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Exercise Tips to Keep You Motivated

Time for a pep talk?

By

Updated February 02, 2011

Exercise Tips to Keep You Motivated
Getty Images/Jamie Grill

Whether you're just starting exercise or you've been at it for awhile, there will come a time when you want to give up. It's at this moment, when you doubt yourself, when you stare at the scale and wonder why it doesn't move faster, that you need to dig deep to keep going.

One way to do that is with a motivational pep talk. Sure, pep talks are a little cheesy, but what you say to yourself in these moments is critical to keep you going. These exercise tips and reminders will keep you from giving up on your fitness and weight loss goals.

1. This Will Get Easier –The first time my client *Jenny did a pushup, she did one, collapsed to the floor and gasped, " Worst. Exercise. Ever." I'm pretty sure she said that the second time and the third, but what she forgot was one important fact: This will get easier.

It doesn't feel that way in the beginning, but every time you do those killer exercises - pushups, lunges, squats - you're building stronger muscles. This happens secretly and in a way the scale won't recognize, but know that deep in your body, your muscles are growing. Deep in your cells, your mitochondria are increasing. Your heart is pumping more blood to your muscles and your body is becoming more efficient at burning fat.

The moment you really feel your own strength is the moment you commit to exercise for the long run. To get there, however, you have to keep doing it.

Action Plan

  • Track Your Workouts - Keep a workout log and track your exercises, reps, sets and weights so you can see your progress from week to week.
  • Take your time - It only gets easier if you gradually build strength and endurance. Start with what you can handle – say, 20 minutes of cardio and a basic total body workout. Each week, add a few minutes of cardio and more reps, weight or sets to your strength workout.
  • Enjoy the process - We get so impatient to see results, we want to skip the boring part at the beginning. Doing that is like trying to learn a foreign language without learning the alphabet. The first few weeks of exercise is like your alphabet – Essential for building a strong foundation to prepare you for more intense and frequent exercise. You need this to avoid injury and burnout. Find a way to enjoy each workout for what it is.

2. I Don’t Have to Be Miserable - I've heard some people compare their workouts to a jail sentence, which makes me think they're either melodramatic or they're doing some seriously boring workouts. Too often, we lock ourselves into a workout routine, regardless of whether we're actually enjoying it. Remember, you don't have to do things you hate and exercise shouldn't be miserable.

If you ever find yourself staring at the clock, the seconds ticking by at glacial speed, remind yourself: "I don't have to be miserable." You're in charge and you're also free to change what you're doing at any time.

Action Plan

3. I’ll Feel Better Once I Get Started - The hardest part of working out is usually getting started. Sometimes the idea of going from sitting or sleeping to jumping up and down and sweating is so overwhelming, we can't imagine bridging that gap.

This is the time to remind yourself that you'll feel better once you start moving. There may be some discomfort at first as you get your heart rate up but, that initial discomfort fades as your body warms, your temperature rises and blood flows into your muscles. When the endorphins kick in, you'll feel even better and, at the end of the workout, you'll get more satisfaction because you worked out even though it was hard.

Action Plan

  • Warm up - A good solid warm up is crucial for getting both your body and mind ready for exercise. Start with dynamic exercises that mimic the workout you'll be doing and allow your heart rate to increase gradually – Walking before running or 5-10 minutes of cardio before lifting weights. Allow time for an extra long warm up on those days it's hard to get moving.
  • Prepare - It's already hard to get started with a workout, but it's even worse if you have to scramble for basic things like your shoes, workouts clothes or pre-workout snacks. Get into the habit of preparing everything the night before so you have fewer excuses to skip your workout.
  • Draw on your inner strength - You have a variety of tools to help you get moving– Discipline, your commitment to your health and future and even competitiveness – you don't want all those people at the gym right now beating you, right? Try a workout mantra you can turn to when things get tough.

4. I Only Have to Do This Today - If you think of exercise as something you have to do for the rest of your life, you've set an impossible goal. If it's hard to do one workout, how on earth will you find the strength and will to do it every day?

This is the time to remind yourself that you don't have to. You only have to find enough motivation for today's workout. When tomorrow comes, you'll find motivation for that one too.

Action Plan

  • Focus on what you're doing - During each workout, pay attention to what you're doing. Concentrate on your form and the muscles you're working during strength exercises. Monitor your intensity during cardio to track what your heart rate is doing. Get to know your body during this workout and forget about the rest.
  • Reward yourself - Plan rewards for all your successes. Plan time for your favorite activity (reading, listening to music, etc.) each time you finish a workout. After a week of workouts, plan a night out or some new workout music. After a month of workouts, schedule a massage or a weekend trip. Having something to look forward to will make your workouts easier

Readers Respond: Top Motivational Tips

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