I think there’s a big misconception out there about trainers…well, probably many, but one is that we all love to exercise. That exercise comes easy to us. Maybe I’m an exception to the rule, but I can tell you that exercise does not always come easy for me. Certainly, it has become easier over time and with consistent adherence, but in the category of my favorite leisure pursuits, exercise is not number one. At least not before I do it. Yet, the feeling I get after working out is hard to beat…a feeling of accomplishment that lounging around just can’t give me.
Most of us know that exercise releases endorphins into our bodies, making us feel all sorts of energized and happy after we do it. Despite this knowledge, though, it’s still hard to get ourselves to start a workout. In fact, I was talking about this very problem with two of my clients this morning…about how we overcome the lack of desire to exercise. Like any other habit, creating an exercise routine requires consistency, generally for 3-4 weeks, before it becomes a more automatic. But there are ways to get through those 3-4 weeks, and the most helpful one I’ve found is using rewards.
I’m a big fan of rewards, because I know they work. For me and for my clients, establishing specific goals and rewards for meeting them is an integral part of achieving a healthy lifestyle. Initially, I recommend that people start out with one activity goal at a time, and a specific reward to use when the activity has been completed. Often times, people don’t feel like they deserve this, that they should just be able to meet their goal through sheer willpower. But there’s nothing wrong with rewards…as long as they’re consistent with a healthy lifestyle. Setting aside alone time to read your favorite book or enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning is a great reward for completing a morning walk or run that you might not otherwise do. Treating yourself to a manicure or new workout outfit is a great after meeting a week’s worth of activity goals. Giving yourself 15 minutes of a walk in the sunshine or time to browse the latest celebrity news or twitter feeds is a good way to reward yourself for bringing a healthy lunch from home. Whatever you choose, make sure you have a clearly stated daily goal and reward, and make sure the reward is truly reserved for times when you have met your goals. Willpower is still a factor, obviously, but we don’t have to rely on it…and why should we? Manicures and shopping trips are so much more fun!
*Here’s an example for you. I’m not a natural runner, and it’s something that will always be a little hard for me, I’m sure. But it was so beautiful outside today, and I knew that a morning run would set me up for a great day. So, with a little self-talk and promise of a walk around one of my favorite paths with an iced coffee (no sugar, of course)after the run, I did it. Ran a little more than I expected, even. And it felt awesome! Running is great, but rewards are even better!