Let’s start with hard facts:
Physical inactivity is the fourth leading cause of death due to non-communicable disease (heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancers) worldwide – contributing to over three million preventable deaths annually. (like wow, if that's not reason enough to exercise...)
Nearly one in three (29.7%) adults are insufficiently active (less than 150 minutes of physical activity per week), while 14.8% are inactive (no exercise in the last week).
We know exercise is good for us...
So why aren’t more of us exercising?
I think it’s fairly safe to say our motivation to exercise is a pretty universal barrier for most of us, so let’s talk about that.
Motivation to Exercise and the F Word
I’m going to go a bit left field here, stick with me… I've just finished reading Mark Manson's book and a lot of what he said resonated with me not just in life, but particularly toward our motivation to exercise.
Failure is a relative concept.
It totally depends on how we’re choosing to measure our success towards our goals. And our goals should be driven by our values.
The Link Between Our Values & Motivation to Exercise
Sometimes, where we go wrong is that our values aren’t quite right to help foster a positive, successful experience that builds self-efficacy and growth. Which will ultimately feed our motivation to stick at something.
For instance, if I measure my effort at the gym by “do I look like Jennifer Aniston yet?”, I will be self-critical and negative as this is something I don’t really have control over. We have different genetics, different body types, enjoy different types of exercise, have different time constraints (the list goes on). But if I adopt the metric “maintain a regular and consistent exercise routine”, I can live up to my value of “Live a healthy, balanced life”.
(In the health world, we call these SMART goals)
Toddlers learning to walk continually fail.
They stand up, take half a step, wobble, fall over, and repeat that cycle a few thousand times before they can actually walk. Never do they think “my god, I suck at this, I don’t think walking is for me!”.
Important note: Pain is part of the process! (mentally and physically). You can’t make a muscle without tearing a few fibres!
For most of us, our proudest achievements come in the face of our greatest adversity.
This usually involves a lot of stern positive self-talk, believing in the bigger picture and some getting out of our head. It never feels comfortable, but it builds resilience, strength and capacity. Both also build habit, and that will in turn feed your motivation!
Take away: Set SMART goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and have a time frame. Try to make these goals align with your values.
The “Just Do SOMETHING” Principle
Action isn’t just the effect of motivation; it is also the cause of it.
Most of us only commit to action if we feel a certain level of motivation. And we feel motivation only when we feel enough emotional inspiration. We assume it’s a chain reaction.
The thing is, it’s not a chain, it’s an endless loop.
If we start doing something, this sparks inspiration, and then before we know it, we have motivation, and so we keep doing that thing (all the while, improving and feeling more confident) and then we feel inspired to challenge ourselves a little further, and look at that – more motivation!
Tim Ferris (American author) spoke of a story he once heard about a novelist who wrote over seventy novels. Someone asked how he was able to write so consistently and remain inspired and motivated. He replied, “two hundred crappy words per day, that’s it.”
The idea was that if he forced himself to write two hundred crappy words, more often than not, the act of writing would inspire him; and before he knew it, he’d have thousands of words down on the page.
Take away: even when you don't feel like doing ANYTHING, just do the smallest possible thing you can think of. I guarantee you it'll almost always be enough to get you achieving what you originally set out to achieve.
So, most of us don't love accountability. It kind of feeds into point 1; we feel like we will fail and then feel crappy... so we like to skip this part. But falling off the bandwagon, missing a session, choosing rest over exercise, is not failing... it's just a part of the journey upwards.
The path to achieving your goals isn't linear!
But there are so many apps out now that can be great tools for helping keep us accountable.
StickK & Go Fucking Do It are great, simple apps that I can recommend. But there are heaps out there. See what suits you best!
Take away: find tools to keep yourself accountable, in a fun way!
If you want or need a professional guidance for evaluating, setting and achieving your health and fitness goals; you can get in contact with me for exercise physiology and coaching services.