By LMQC Battle of the Bulge blogger, Alan Sivell, St. Ambrose communications professor, RAGBRAI-er, pizza lover and longtime weight watcher.
I barely made it to the Y this morning, going up and down very slowly on the Arc Trainer, waiting for my motivation to kick in.
It finally did, when Peter Parker slipped on his Spiderman suit and started swinging his way through the city.
For the next 5 minutes, I stepped harder and faster while I vicariously helped Spiderman capture bad guys. Before I knew it, my workout had flown by.
For many people, though, motivation is a secondary problem.
Self-discipline is missing to begin with. The self-discipline to get out of bed and to the gym – or on the bike or on a walk – is just not there.
Many of us develop it as kids, delivering newspapers before dawn, getting our homework in on time.
For those who never developed it, there’s good news. It can be developed.
Get disciplined and off the couch in 6 steps:
The way I see it, self-discipline is a way of life. Your stance, so to speak.
Psychotherapist Amy Morin offers these 6 strategies to develop it in a Forbes magazine article (comments in parentheses are by me):
- Acknowledge Your Weaknesses – Whether cookies are the downfall to your diet, or you can’t resist checking your social media accounts every 2 minutes, acknowledge your pitfalls. (I acknowledge ANYTHING with sugar, or butter, or flour, or … well, you see where this is going.)
- Establish a Clear Plan – No one wakes up one day suddenly blessed with self-discipline. Develop a plan to outline the action steps that will help you reach your goals. (I probably developed self-discipline delivering newspapers as a kid. My goals have changed, however, throughout my life. Keeping my weight down was always a goal, for example, but I didn’t develop the self-discipline to accomplish it till recently.)
- Remove the Temptations When Necessary – It only takes one moment of weakness to convince ourselves to cave to temptation. Making it difficult to access those temptations can be pivotal to increasing self-discipline. (No more ice cream in the freezer. For someone else, it’s putting the Snooze Button across the room.)
- Practice Tolerating Emotional Discomfort – It’s normal to want to avoid pain and discomfort, but trying to eliminate all discomfort will only reinforce to yourself that you can’t handle distress. Practice allowing yourself to experience uncomfortable emotions that you may experience as you increase your self-discipline. (Hmmmm. The pain of no ice cream was certainly real, but I didn’t ever practice feeling it.)
- Visualize the Long-Term Rewards – You’ll be less likely to cave to temptation when you focus on the long-term gain. Visualize yourself meeting your goals and reaping the rewards that you’ll gain by practicing self-discipline on a daily basis. (I sure do like shopping for clothes more these days. And I like not hating my reflection in the mirror.)
- Recover From Mistakes Effectively – Self-discipline comes easier on some days than others. If you’re feeling stressed, you may convince yourself to skip your workout. The key is to acknowledge your mistakes and move on from them with even more resolve to do better next time. (Oh, yeah.)
Now harness your motivation
So now you’re up and at the gym. What can you do to make yourself move faster? How can you motivate yourself to really work?
Everyone has different motivators. Mine have changed over the years.
As a teen and college kid, my workout motivators were external. They came in the form of yelling coaches. I did what they told me to do, whether it was lift more weights or run faster or another lap.
As a young adult, my motivators naturally became more internal. One was the success and fitness I MIGHT gain from harder work. (This did not always do the trick. Hence the “full-figured” pictures that fill family photo albums.)
Determined, I read exercise books and looked for workout gadgets to help. Radio Shack radio headphones were the first in a long line of entertainment-based gadgets that changed my workout life.
Those headphones were so heavy that – to keep them from bouncing off my head when I ran – I had to hold them on with a couple of tight headbands. I’d get jazzed by the music, but often had a headache at the end of my run. (The antithesis of a motivator, now that I think about it.)
Next, I found a very lightweight FM stereo radio with earphones. It had a clip that I attached to my woven belt and slid around to the side of my right hip, tightly secured. No more head-banging (in the traditional sense of “head-banging”).
Two years later, my mother-in-law gave me a Sony Walkman tape player for Christmas. With that, I could make tapes of my favorite music for my morning run. I didn’t have to rely on the DJs downtown.
I used that Walkman and other variations as they came out for 20 years. Some folks in the 90s ran with a weighty Discman that played their CDs. Carrying that weight probably did more for their arms than the running did for their legs.
Then came the iPod. Workouts could be longer and more intense. You could have dozens of workout playlists to fit your mood on a particular day. Energized? Start with “Rock & Roll” by Zeppelin.
Today, a good (or even a mediocre) action adventure or cop show streamed on my phone helps me forget what I’m doing. Sometimes I’ll watch a Bruce Springsteen or Amy MacDonald concert video. Or listen to music.
A fitness tracker also helps me. It reminds me of Coach Fitzpatrick back in high school, yelling to run one more lap.
When I need that extra motivation these days, I meticulously check my steps every evening. I get so competitive with myself that I walk around my car while filling it up, just to get more steps in.
My motivation may not be yours. When I feel a motivational lull coming on, I still look for inspiration from books and gadgets.
What works for you?
|Meet Battle of the Bulge blogger, Alan Sivell. Alan is a communications professor at St. Ambrose University and a former reporter for WQAD-TV who has exercised – and dieted – his entire life. Read Alan’s other blog posts.|