How To Cure I-Don’t-Want-To-Workout-itis Once And For All
We live in an instant gratification world. When we see something we want we can pay for it with our credit cards if we don’t have cash in hand. There is no need to wait for pay day or a run to the bank.
If we’re hungry, we can pop something into the microwave for a minute rather than waiting for the stove to heat it up. We have convenience stores everywhere, phones where we can order our meals for delivery, internet at our finger tips, along with an app for just about everything! We need to wait for very few things in our modern lives.
Unfortunately, this immediate access to things we want doesn’t translate well when we begin working toward our goals – particularly fitness and weight loss related.
Most of us become frustrated because we want to experience immediate results from our hard work and have only barely noticeable changes after weeks of work.
Since we aren’t accustomed to waiting, slower or less than expected results can quickly turn into: I-Don’t-Want-To-Workout-Itis – a relatively common affliction. But not to worry, there is a cure using the science of motivation.
The Science of Motivation
Some people are driven to continue training regardless of what’s going on in their lives and others allow life to get in the way of their wellness.
As a personal trainer, I like to learn about my clients’ lives in order to help them find their motivation. I try to put myself in their shoes so that I can help them keep their focus and drive.
I recently read a book by Michelle Segar called No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness. Michelle is the Director of Sport, Health and Activity Research and Policy Center (SHARP) at the University of Michigan and also serves as Chair of the U.S. National Physical Activity Plan’s Communications Committee.
With her decades worth of research she has gained a deep understanding what motivates people for the long haul. The basics are:
- Fitness to achieve better health may be a great short-term motivator, but does not keep the momentum going. Once the health scare has passed, (e.g. our cholesterol drops), the motivation fades.
- Exercising as a response to feeling pressured into it simply does not set the stage for a fit lifestyle.
- Humans are designed to do things that please us. By focusing on the good feelings that are a result of a healthy lifestyle and by making small changes, individuals can change their lifestyles in a sustainable way.
Pleasure and Pain
We quickly learn pleasure and pain from our experiences. We naturally gravitate toward anything that makes us feel good right now. On the flipside of that, we instinctually avoid things that cause us pain. Ice cream tastes good right now, while going to the gym may feel like a lot of work without an instant payoff.
If sweating and taking time from your already busy schedule to workout is a pain point for you, it will ultimately be something you stop doing. By taking small steps that allow you to see the benefits from your efforts you can slowly change your perspective leading to wellness as a pleasure rather than a difficulty.
- For a week commit to parking your car in a lot further from your office or the store than you usually do. See how you feel after a week of the additional steps. You’ll notice an increase in your energy and walking the distance will seem almost effortless.
- For a week take the stairs instead of the elevator. You’ll notice that you won’t feel as winded as you first did and that your thighs are a bit more muscular.
- For a week keep a record of what you eat and how you feel afterward. Compare your energy levels between eating processed foods versus a plate full of vegetables and protein.
Chances are you will feel better with the small changes you make to improve your nutrition and fitness. Recognize the improvements and focus on them rather than any delayed gratification. Your body will recognize pleasure as a result of wellness and in the long-term the small changes will be part of your lifestyle because your body will want that pleasant feeling.
It’s all about making changes that you can continue over the long run.
Pleasurable Behaviors Become Habits
When you make small changes and commit to continuing them each week, they will eventually become habits. The feeling of pleasure you’ll come to anticipate from your new habits will become your motivation to continue.
These types of small changes are perfect for those who have lost motivation after repeated diets have failed. If you look at yourself as an ongoing project and make changes to lead a more active lifestyle and eat healthier, the weight loss will come. Your life will become the one you desire to live as you take those first small steps.
Instead of overwhelming yourself by blocking out large chunks of time to exercise, make extra effort with everything you do. Take the stairs, park farther away, add an extra lap of the office floor on your way to refilling your glass of water.
Everything you do counts. Don’t be afraid to cut the grass, weed the garden, if it’s making you sweat, you’re doing great. Even if you aren’t sweating keep yourself moving; our bodies were meant to move.
Another way to build your motivation is to incorporate fitness into your family routine. Play volleyball with your kids; meet your friends for a neighborhood walk; have a family bike ride to make fitness fun, pleasurable, and a highly desired social event. You will all benefit from the additional energy, elevated mood, reduced stress, and the opportunities to connect with one another.
I can tell you from my experience that I love working out. I love how it feels to break a sweat. I also love to treat myself every once in a while, so I will allow myself that occasional glass of wine. But I like how I feel and look in my bikini even better. It’s all about making choices for the greatest possible gain.