Motivation – how to find yours

When it comes to exercise, getting motivated isn’t always easy. Millions of people start fitness programmes each year but the vast majority of them fail to achieve their goals. The difference between those who succeed and those who fail isn’t the exercise programme or diet they’re following but their state of mind. I know this all too well.

Since I moved from Australia to Cornwall two years ago I’ve renovated four holiday cottages, a barn and, finally, the Kinesis studio and it’s been a long, hard slog. After a day spent sanding and painting, quite often the last thing I wanted to do was train. What I actually did on many occasions was collapse into a chair with a big G&T. I saw it not just as a means of relaxing but as a reward for all of my hard work.

Motivation can be defined as the direction, intensity and persistence of effort – in other words what you want, why you want it and what you’re prepared to do to get it. Even though we may be highly motivated at the beginning of an exercise programme, it can become difficult to summon up the enthusiasm to train as the weeks go by. Perhaps we haven’t seen results as quickly as we’d hoped or we’ve had a particularly busy week at work. When even professional athletes lose motivation from time to time, what hope is there for the rest of us?

Often the problem lies in the fact that even when we’re motivated to do something, we’re actually more motivated to do something else. I love exercise – I wouldn’t be in this job if I didn’t – but sometimes I just couldn’t get myself moving. HIIT or G&T? No contest.

Things weren’t made any easier by the fact I didn’t have a proper workout space. Most of my equipment was in storage and, due to the work going on in the cottages, my house was full of furniture, kitchen equipment and tools. But at the end of the day it was all excuses.

As a personal trainer I know I can’t expect clients to stick to an exercise regime if I’m not going to do it myself and it was that sense of professional pride that provided me with the motivation to get back on track. Instead of leaving my training sessions to the end of the day, I started to work out before breakfast. I cleared a space in the spare room and put P90X 3 in the DVD player and it suited me perfectly – a 30-minute workout with minimal equipment and a schedule to follow. On fine days I often went for a run or took my Pilates mat out onto the lawn.

I know it can be difficult to fit exercise into a busy schedule and, if you’re not really feeling up to it, you can always find an excuse not to train – too busy, too tired, it’s boring. The best personal trainers are much more than fitness instructors; they’re life coaches too. It is our role to help a client identify the factors that are preventing them from exercising and helping them stay motivated when they find themselves flagging.

When it comes to motivation, a personal trainer can be a great asset. By setting a programme, sending a text to remind you of an appointment or calling to simply say well done, they can help you stay on track. But at the end of the day, motivation comes from within and no matter how good your trainer is, you will be exercising on your own most of the time. It is therefore essential to identify the factors that motivate you and use them to make sure you get the results you want.

Six ways to stay motivated

  • Set goals This is the most common motivational tool. Make sure your goals are realistic. Break down the big goals into more achievable, smaller ones. That way you will feel a greater sense of satisfaction and be more motivated as you move onto your next goal.
  • Visualisation Imagine yourself crossing the finish line of your first half marathon or slipping on that little black dress. Think about how incredible you will feel.
  • Positive affirmations Tell yourself that you can achieve whatever it is you set out to do. Remember why you started your exercise programme. Try to re-connect with your reasons. Was it because you wanted to reduce your blood pressure or lose weight? Remind yourself of how important it is to you.
  • Develop a routine This will create a space in your schedule for exercise and formalise the arrangement. You will feel less inclined to miss a session if it’s something you do at the same time every week.
  • Train with others Group support can be an extremely powerful motivator.

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