Let’s be honest. Avoiding exercise is the easiest thing in the world to do.
We all know how it feels – you know you should put your trainers on, and get out of the house. But your sofa is so comfy, you keep meaning to catch up on Better Call Saul, and you’re feeling pretty tired really, and… well, there’s always tomorrow. You’ll go for a jog tomorrow.
Except tomorrow never arrives.
And before you know it, you’re scrabbling around in the bowels of Netflix, trying to figure out if you really want to watch an arthouse movie about a blind Korean travel agent. (You don’t, I promise.)
So, how do you get that motivation to exercise? Here are our five top (and sneaky!) motivation hacks to get you up and active!
1. Figure Out Your Excuses
Let’s start with some honesty, and a little bit of self-reflection. Do you know all the reasons you come up with to avoid doing exercise? I mean, do you really know them?
All too often, we make excuses without articulating them. For every excuse we form into a sentence, there are dozens more that are never even acknowledged.
So, we’re going to start here. Grab a blank piece of paper, and let’s go.
Imagine you’ve just had a thought about going to the gym, or starting your Couch to 5K journey, or even that someone has suggested you do something active.
If you’re anything like me, then almost instantly your mind will be flooded with “reasons not to” – and a general feeling of guilt, annoyance, and malaise.
Feel that way now? Good.
Now, let’s unpack it.
Start writing down every single excuse, or reason not to do whatever activity is being suggested. Here are some of mine, to get you started:
- “It’s too cold”
- “I don’t know where my trainers are”
- “I’m too hungry”
- “It’s too late”
- “I want to watch [insert ANY show here. Honestly, any.]”
- “I’ll go tomorrow instead, I promise”
- “I’ve got too much work to do”
- “I look ridiculous when I run, people will laugh at me”
If I’m honest, the list is endless. And some of the reasons have some merit to them, while others are ridiculous (I know where my trainers are. They’ve barely moved in the past 12 months. And no one has – ever – laughed at me when I’ve gone for a run. And – this is important – even if someone did, then that says more about them than it does me.).
Here’s what to do next: go through your list again, and (using a different coloured pen), mark each excuse out of ten for how genuine a reason they are (1 means it’s ridiculous, and 10 means it’s a genuine problem that you need to tackle). Note that this isn’t about how much of a problem you feel it is, but how much of a problem it actually is.
Now, go through your list again, and imagine you’re helping someone you love to overcome these problems – what would you say to them? How would you help them overcome that objection? Write it down.
And be honest here. This step only works if you’re genuinely honest about whether these are real problems, or convenient excuses.
Here’s the start of my list:
|Excuse||Score||How to Overcome|
|“It’s too cold”||5/10 (sometimes it IS cold!)||Have you got jogging bottoms you could use instead of shorts? Or a long sleeve top? If not – buy some. And you’ll soon warm up anyway.|
|“I don’t know where my trainers are”||1/10 (I know where they are really, or at least, where they could be. I could find them easily enough,)||Go and find them now, and leave them somewhere obvious – how about by the front door?|
|“I’m too hungry”||3/10 (have a snack, if you need to. That’s what bananas are for.)||Go and buy some bananas.|
|“It’s too late”||4/10 (Unless it’s 3am, it’s probably not too late.)||Even a short bit of exercise is better than no exercise.|
So, what’s the point of this task? It’s simple – once you know all the reasons and excuses you make, you’ll recognise when you’re leaning on them. And if you’ve already found a way to overcome them, then that means you’re less likely to let them stop you.
Keep your list handy – you’ll always find new excuses, and so you should expect to add to your list as time goes on.
Ok, what’s next?
2. Make it Easy for Yourself
Once you’ve done the first task, you’ll no doubt have a list of practical barriers to getting active – and things you need to do to overcome them.
This step is about making that happen.
So; let’s say you end up with a list of tasks, like:
- Buy jogging bottoms
- Buy long-sleeved tops
- Buy a water bottle that’s easy to carry
- Find my headphones
- Put my trainers by the front door
- Block out some time in the calendar for getting active.
Take all your tasks, and add them to whatever task management system you normally use for other tasks – a bullet journal, Asana (my favourite), Google Tasks, Wunderlist, post-it notes stuck to the fridge door; whatever works for you. Give them a deadline by which they must be done.
This step is important – if you’re as guilty as I am of not prioritising exercise, then you’ll also find yourself conveniently “forgetting” to do these tasks too.
So, commit now – be determined that you’re going to get these done.
Them great thing about this step is that it’s all about making it easy for you to get active. It’s not about having the latest kit, or the most expensive tech. It’s about making it as frictionless as possible to get out of the house and doing something.
And, trust me – it feels good.
3. Find Things to Love About Getting Active
One of our core principles at Pactive is that getting active doesn’t have to mean going to the gym. It doesn’t require lycra. And it doesn’t need to involve doing things that you hate.
And believe me – there can be a lot of things to hate. For example:
- I hate the first sixty seconds of running. It feels like time slows down, and it’s never going to end.
- I hate the unspoken etiquette of going to the gym.
- I hate going out in the rain.
Seems like an awful state of affairs, no?
Just because there are things you don’t like, doesn’t mean that there aren’t also things that are brilliant too. But these often get ignored, because the complaining voice is much, much, louder.
So, here’s what to do.
While you’re getting active, make a conscious effort to notice things around you, or things within you, that you love. It might take a while at first, but if you really try, you’ll soon find there are plenty.
And every time you notice one, write it down.
Here are some of mine (in no particular order):
- Jogging through the local park makes me feel part of the community. I often see the same people, and we’ve started to recognise each other and say hi.
- The trees change so much through the year, and I hadn’t really noticed it before. Every week, they look a little different. It’s amazing.
- I’ve noticed that when I’ve been for a jog, I’m better able to concentrate – my head feels clearer at work, and I’m more productive. I enjoy work more.
- If I’ve been out for a run, then every time I see my trainers in the hallway, I have a little twinge of pride. And I should be proud of myself.
- Every day, I feel a little bit better at exercise. I can feel my confidence growing. And that’s really encouraging.
As with the first task in this article, you’ll want to keep your list of reasons close by – you’ll be adding to it as time goes by. And it’s a really good idea to keep reading through this list, every time you feel a crisis of confidence approaching.
4. Visualise the End (not the End Result)
So, there are countless articles out there telling you to picture what you want to achieve, or to imagine yourself at your ideal body weight, or completing Tough Mudder.
We think this is really unhelpful.
It might work for some people, but for most of us, it’s actually quite discouraging.
After all, if your desired end result is quite far away from where you are now, then every day you spend not like that can be quite disheartening.
The end result – far from being a motivator – can end up demotivating you.
Let’s not beat around the bush, it can take real time to see the results of your efforts. And feeling like you’re not getting there can be fatal. So we have a different approach.
Here’s the thing: if you keep putting the effort in, at whatever level you can, then over time you’ll feel the difference. So how do we keep ourselves motivated to keep putting the time in, if we’re not looking at the end result?
We think it’s simple: instead of focusing on the end result, focus on the end. The end of your activity.
If you’re going out for a jog, don’t think about being able to complete the London Marathon. Instead, think about how you’ll feel at the end of the jog you’re about to do. Think about how you’ll feel proud of yourself, about how – even though you’re knackered – you’ve done something, and that’s impressive. Think about how you’ll feel better tomorrow, clear-headed, and more motivated.
Imagine all those positive feelings – and then visualise that.
Don’t think about being able to tackle an ironman. Think about being proud that you’ve gone out there and done something.
That’s how you keep on going, time after time.
The end result can take care of itself.
5. Make a Pact with Other People
Sometimes, the best motivation can be found in other people.
There’s an old saying: “if you really want to achieve something, tell someone what you’re going to do”. The combination of social pressure, of not wanting to embarrass yourself, and of knowing that someone is expecting you to do something – it’s pretty powerful.
But we think it goes further than this. We believe that sharing your challenges with others, then seeing each other’s progress, as well as your collective progress towards a shared goal – that’s where the real power lies.
We even took things a step or two further. Having a way to communicate with others in your shared challenge, and the option of a reward (or forfeit!) – these are little things that make a HUGE difference in how you approach getting active.
That’s why we created Pactive. It’s a simple way to make all of the above happen, in one place, and in a simple and beautiful app.
Want to commit to going for a run twice a week? Create a Pact, and invite some of your friends or family – once you’re in a Pact, we guarantee you’re more likely to get out and get active.
And you don’t even have to find people at the same level as you; we’ve included the ability to weight people’s targets, so everyone can be included, regardless of their fitness level.
If there’s a better way to get your gran competing against your overachieving mate Steve on a level playing field, we’re yet to hear about it.
And let us know how you’re getting on – join us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Let us know if you’ve found that motivation to exercise.
You got this. We believe in you.