day because we like the payoff – we get up and go to work. I use exactly the same mindset. I need the payoff of controlling my weight and maintaining my fitness, so I get up and go to work. When I’m working at my job it’s not a question of, “How do I fit my job into my day?” it is a question of, “How do I fit the rest of my life around my job?” and that is exactly how I see exercise. I need to exercise, everything else needs to fit around it. In fact, I am not free to relax at the end of the day until I have done the exercise I need to do.
A list of daily priorities in my head would read,
3. Everything else.
This is how I take care of me. But most of the time I would rather just skip it. So, how do I get out there and run or walk or ride my bike or lift weights when my mind is trying to give me a hundred excuses not to do it?
I trick myself gently into it. Every little step is broken down into it’s own little task, and I just focus on the little task. The trick is to tell myself that I’m not really committed, I can stop any time and go do something else if I really, really want to, but since I’m here I might as well carry on. The first step may be the hardest, but it really is a tiny step, so I can handle that. So last night it went something like this:
1. Grab gym bag, walk over to the gym. Ok, I’m just walking to the next building. No big deal. It’s not even very far.
2. Change into workout clothes. I’m just getting dressed, I do this every day.
3. Tie hair back, put in contacts. La la la, I’m just grooming myself.
4. Grab iPod and headphones. Ok, yay, I’m putting on some tunes.
5. Head into the gym. I’m just here to look, really. I can leave whenever I want.
6. Get on the bike. Just going to do this for a few minutes. Just a gentle motion, no resistance or anything, I can stop any time I want.
7. Hey, this isn’t so bad. I could probably keep doing this for a while…maybe just up the resistance because my blood is starting to pump now…
8. Well heck, now that I’m here and sweating, might as well make it a good one!
This seems to work on me every time. 40 minutes later I’m so proud of myself I’m oozing smugness.
And that is how I get it done. My little mental trick for forcing myself to do it when I don’t feel like it is to focus on each individual little step until I’m there. If I think of it as a big event – “I have to go to the gym and it’ll be a whole hour of my day and it’s so much work and I’d rather just go home and lie on the couch, blah blah blah…” I can easily talk myself out of it, but if I focus on accomplishing each individual little step without focusing it as a whole giant production, it’s doable.