By Siew Ching

Exercise more! Here’s how to motivate yourself to get moving when it’s the last thing you want to do.

Every January, I say to myself that I need to exercise more. Get out there. Get active. Start running. Pick up a sport. I am certain that I am not the only one who says this come the new year.

You know what else I’m not the only person doing? Trying my best to be motivated about working out! The thing that lies between wanting to work out and doing it is you. Getting off the couch or getting up early to go for that run. Many of us find momentum early in the year but by March, we’re more often thinking, “Ah, just one day won’t make a difference.”

I don’t blame you if you rather sleep in for another hour – who wouldn’t! But if you’re just going to be a casual exerciser, you won’t be meeting your goals of wanting to sweat more and be healthy. And if you keep up with the excuses, all exercise – and motivation – goes out of the window even before the year ends, making you feel extra bad about not sticking to your plan of getting healthier.

Fortunately, there are many ways to motivate yourself to exercise. Try these three tips first (backed by research!) to get off your feet and start moving.

#1 Pay for It
Yes, pay for your workout. Sign up for a plan and you know you’ll stick to it because you’ve already spent all that money. Last thing you want is money down the drain and the kilos adding on. But you know what you can also pay for? A commitment contract. Round up a group of friends and make a commitment to exercise more. It doesn’t have to be something you do together but just the fact that you and your friends will do some form of exercising twice a week. Those who don’t, have to pay a penalty, say RM10, every time they skip the workout.

How does this work to keep you motivated? According to Jeremy Goldhaber-Fiebert, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Stanford University, when you make this commitment and you don’t keep to it, you’ll feel all kinds of embarrassment of not keeping to your promise with your friends. This will then motivate you to keep up so you don’t slack off.

#2 Think of the Positive You’ll Get Out of Exercising
You’ve heard it many times – positive thinking leads to positive action. In the case of motivating yourself to work out, thinking of the positives you’ll get out of it (feeling healthier, more energy, finally achieving the body you want) will give you that extra push to hit the gym.

But take it one step further, says Gabriele Oettingen, PhD, psychologist at New York University and author of Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation – try “mental contrasting”. She recommends that you identify your wish (want to exercise) and visualise the outcome (feel healthier), then identify what it is that is holding you back (tired, lack of motivation, no company). When you’ve figured out that obstacle, you can then figure out what to do about it and then come up with a plan to make regular exercise something you’ll want to do! For example, if you’re too tired to hit the gym after work, go there first before work to get more motivated.

#3 Be Flexible!
You would think that having a set time to work out will make you more disciplined. But what’s interesting is that in a Harvard Business School-led research where some employees were given the choice to go to the company gym during a specific window of time while others were given the flexibility to go anytime, the latter group ended up sticking to their workout schedule more!

The moral of the story? Wanting to exercise is all great but when it becomes a chore, it can be a turnoff. When you make the effort and find the most suitable time to fit some exercise in your schedule, you’re more likely to do it because it’s on your own initiative, which is exactly what works for motivation! Don’t like to sign up for a package? Try ClassPass which gives you access (worldwide so you can even exercise while on holiday!) to gyms and fitness studios where you can sign up for individual classes at your own time.

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash.

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