Staying motivated–why should you work out?

Date: December 8, 2013

I ran into a friend yesterday whom I hadn’t seen in several months. When I asked him how things were going he said, “Fine, but I really need to start working out again. I’ve been busy and I’ve lost my motivation.” I think those words get spoken a lot–especially at this time of year when the holidays are upon us, our routines get thrown for a loop, and–let’s face it–it’s damn cold outside and it’s hard to get excited about an outdoor workout. We know we should exercise, but it’s not always easy.Make time

Right now, I am looking outside my window at about six inches of freshly fallen snow and watching the thermometer creep up from 8 to 16-degrees. While drinking coffee and wasting time on the computer, I’m having an internal conversation with myself after seeing all the snow-filled sidewalks and streets in my neighborhood.

“I could go to the gym and run indoors.” “Yeah, but first you need to shovel the driveway.”  

“I could go to yoga class instead, and try to get a run in tomorrow.” “Yeah, but first you need to shovel the driveway.”

Then, I usually have this type of conversation with myself, “I have so many papers to grade, I really should work on those first. Or, I should get the grocery shopping done. It’s been awhile since I cooked a really good sit-down meal for my family, I should do that today. Oh, and this is such good baking weather; I should try that new cookie recipe I saw. I need to do laundry. I need to pay bills. I need to sort through those Christmas boxes and put up decorations. I really need to do some Christmas shopping. I should write a Christmas letter this year. I should…”

I think you get the point. When I allow myself to THINK about my planned workout, I often try to talk myself out of it–and sometimes I succeed. On occasion, I think that’s okay. Things do come up and should take priority–but not on a regular basis.

If other things start to have more prominence on your “to do” list than your workouts, that’s when you are putting other things above your own health. And what’s more important than your health? We often don’t realize how important our health is until poor health begins to affect other areas of our life–when we become too tired, too sore, or too sick to do the things in life that give us joy.

When my inner demons start to talk me out of my planned workout, I need to remind myself WHY I’m even doing this in the first place.

1. Stress release and depression avoidance. I’m a happier person and nicer to my family when I work out on a regular basis. I also notice how “down” I can feel when I go several days without exercise. It’s true. From personal experience, I’m certain that those studies showing how exercise prevents depression are true. Sixty minutes of exercise three days a week or thirty-five minutes five days a week is  just as effective as being on anti-depressant medication.

2. Health. I have a family history of all types of ailments that are prevented or lessened by exercise–heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and cancers. A list of seven health benefits of regular exercise is found at this Mayo Clinic website. Reviewing a list like this from time-to-time is sometimes helpful in reminding yourself why exercise is important.

Some recent studies have shown that regular exercise might also prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia.  That, alone, should be reason to get out there and move.

3. Self Discipline & Confidence. I have self-diagnosed myself as having ADD. I’ve got all the classic symptoms–I start projects I don’t finish, I interrupt people while they are speaking, I change topics of conversations mid-sentence, I have a hard time sitting for any length of time, and I’m always multi-tasking to the point of feeling like I’m living in utter chaos most of my day. In short, I’m  creative, ambitious, and a great problem-solver, but I have a hard time focusing on only one thing at a time.

Running and yoga have shown me that I can follow through on something. I can hold myself accountable to see something through to the end, and–most importantly–my brain is at peace when I work out. When running or in the heat of a Bikram yoga class, I can’t multi-task. For the thirty minutes or two hours of my workout, I am focused on only one thing–putting one foot in front of the other, in the case of running, or holding a pose, in the case of yoga.

During my workouts I feel in control and focused. My brain is turned off and I am at peace. And, that “quiet brain feeling” often stays with me as the rest of my day unfolds. I also feel accomplished. If I’ve completed my planned workout for the day, there’s a small feeling of pride that I also carry with me. In short–I physically feel good, and I mentally feel good because I did what I said I would do. I am accountable to myself and I follow through on my promises to myself. For me, that’s huge.

Now, excuse me as I go shovel that driveway. I’ll remind myself that it’s for my health and I’ll try to convince my family members of the health benefits they should be enjoying as the rest of the snow falls and it will the their turn to shovel.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Camille on December 9, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    Hey Gail I know what your speaking about. I try to talk myself out of the crossfit work out because I know it will be painful and difficult. It even causes me anxiety but once that clock starts and I have started my “torture” WOD all I can think about is beating my time or being faster then the others in my class. Not competitive right? It is also the reason I have kept myself sane with teens. I agree you have to put yourself first and make the time. Makes me a better mother, person and spouse.


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