Keys to help you get into the right frame of mind.

By Raymond Onyango.

There are several reasons why we should exercise. We know that it helps us maintain a healthy bodyweight. That it helps to ward off cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure and that it helps us manage others such as diabetes and arthritis. There is even evidence that it helps put some real fire into our sex lives.

However for all these genuinely convincing reasons why each one of us should make exercise a habit, the reality is that the vast majority of us still struggle to find the motivation to exercise. Often we will start out on an exercise program with the best of intentions, but inevitably somewhere along the line, our motivation flounders, our resolve crumbles and we succumb to the temptation of curling up on the sofa in front of the television rather than going out for that evening jog.

If you are like me, exercise probably has some unpleasant connotations in your mind. In the high school I attended, punishment for infringement of the school rules often involved being subjected to some kind of exercise or physical task. One dinning hall prefect in particular took great joy in getting us to perform endless number of push-ups, for minor offences such as stained shirt collars or unpolished shoes. Against this sort of backdrop, it is hardly surprising that many of us struggle to stay motivated enough to exercise.  But it can be done…and it can be achieved without the struggle if we simply change the way we approach exercise in the first place. Here is how:

Show up

At least two thirds of your success at a fitness program comes down to simply showing up. For instance I cannot tell you how many times I have woken up in the morning feeling, tired, under motivated and lethargic. But once I drag myself to the gym, and warm up a little bit, my body somehow finds the strength to give its best and invariably I am able to get a great workout.  Ultimately keeping in shape is all about consistency, and as a beginner your main goal should be to simply do some kind of exercise on most days of the week.  Don’t set the bar so high just yet; don’t ask for an abdominal six-pack or super toned arms just yet. Simply try and cultivate the habit of incorporating movement into your every day life. To do this, you have to enjoy yourself and that brings us to our next point.

Play, don’t work

Working out is hard. Even that language associated with it – ‘Workout’ suggests that it is work rather than leisure. This is exactly why I always advice my clients to find a sport or an activity that they enjoy and then build their exercise program around it. Let us say for instance that you love running, or tennis, or golf or even soccer.  You can then get a gym program that is tailored at improving your golf swing, or your half marathon time or even your endurance on the tennis court. This will help you keep motivated because, you will have a sense of purpose in the gym rather than just working out mindlessly. Playing a game also gives you a sense of accountability because you will probably be playing against someone, and that brings us to our next point.

Build a team around you

No one achieves anything meaningful in life, on his or her own. One of the reasons why you should build your exercise program around a game is that it transforms exercise into a social activity, and human beings are social animals. When you have a squash game against someone else at 5.15 pm, you will be motivated to get to the gym on time. This will help you maintain discipline and build a regular exercise routine. During the game, your competitive instinct will drive you to push yourself harder in order to beat the other guy, so you will obviously become fit over time. You will be able to meet new people and make new friends you wouldn’t have other wise known, and best of all you will have a group of people around you who will call you up when you get lazy and insist that you get back on track. You will also probably will succeed at finally trimming that pot because you have a strong support network. Success in exercise as in most things, comes not from some drastic action, but from slow incremental progress and often it takes the support of others to keep on the straight and narrow.

The interplay between motivation and performance is so strong that even elite athletes cannot escape it. At the 2004 Athens Olympics, Paula Radcliff, the then dominant British marathon runner, wound up in heap on the side of the road sobbing uncontrollably after abandoning the race at the 23rd mile.  She just didn’t have the strength in her that day, and she proved to us that that even the strongest, most disciplined athletes struggle to stay motivated sometimes. What matters when you fall down, is to get up and try again. Paula Radcliff did, she won theNew York marathon in 2008, in style, leading from start to finish and beating a field of champions.

Have an inspired week will you!

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