Staying Motivated: The Practical Part

Earlier this year, I was invited to give a talk as part of the inaugural Harvey Nichols Wellness Week. My topic? Motivation. While most of this is mental (that's another post for another day), there are still some actually practical tips you can use to get your butt out the door when you need to exercise. Here are some I've used.

Always keep a spare gym kit in your car. This way if you finish work early or find yourself full of energy, you can just go straight to a workout without having to go home. Because when you do go home, that motivation will probably sink right into the folds of your couch, along with your bum.

Lay your workout gear in your line of sight from your bed, so that you can see it as soon as you wake up in the morning - I'll put my kit out on my dresser or hang it up on my closet so it's right there in front of me when I get up. If you see it, you're reminded of it, and it's right there so you have no excuse (and in my case, feel guilted into going by my previous-night self. Who I am always grateful to after because I always feel better after I've gone!

Think outside the box - you don't just need to hit the gym, or one specific gym for that matter. Only have 20 mins? Do cardio intervals in your home gym, or do a circuit routine at home. Heck, you can even just do a bunch of squats and jumping jacks in your living room. If you don't have a gym membership you can work out anywhere that you have enough room to move around in a mini square, really, so you can take it anywhere from your living room to a hotel room to the beach, if you're motivated enough. And when you're super busy, you don't need to force yourself into an hour-long workout - just get some activity in, it's better than nothing at all (and once you start you'll probably find the energy to do more anyway). Don't discount other places to exercise too - swimming pools, the sea, or even the side of your desk (tricep dips) can work if you really need them to.

Convenience is key. As much as you love a certain workout or gym, if you're super busy or traffic is awful, you'll often end up skipping it if getting there is a hassle. If you know it's going to be a day like that, then plan to do something closer. I try to plan my workouts around where I'm going to be that day, morning or afternoon - then when I'm super busy, my living room will have to do. When I have the luxury of time, I'm always happy to be able to drive to whichever gym I love the most, no matter how long it takes to get there.

Enlist a friend, but just one, so you HAVE to show up so you don't let them down. Getting a workout buddy is a common motivation tip, and it works, but I've personally found that if I know a group of people will be there, I don't feel as guilty when I skip out because they'll have someone else there. Whereas if I know it's just me, then I drag myself over there because I don't want to abandon them - it's unfair for them to have to pay for my lack of motivation!

Get a personal trainer, or get something like GuavaPass, then pre-book classes - or just do this at your regular gym if it offers classes with a penalty charge - this way if you're booked in, they'll get annoyed if you don't show up as they've reserved the space for you, or you might have to pay a penalty cost for skipping last minute. Trust me, it's a lot more effective on the "I should just go" psyche if you know you're going to be charged for your lack of motivation.

Find rewards for your commitment - but not food-related ones, since that'll derail your progress or create unhealthy mental associations with food as a reward system for exercise. Studies have shown this makes us less likely to lose weight or get fit because it then causes our brains to think that exercise is something bad that needs a reward and you'll often end up eating more calories than what you've burned as a result. Instead, try rewarding yourself with a bath, a face mask, a deep conditioning hair treatment, or if you've really seen a significant physical change, some new workout gear (but only if you've really warranted it with a noticeable change, so you don't develop some sort of retail therapy reward system in place of the food one!)

Invest in some gadgets - whether that's an Apple Watch, a FitBit, Jawbone, Polar, or whatever it is, if you can track how much activity you're doing, not only will it remind you when you haven't moved enough, it will encourage you to move more because it's so immensely satisfying to note it down or see the points racking up. Just don't get addicted and then overdo it, haha. No gadgets? No problem. Write it down instead, like a fitness version of the food diary concept.

Tell people. It holds you accountable. If your colleagues, friends or family know you're headed to the gym, some of us will feel like idiots if we skip and they asked us how it was the next day - especially if this happens again and again and again. While I don't believe in doing this or going because of how you might feel silly admitting that you didn't go (and don't lie, that's even worse), because you should be doing it for you and not care that much about what other people think of your exercising habits (its for your own sake not for the social clout!), it does hold you accountable, and studies have shown that saying things out loud or announcing them does create some sort of mental shift that makes us more likely to commit to things.

Photograph: Shutterstock.

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