It’s been almost a year since I have last been to the gym. At first, it felt like freedom to break free from this routine, and to somehow be given permission to take it a bit easy, we had other things to worry about.
I kept my yoga practice going for a while, but also that at some point was not as fulfilling as it used to be. However, the lack of regular workout starts to take its toll on both, body and mind. But oh dear, being aware of the benefits of excercise and feeling that it would be so beneficial does totally not mean that I can motivate myself to do something, go for a run or just particpate in an online yoga class. It is all out there, I know it would be good, and also that I will feel wonderful afterwards, still…
It took quite a while before I could get close to what was missing: motivation. It became clear to me that knowing about the benefits and imagining the good feeling after a workout does not provide me with enough motivation to get into action. So what does? In my case, I had a serious discussion with my inner team, that is the voices which are constantly chattering in my mind, about what do to, what not to do, judging me, others, all the time. It is not enough to tell those voices to shut up, they will not.
So, I evaluated what they had to say, and then decided that I am in charge and that if I am to take myself seriously and my wish to become fitter again, I had to muster WILLPOWER. In addition to deciding that I really WANT to start working out again, I also had to wait for the right MOMENT. This means if you had a bad night, if you have a headache or just do not feel well, wait, it is not a good moment. Give yourself permission to wait for that moment, and then just get started. Give yourself the freedom to try, and also to maybe not succeed directly, that takes off the pressure of having to perform.
It is important to set yourself REALISTIC GOALS, and allow enough time to achieve them. What would help you, what do you enjoy when working out? I found an app which tells me just the time I have been running, and the distance covered, for the rest, I listen to a playlist of songs which I enjoy.
Another important ingredient to keep your motivation up is encouragement. It is great if you have somebody who wants to join or who is proud of you once you completed a workout. But more importantly, you can encourage yourself by using your imagination. Just like we can imagine how good a meal will taste or how delicious that cup of coffee will be, we can imagine how delightful it will feel once you are done with your workout. We are in charge of the voices in our mind, so give those who want to encourage your priority, and tell those other ones that you know better!
The ingredients for a self-motivation strategy are
IMAGINATION - WILLPOWER - REALISTIC GOALS - RIGHT MOMENT - TIME - ENCOURAGEMENT
Imagination is the first step towards motivation. We have to create a strong intention for ourselves based on previous experiences, for example the wonderful feeling we once had after running in the forest. Then we need to start an inner dialogue and tap back into the willpower we once had or we have for other things. Setting realistic goals is essential to stay motivated, set them rather smaller, nothing feels better than having achieved a goal. Choose the right moment, and allow yourself a period of time to achieve your overall goals, instead of pushing yourself to do something every day, work out 2-3 a week, and that will be already fantastic. Encourage yourself by thinking about the great feeling you will have, by running yourself a hot bath after a workout or preparing a healthy meal. Last but not least, find a structure that suits your day and situation and stick with it, make it your priority for the next months!
Check-in with yourself: which strategies did you use in the past to achieve your goals, you will be amazed about the number of strategies you have for problem-solving. This inner database of experiences is always accessible unless we are - you guessed it - stressed! We cannot imagine that we once ran or swam or completed a workout, we are not able to motivate ourselves. So, keep it simple, set yourself one achievable goal over a certain period, and see how it goes!