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how to stay motivated to exercise

I have been exercising every day now for the past three years. So in this article what I intend to share with you are little tips and tricks that I have picked up or taught myself along the way that have really helped get me out of bed every morning and exercise for (at least) 30 minutes each and every day!

I hope you find this both helpful and informative... now let's go!!

1.) You must first understand the fundamental benefits of daily exercise

In my opinion, if you do not have a comprehensive understanding of why something is good for you, you are far less likely to do it. When I first started working out every day, I vividly recall struggling to come up with reasons to keep on going.

Over time though I learned more and more about what exactly my daily exercises were doing for me and how much they truly would help me out in the future.

I learned that daily exercise:

  • Burns fat/calories which will help you lose unwanted pounds and tone up existing muscle mass
  • Eliminates the stress hormone cortisol – which is responsible for unwanted fat storage in the body
  • Lowers and helps regulate blood pressure
  • Strengthens the heart
  • Triggers the creation of more blood vessels to help deliver more oxygen to new muscle tissue
  • Relieves stress and calms the nerves
  • Revs up and improves metabolism
  • Builds muscle – which in turn helps your body burn extra calories even when you are not working out!
  • Increases life expectancy
  • Improves sleep patterns
  • Helps eliminate depression by releasing natural chemicals (endorphins), which help make you feel happy and peaceful
  • Clears your mind and helps you focus
  • Improves self-confidence by helping you feel better about yourself – both inside and out
  • Helps to regulate natural chemical reactions that occur inside the body

2.) Understand why you are going to exercise (hopefully every day)

If you do not understand why you are going doing something, you are probably not going to keep it up for very long are you?

For me, I always knew that looking healthy on the outside wasn't going to be enough. I knew that I wanted to also feel healthier on the inside. So when I first started working out I would purposefully think about that one goal and that would help get me up out of bed and out the door each morning.

As time went on and with each passing achievement, I had the privilege of choosing what my new goals were going to be and that would in turn motivate me to keep going. It is that way of thinking that kept me motivated when it would have been so much easier to just hit the snooze button and fall back asleep.

Without a why you are a ship lost at sea with no clue as to which direction you are going. However once you fully understand what you can reasonably expect from your commitment to daily exercise, work hard to figure out what your why is and set a new course for new and exciting destinations in your own life.

3.) Understand what your current coping mechanisms are and try to transform them into a productive physical activity

It doesn't matter who you are or where you come from, everybody has mechanisms in place to help them cope with everyday emotions. Some people choose to eat away their sadness while others might choose to drink. Some choose to smoke cigarettes when they are stressed out or nervous while others choose to get angry or take their frustrations out on other people.

Whatever your particular coping mechanisms might be, try your best to figure out what they are and then find a way to turn exercise into your new way of dealing with your everyday feelings.

For me, I had a real problem when it came to dealing with my emotions. Whenever I would get down in the dumps I would eat junk food. Whenever I was stressed out I would drink alcohol and/or smoke cigarettes. If I was overwhelmed or anxious I would plop down in front of the television and try to forget whatever I was upset about.

Today that has all changed. Now my daily exercise has become my number one way of coping with a lot of my emotions and has in many ways even helped prevent a lot of them from ever becoming a problem in the first place. For example when I run in the morning, that helps take away a lot of the stressful feelings I might have had and leaves me feeling energized, powerful and strong the rest of the day.

So be honest with yourself and try to figure out what your "less-than-perfect" coping mechanisms are and try to think up new ways that you can transform them into regular exercise that empowers you and makes you look and feel great!

4.) Make it a ritual

I've written a post about this before but I feel like this is relevant to this particular subject so I think it's worth repeating. You see, whether you are aware of it or not your entire daily life is dictated by a certain set of rituals that you have consciously or unconsciously developed over time that are so routine to you that half the time you don't even stop to think twice about them. In short, these rituals essentially become automatic in your mind so that you can have more freedom to focus your energy on the more complicated and complex situations in your life.

Things like: brushing your teeth, going to the bathroom, taking a shower when you smell or are dirty, how you get to work, how you interact with other individuals, etc. These are all perfect examples of rituals that you've developed over time that have become so second-nature to you that you go through your entire day without ever noticing that you did them at all.

In order to turn exercise into that kind of a daily ritual though you are going to need to figure out what your current rituals are that are holding you back from exercising in the first place. Maybe you have developed a ritual where you tell yourself that you're going to start exercising but instead you've subconsciously conditioned yourself to look for any excuses you can to avoid it.

Whatever your particular rituals may be, I would suggest that you simply do your best to honestly identify what they are and then deliberately figure out a way to turn exercising into one of them. The ultimate goal being that after approximately thirty days of exercising each day you will have successfully turned exercise into a daily ritual that is as important to you as cleaning yourself.

5.) Know where you are and where you want to go

The first step in dealing with any problem is admitting that you have one. When I first began my weight loss journey, I learned the hard truth that for many years I wasn't being completely honest with myself in regard to my body and my weight. That denial compounded over the years and eventually created this false self that caused a number of problems for me in my life.

It wasn't until I decided to make a change and be completely honest with myself about how I felt and how I looked that I was finally able to develop an effective game plan for how I was going to change.

I could go on for hours about this particular subject because it is really an incredibly important step in the process of change. But the idea that I hope you can take away from this is that without a clear and honest picture of who you really are and how you truly look and feel today, it will be nearly impossible to create an honest and clear action plan to transform yourself into the person you ultimately want to be.

So take your time and figure out where you truly stand today. What are you satisfied with? What are you dissatisfied with? Where would you like to improve? Once you feel confident in who you are today, that's when you can finally move forward and begin building your new game plan for the new and improved you of tomorrow.

6.) Create small incentives to reward yourself for working out that also help motivate you to keep going

When I first started working out regularly I was always a hot mess when I finished. Even after three years of this stuff I still sweat like crazy when I exercise. So to help keep me motivated to work out beyond the point of looking like a sweaty fool, I would come up these creative incentives that would basically excuse-proof my workouts for me. That way, no matter how tired I was or how hot (or cold) it was outside, I would have absolutely no trouble deciding to make exercise my number one priority – otherwise I would not have been able to move forward with my day.

One of my nifty tricks was making a pact that I could never take a shower again unless I had already exercised for at least 30 minutes that day. As you can imagine, this was a very effective incentive to help get my butt up early each morning.

What's great about this approach is that no matter what happened, it always worked in my favor. If I didn't get up early and exercise, I would have to leave the house with bed head knowing that as soon as I got back home I was going to have to work out.

Of course your little tricks do not have to be as extreme as mine. Perhaps instead you make a promise to yourself that you can't watch any television or hang out with any of the guys/gals until you get your exercise in? Whatever you choose, make it realistic and doable for you. This is supposed to help motivate you to want to work out – not turn it into a chore.

7.) Do your best to measure your weekly progress

After you have your foundation laid and you are enthusiastically working toward whichever goal you set for yourself, make sure there is a way to measure your progress each week toward achieving said goal.

This works for you in two ways 1.) It helps motivate you to keep up the good work and 2.) It serves as an early warning that you might need to make a small course correction and get back on track.

I have made it a point to weigh myself twice per week, every week from the very beginning. Then to measure my strength I do a certain number of push-ups and pull-ups every day. If I find that on a particular day I am struggling, that indicates to me that I have not been keeping up with my training and that I need to bump up my number of repetitions to get back to where I want to be.

Whether your goal is weight loss, distance covered, weight lifted or reps achieve – do yourself a favor and work out your own way of measuring your progress so that you can stay on track and reach your goals.

8.) Understand that it is about creating an entirely new and permanent lifestyle

I do not want to sound mean, but if you do not plan on sticking with this workout regime for the long haul you might be better off not starting at all. I'm not saying this to try and discourage you – I just want to be very clear that under no circumstances should you move forward with this if you have any doubts that you'll be able to stick with it for life.

The reason I say this is because for the longest time I too thought there must be some way to cheat the system and "get away" with only exercising once or twice a week and comfortably achieve (or maintain) the body of my dreams – but the truth is that is just not the way it works.

Are there people out there who "get away" with not exercising and still have relatively thin figures? Yes. But these are the very same people that you will see at 50-60 years old who have pot bellies and are on a hundred different medications. So yes, you could say that they "got away" with not taking care of their bodies in their twenties and thirties – but no matter who you are or what your genetics, we all reap what we sow.

If you are reading this with hope that you might somehow be able to "drop those last stubborn pounds" and then retreat back to your old lifestyle – I'm sorry to say that my suggestions are probably not going to work for you. If, on the other hand you are here because you are truly ready and excited about making permanent and long-lasting changes, then you have come to the right place!

I am grateful to have learned such a valuable lesson at such a young age. Today I look at my daily workouts, not as some daily chore, but as an investment in my physical fitness today and my physical future tomorrow.

9.) Always be on the lookout for fun activities that will put your fit physique to good use

Activities that pique your interest and require that you use your body help you in two ways. First – they motivate you! Second – they put necessary pressure on you to at the very least maintain your current level of physical fitness so that you do not run the risk of being excluded from that particular team sport or fun activity.

For me, it was running. Once I started running and got better at it I would actively seek out different ways to participate in races that would further challenge me to improve on my past achievements. That is how running races became such a great motivator for me.

So do yourself a favor and keep your eyes peeled for physical activities or team sports that you are attracted to. Once you find one that you love, you will have also discovered a fun and bulletproof way to safeguard yourself from ever slacking off again.

10.) Last but not least –whatever you do– never, never, never, never, never give up!

Yes, you are going to encounter times when you want to quit. You'll hit a wall. You'll see a surprising dip in your weekly progress and immediately feel tempted to throw in the towel. Whatever you do, DON'T QUIT!

Remember, this is not a contest with anyone but yourself.

You are the only person who can decide if what you did for the day is worthy of your own 30 minutes (or more) standard. Every day doesn't have to be record-breaking – it just has to be good enough for you! That is the best part about all of this – you are the one and only person who can judge how your own day went.

If you honestly feel like you could have done more, guess what? You can decide to drop what you are doing and go for a run, bike ride or walk can't you? What is beautiful about this entire change process is that nobody can hold you back or push you forward better than you can.

And you can bet your bottom dollar there have been times when I too have wanted to give up and just forget about my workout for the day. But over time I've come to realize that a third conscience has developed inside my head that goes far beyond the traditional "good guy, bad guy" – its name is "you know better".

I knew that if I didn't work out that I was going to feel grumpy and irritated all day. And I knew that if I chose not to work out today, I would have no choice but to work out twice as hard tomorrow. I knew that no matter how hot or cold it was outside that there was no guarantee that I would get the chance to work out tomorrow so I better appreciate what a privilege it is to be healthy and fit and get my butt out that door and do it!

Even if all you get out of that day is a 30 minute walk with a friend, don't ever let yourself fall into the trap of thinking that a certain physical activity isn't worthy of being called a "real exercise". Are there things you do regularly that you probably should not consider exercise? Of course!

For instance going to the bathroom for 30 minutes is not an exercise, nor is talking on the phone for 30 minutes. But I'm pretty certain you can come up with a way to combine those everyday tasks with something physical and turn them into a physical exercise couldn't you?

Final thoughts

I hope that I have in some way been able to inspire those of you who needed it to get back out there and to never give up. Believe me; I know that it can be tough at times. Just remember to work hard, try applying these simple guidelines to your daily routine and then see what happens for you.

Everything that is measured gets managed, and everything worth doing isn't always going to be easy – but I guarantee it will be worth it!

Good luck fellow athletes!

-Corey Barton

P.S. – Special thanks to my good friend Megan S. for inspiring me to write this.


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