It is almost the end of January and all the New Year resolutioners have quit by now. While I enjoy the gym being less busy when I go, I think it is unfortunate people are not able to stick with a workout regime. Here I will discuss my thoughts on how to stick with your workouts.
I think the primary motivation to workout for most people is to look good. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this, I know when I made gains looking in the mirror felt good. However there is a problem when looking good becomes your only goal, its difficult to measure. Your body changes gradually, a change in body composition takes months to become noticeable. Just because you work hard in the gym today you are going to look more or less the same tomorrow. Having a goal of “looking good” is vague and isn’t measurable. It is hard to see progress just looking in the mirror. Furthermore exposure to media has probably exaggerated your expectations. To develop a truly impressive body takes many years of dedication and hard work. Understand that image in your head of what an athletic individual looks like doesn’t happen overnight. If we are to base out sense of progress on out appearance we will likely quit. We won’t notice the improvements in our body that we do make. This will make going to the gym feel pointless and understandably we would become discouraged.
While wanting to look good is a powerful source of motivation it is not sufficient to keep us in the gym. Looking good is the reward for sticking with exercise for a long time. Without other sources of motivation we will end up quitting before we even really began. The most important source of motivation is achievement of goals. When we have a vague and unmeasurable goal such as “looking good” we aren’t going to stick with a workout plan since we will have no way to feel as if we are progressing.
Most forms of exercise will lend to some kind of way to measure our progress. If we are lifting it is easy to figure out if we are lifting more than last time or not. If we are running it is easy to tell if we ran farther or faster. If we do a martial art we learn new techniques. These are all ways to prove to yourself that we are making progress and are advancing to our goals. They are all easily observable and can be tracked. This is why I like weights so much and stuck with strength training. I loved seeing the weights get bigger and bigger and being able to lift them. Where as my body did get bigger it was hard for me to notice since I saw it everyday and everyday it looked the same. Being able to see our improvement will keep us at something once the initial enthusiasm wears off.
Another key point is to commit to working out. Make sure you have regularly scheduled times for the gym. Do not give yourself the option of missing a workout. When you miss one workout because you don’t feel like it you’re done. It will be much harder to make yourself go the second time you don’t feel like it once you established its OK to miss workouts in your mind. It must become a habit such that we go to the gym regardless of whether we feel like it or not. If you want to get in shape it requires discipline. Anyone can go to the gym if they feel motivated, the biggest challenge is to go when we aren’t motivated. If you want to be one of the few that has a strong, healthy body you will have to do uncomfortable stuff sometimes. This is well worth the sacrifice. Also, learning discipline can carry over to other areas of our lives. Developing your body will also develop your mind. Sticking with anything is all about developing habits.
I know some people find having accountability by going with a friend to be helpful. I think there is some merit to this, since you will both not want to let the other down. Personally I don’t want to rely on someone else as my reason for going. However if you are a social person and aren’t as goal oriented as I am then maybe joining a team sport might be for you. I am pretty introverted by nature, so if you need social interaction you might want to look into local group sports you could join, instead of just going to the gym. I haven’t pursued this route myself so I won’t comment on it. Even if you go to a gym to workout by yourself, you will get to know people who go at the same time as you do and make new friends.
I feel regular exercise is something that everyone should do. Your health is too important to skip out on regular physical activity. Make time for exercise of some sort, no matter how busy you are. If you want something bad enough you will somehow find the time to do it. If you stick with regular exercise long enough it will become part of your lifestyle. Working out is the easiest, most sure way of improving your outlook and quality of life.