Spring is a lovely time of longer days, more sunshine and the call of the great outdoors. It’s also a wonderful, natural lab in which you can experiment with physical activity. Take time now to plant the seeds of lifelong fitness motivation by figuring out what you love to do and what hidden barriers may be getting in your way. Here’s how:
Seed 1: Identify the ‘Right Why.’
Why we exercise determines whether we have low- or high-quality motivation. Research shows that when we embark on fitness activities because we feel guilty, because friends or family are urging us to or even because a doctor prescribed it for health reasons, we are likely to lose our motivation and stop. The “Right Why” – a term I coined and discuss in my book, No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness – is a reason for being physically active that delivers an immediate boost in positivity, such as greater well-being, connection and energy, when you do it.
[See: 7 Mind-Blowing Benefits of Exercise.]
Tip: Especially if you have started and stopped a physical activity regimen over and over, take a moment to think about why you usually start in the first place. Recognize whether you feel like you “should” exercise or whether you deeply want to experience the benefits that regular physical activity brings.
Seed 2: Find the right way.
The way we exercise determines whether we desire it or dread it. Stop following prescriptions or “rules” about how you think you should work out and start picking physical activities that generate positive feelings. Making your own choice about the ways you are going to move – be it by walking, dancing, biking, doing yoga, enrolling in a gym class or something else entirely – ensures that you look forward to having a similar experience again and again. After all, research shows that moving in ways that feel good is among the very best motivators.
Tip: Pay attention to how you feel in the moment of movement, and make sure to do what you enjoy or what feels good – not what you think you should be doing.
[Read: Confession: I Hate Exercise.]
Seed 3: Figure out the right how.
How are you going to prioritize your own self-care by way of exercise? Doing what you love generates joy and life energy – the essential fuel that enables you take care of yourself, your loved ones, your necessary tasks and what you value most. Stop believing that well-being and joy are luxuries. They are fundamental experiences that reduce stress and depression and enhance the ability to have perspective and be resilient in the face of challenges.
Tip: Remind yourself that prioritizing your self-care is not taking away from your family, friends and work; it is fueling you for what you care about doing well every day.
Seed 4: Learn from the right do.
Get up and move! What did you learn?Instead of following an achievement mindset – or focusing on hitting a specific target – consider adopting a learning mindset, or a perspective that lets you be more compassionate and reframe your “mistakes” and “failures” as data you can use to correct your strategy. In other words, find the plans that work for you and eliminate the ones that are unrealistic, too ambitious or that otherwise fuel resentment.
Tip: Strategize! Make plans ahead of time for barriers like schedule changes, last-minute meetings or family emergencies that inevitably interrupt your plans. Figure out new or different ways to be active – even if it’s reducing your workout from 30 minutes to three minutes.