Your A-Z guide to motivation
A. Achievable goals
Don’t be overwhelmed by big goals – break them into smaller chunks. “Bite-sized goals can be reached easily and are a great motivator,” says exercise physiologist Dana Ryder. For example, set a goal to go for a 30-minute walk every day for the next two weeks, then set a reward for reaching the goal, such as seeing a movie or having a facial. “Once momentum is established and you see positive changes it’s easier to keep going,” says Ryder.
B. Body, mind and spirit
Weight loss is about more than watching what you eat. The American Psychological Association suggests embracing a holistic approach to being healthy and losing weight, which includes recording your food and exercise, changing your unhealthy thoughts, meditating and being more mindful in general.
If your current workout sometimes leaves you feeling unchallenged or unmotivated, try FitDeck. It’s a fun set of playing cards that illustrates different exercises and can inspire you to add some variety to your workouts. Just shuffle the pack, pick a card and go! There are 40 decks to choose from to suit your level of fitness, and it comes in an app, too.
D. Domino effect
Are the people around you a happy, healthy and motivated bunch? A US study found that if you hang around with happy friends, your chances of being happy increase by up to 45 per cent.
E. Exit strategy
Make it as easy as possible to leave the house to work out. Exercise in the mornings? Prep breakfast and pack your gym bag the night before. If you exercise in the evening, change into your workout gear the minute the clock strikes 6pm.
F. Fool yourself
If you really don’t want to work out, tell yourself you’ll go for a 10-minute walk, or that you only have to swim two laps of the pool before you can go home. Chances are once you’re there you’ll get in the zone and push yourself further.
G. Good medicine
If you’re ready to step up your exercise routine, try tossing a weighted medicine ball to a friend. Move into a squat as you catch the ball, then stand straight again as you return it to your partner. Try our workout for two here.
H. Hit the hay
Going to bed early and getting quality sleep might help you feel motivated to go for a morning run. Sleep experts also say that when we don’t get adequate sleep, it can disrupt our hormone levels, driving us to eat more and also to feel less satisfied after we eat. So make sure you get your seven to eight hours a night of shut-eye.
As in, you are! “Remind yourself that you deserve to look after yourself,” says clinical psychologist Dr Glen Hosking. “Not only will you feel better, but you’ll be more motivated to make changes in your life.”
Is it your dream to fit comfortably into fitted jeans? Researchers from Queensland University of Technology say mental imagery can help you reach your goals. “The more vivid the image of what we want to achieve, the stronger our desire and motivation will be to achieve it,” says researcher Allison Dobson.
K. Keep records
There are stacks of apps available to help you track your progress, including the Weight Watchers app. Don’t have a smartphone? Keep track of your progress in your My Journey Tracker, instead.
L. Let it go
Putting off going to the gym today? Forgive yourself. Canadian researchers found that going easy on yourself for procrastinating every now and then increases your chances of reaching your goal. Whereas beating yourself up only results in further delays.
“Integrate your health and fitness goals into a daily meditation practice to reflect on your intention for the day,” recommends psychologist Dr Paula Watkins. “Place your goals within the bigger picture of what your life is really about rather than focusing on the smaller picture of looking good.”
N. No excuses
‘I’m just too tired’, ‘I’ve had such a busy day’, ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’. Sound familiar? Try pinning a motivational image or quote to your fridge as a reminder every time you want to opt out.
O. One change a week
Try changing one small thing at a time, such as swapping white bread for wholegrain bread, or incorporating short activities during the ad breaks on TV, rather than staying seated on the couch. Try our ad break workout here.
Recent studies show it takes 66 days to form a new behaviour that’ll stick. In order to establish an activity as a habit, try to repeat the behaviour in the same situation, such as always going for a walk after lunch. Even if you eat lunch at different times in the day, going for a walk immediately afterwards will soon be as automatic as brushing your teeth before bedtime.
Take a leaf from Jerry Seinfeld’s book - the actor and comedian came up with a clever way to motivate himself to write new material every day and not quit. Each day he wrote, he marked his calendar with an X. He didn't want to break the chain of Xs he was creating, so he was motivated to keep writing every day. To apply this strategy to your own life, try to spend time exercising and eating well every day, and when you do, cross off that day on your calendar. This creates your chain of Xs showing your progress. Don’t quit and you won’t break the chain!
Take a moment to look back on your journey so far or your previous attempts to stay fit. What worked? What didn't? Once you have resolved any setbacks from your past you can commit to moving on with new intentions and a more positive mindset.
According to Curtin University’s Health Psychology and Behavioural Medicine research group, blood glucose levels play a big part in how strong your willpower is – if you let your levels fall too low, it becomes harder to exert self-control. So what is the best way to keep your blood glucose levels in check? Don’t wait until you’re starving to eat. You’ll be more likely to make an unhealthy food choice.
Short, intense workouts might be the way to go, according to Japanese scientist Dr Izumi Tabata, who developed Tabata training in 1996. The beauty is in its simplicity: you can incorporate any type of exercise, such as star jumps, sit-ups or run. Exercise for 20 seconds; rest for 10 seconds, and repeat eight times. Try our Tabata workout today.
U. U-turn your workouts
Rather than leaving the exercises you find challenging until the end of a workout, do them first. That way you’ll be more motivated to do what you enjoy for the rest of your session.
Look at your health goals and think about how they align with your values. “Perhaps you want to live a long, healthy life or pass good habits onto your children,” says Dr Watkins. Knowing the importance and purpose of your actions can serve as a great motivator.
W. Write your reasons
Prepare for challenging moments by writing down your reasons for wanting to be fit and healthy -these could include having more energy or sleeping better at night. Having this list as a ‘reality-check’ can help you stay on track when you need some extra motivation.
X. X marks the spot
Book some time into your diary each week as a reminder to incorporate some activity or movement – just like you would a doctor’s appointment or a work meeting. Yes, it’s just as important!
Ditch drab workout gear and invest in colourful clothes that make you feel bright and happy - such as yellow. “Great colours to wear when exercising are ones that motivate and energise,” says colour psychologist Bernay Laity.
Z. Zap unhealthy behaviours
“Work out what’s causing unhealthy habits and make changes,” says Dr Hosking. “For example, it’s quite common to eat unhealthy food when you’re stressed. So find other, healthy ways to calm down.” Try taking a bath or going for a quick walk.