To me, working out is a reward in itself. You have more energy, your overall health improves, and if you eat well, your body looks awesome! Exercising releases endorphins that make you feel happy. But when you’re just beginning, it can feel like a task that you have to push yourself to complete, and the “happy” effect is not as evident. A good way of keeping yourself motivated during the beginning stage is to encourage yourself with tangible goals and rewards.
1. WRITE THEM DOWN.
It will make an amazing amount of difference if you visually write out your goals and rewards. You can use words, phrases, and images to represent them. This also helps you remember and track your goals.
At the end of each day/week, sit down and review your goals from the past day/week and whether you met them. Then, map out your goals for the coming week. You can write goals to do each day of the week as well as things you’d like to have done by the end of the next week. These goals may be under a larger (monthly/yearly) goal such as Training for the Hot Chocolate 5k.
2. DAILY, WEEKLY, MONTHLY, YEARLY.
Creating short and long term goals for yourself is extremely important. It helps a lot if your short term goals will inevitably help you meet your long term goals. For example if your long term goal is to get into great shape and feel confident in a bikini, your short term goals could be things like Lose 5% body fat, Run first 5k marathon, or Stop dining out every day.
I like to create daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals for myself. My daily goals are basically my schedule for the day (yoga, dog training, zumba) plus tasks I need done at anytime by the end of that day (shopping, run, create a new blog entry, respond to e-mails). I do program my daily tasks into my phone so I can view it on the go, but I always write down goals that are not planned for an exact time, plus my daily tasks, on a notepad that I keep in plain view on my desk. If you have an iPhone, the iCalendar and Notes apps are amazing tools for tracking your goals and rewards. Also see my time management entry for advice on planning out your day.
Rewards can be assigned to each individual goal, or you can reward yourself at the end of a “phase” of goals, such as at the end of the week if you completed all of your daily goals every single day that week.
3. BE REALISTIC.
Your goals, especially short term ones, need to be specific. A goal of “start exercising!” or “get fit!” is not as strong as a specific goal. When are you going to do that? What are you going to do? Are you going to do it more than once? For example my goals today are to lift heavy weights at 6:00pm, drink my protein shake, then go swimming, and go to sleep by 11:00 PM.
The best piece of advice I’ve ever heard about making goals for yourself was “Don’t set yourself up for failure.” Set attainable goals. Don’t set goals that you aren’t going to reach.
4. PLAN SMART REWARDS.
The best rewards will be the ones that will help you reach future goals. If you are training for a 5k (monthly goal), your reward after running it might be a spa day (monthly reward) to refresh your body. For not missing any runs (weekly goal) you might reward yourself with new running shoes (weekly reward). If your goal is to run 3 miles (daily goal) a good reward would be go to to bed early.
5. FOR THE STRUGGLERS.
As I mentioned, for those of us who are just starting to work out, working out can really feel like work. If you are overweight it can take a lot of energy and motivation to get you into the gym and on the treadmill to warm up, weight lifting for 30 minutes, and staying late for that 30 minutes of cardio you had planned. IF you have trouble following through with your goals, another effective rewards system is to remember not to “reward” yourself with indulgences when you haven’t yet met a goal to earn it. Finish that hour workout and reward yourself later. Remember how amazing it feels to finish a workout and then still have a prize to look forward to.
6. NEVER GIVE UP.
A lot of people give up just before the magic is about to happen, because that is when it is the hardest: you have been putting days of time and energy into working out, and you are eating twice as much, and you just don’t see any difference in your body yet. But it will help motivate you to keep going if you remember: It takes 4 weeks for you to notice the difference in your body. It takes your friends and family 8 weeks to notice. And it takes the world 12 weeks to notice.
The way your body looks is only one reason to exercise. Once your body is accustomed to working out, you will have tons of energy and feel happier. It is a scientific fact that exercise is a healthier and more effective treatment for anxiety or depression than any prescription medicine.
Until working out becomes as fun for you as it is for me, use these simple tricks to get yourself up and going. Remember, you need to stick with it even when it is hard or boring, or you will have to start from scratch again later. But if you don’t give up, pretty soon you will look forward to your workouts.
Thanks for reading! Now I want to know, what are your goals? How do you reward yourself? Do you consider your daily workout a reward? Comment below with your comments and questions!