By Sarah Shortt
When it comes to exercise there are two extremes: those who know they should be exercising but don’t really want to – and those who make exercise an integral part of everyday life. The majority of people sit somewhere in the middle.
For most of us, the biggest secret to getting in shape and staying fit for life is fitness motivation. Cementing the fitness habit is about creating the shift from exercising because you have to, to exercising because you want to.
If you go a day without training, the first thing you should want to do the next day is exercise. But this isn’t the reality. We are not hard-wired to love high-intensity interval training and eat chicken salads (dressing on the side). Unfortunately, the brain is programmed to sit in La-Z-Boy chairs and crave Krispy Kremes. And hey, it’s hard to fit exercise in – no question about it. The last thing you want to do when you get home after a 13-hour shift is fit in 30 minutes of exercise. Nope– you want the Kardashians omnibus and a family-sized bowl of fettuccine.
But we know that staying active is vital – both for our physical and mental health. Research has shown that, when it comes to establishing the fitness habit for the long haul, there are three key factors:
Take control of your workout
Take steps to actively manage both the duration and intensity of your training. Frequency before intensity is paramount. When you take up exercise there’s a temptation to go hell for leather from the start. In fact, you are much more likely to stick with it if you stay within your capabilities and don’t let anyone push you too hard. Just getting into the habit is the most important thing.
Choose things you can do and that make you feel good
Competence relates to how confident you feel in your ability to complete the exercise – and this is a key factor in helping people to achieve their exercise goals. If you feel something is outside of your physical capabilities, or just isn’t you, you are likely to give up at the first hurdle. To keep your confidence high when you start exercising, it’s important to celebrate the immediate wins. Focus on the gains that occur as soon as you become active: increased energy levels, feeling less stressed, improved quality of sleep, and that endorphin buzz you experience immediately after a workout.
Keep it social
Exercising with other people can make everything so much easier – whether it’s with a personal trainer, your friend, or attending a group fitness class. Firstly, there’s the commitment to someone else – you’re far more likely to ditch your workout when it’s only yourself you’re letting down. Then there are the positive social aspects. In group fitness classes we see the “group effect” – that sense of cohesion that occurs when everyone is moving at the same time. When you feel connected to others during your workout, it makes it so much easier to build up the exercise habit.
So there you have it. Take these three exercise and motivation tips and apply them to your fitness journey. Soon you too will be exercising, not because you know you should, but because you can’t imagine life without it.
This piece originally appeared on lesmills.com.