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9 motivational fitness tools

When it comes to motivation to exercise, intentions may not be enough

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Gulf News

Dubai: Every one of us who has a few kilos to lose is fully aware that we need to get off the couch and head to the gym to burn those extra calories. We also fully know that doing this on a regular basis will leave us feeling more energetic and reward us with better health and a toned body.

Yet, most of us are loathe to put on our running shoes, turn off the television and drive to the gym. Or even get on to the treadmill in the house that is now a clothes hanger. Between your favourite TV programmes and the exercise hour stands your willpower that is a particularly hedonistic creature.

It is so smart, it offers not one but a dozen reasons why you just don’t have the time to head for an exercise session right now. The excuses are crafty, appealing and entirely irresistible. They are also loud, loud enough to drown out the meek, wavering voice inside you that stutters, “... but I need to exercise and I know I will feel better if I go to the gym.” But this poor voice doesn’t stand a chance and so you sink back onto the couch.

Experience has proved that knowing exercise is good for you is no motivation at all. The knowledge in itself does noting to push you to work out. For a workout to happen, you need an additional push — like dangling a luscious, sweet and fresh carrot that will galvanise you into action. The following tools for motivation will help you start, and most importantly sustain, a fitness regimen that should see you progressing at a healthy pace towards your fitness goals.

1 Get fit together

Each night, you go to bed with great intentions, promising yourself that you will exercise first thing in the morning. However, when the alarm rings, you hit the snooze button a couple of times and then before you know it, it is too late to head to the gym or park. Another day starts off on a wrong note.

However, imagine the same scenario but this time, add an exercise buddy. While you still will be tempted to hit the snooze button, you will get up and get ready for your exercise because you know that your friend(s) is waiting for you and it really won’t do to let them down. If you are not able to talk your friend into joining you for a jog, check out with your gym for the various fitness groups that are active in your area.

You can also opt for a personal trainer as he or she will not only act as your workout buddy but also share their expertise with you and guide you every single step of the way thus helping you achieve your goals faster.

It is also vital to ensure that your workout buddy and you share similar fitness levels and workout goals and that your buddy is a motivated and driven person. Otherwise, their negativity will impact you and before you know it your fitness behaviour will be reflecting theirs!

2 Set your goals and plan

If you want to get from point A to point B then you need to have a map… a plan. This map will keep you focused and on track and let you know how you are progressing and whether you need to tweak your fitness plan or not. To begin with write your goals down in detail, clarifying exactly what you want to accomplish – lose weight, run a marathon, improve your stamina, tone up and increase your musculature, to name a few. Then fix a time frame for the accomplishment of your goals.

Finally work out your approach or method to achieve your goals. This has to be done in great detail, with focus being paid to your exercise schedule, the time spent daily on various types of exercise, the kind of exercise you want to do on each day and your nutrition. Stick your plan up where you cannot miss it so that it acts as a constant reminder and motivator.

Knowing what you need to do on a day to day basis solves half the problem as far as self-motivation goes. You no longer need to sit and figure out what sets to do early in the morning; you just need to go and start doing it. A few minutes into the set, your early morning bleariness or late evening tiredness would have flown out of the window and an hour later you will be glad that you just did it instead of over thinking it.

Remember to practice the plan until it becomes a habit and second nature. Besides your exercise road-map, it is also important to chart your progress — you can go old school and stick a chart on your wardrobe or do it online. The idea is to jot down your daily targets accomplished and to note improvements in terms of time taken, increased reps or increased workout frequency.

3 The scale

This can be your best friend or your worst enemy. The scale’s readings can be included in your progress chart so that you are able to track your weight loss. However understand the science behind the measurement of weight loss before you allow this reading to motivate or demotivate you. It is at the end of the day another quantitative measurement like the BMI, inches tape, and measurement of exercise reps or duration or distance covered.

4 Reward points

Take a leaf out of the leading businesses of the day and start earning reward points. For every target achieved or for every single daily goal tackled reward yourself a point. When you accrue 50 points (or 100 if you want to make it tougher) reward yourself with that new outfit or a luxury spa massage.

5 Mirror mirror on the wall

Invest in a full length mirror if you don’t already have one. Seeing your body evolve into a more toned version as you continue with your exercise programme is one of the most powerful motivators out there. You can also start a mini ritual whereby you take a good look at yourself in your favourite outfit and then every other weekend try the dress out and take a gander again. As the inches fall away, the dress will fall visibly better on your frame and you will feel lighter than ever. The day the dress becomes ‘too loose’ for you, you have every right to treat yourself to a decadent treat.

6 Visualisation

This is an oft misunderstood part of visualisation and often reduced to or sometimes elevated to the levels of magic. However if you cut through all the hype what you are left with is the ability to train your mind to anticipate a certain behaviour pattern and the related rewards. Set aside time each day (and the great thing about visualising is that it can be done lying down in bed or soaking in the bath tub or sitting on the toilet seat) to imagine yourself working out as per your schedule. Remember to imagine this in as much detail as possible and then visualise the great sense of achievement you feel after accomplishing your daily goal. Also visualise yourself achieving your target weight, wearing your dream dress or gown, or finishing that marathon. It will only take you a few minutes and at the end of it you will find yourself raring to get through your daily fitness regimen.

7 Music

Most of us are able to perform better when music plays in the background as it takes our attention away from our immediate discomfort and helps us focus on something outside of ourselves. Additionally the beat or rhythm of the music helps us maintain our pace and speed. It is no surprise that we find ourselves willing to tackle an additional kilometre on the treadmill or at the jogging track when we have our favourite music on a loop.

8 Motivation board

Put up a cork notice board near your bed and pin up pictures and quotes that motivate you. You can pin up pictures of stars whose body you admire or put up pictures of yourself when you were svelte. Even putting up pictures of yourself at your worst can act as a motivational tool, as it will remind you exactly what it is that you want to change.

9 Blog

Share your journey towards better health and a toned body with your friends. Update them about your progress on Facebook page or Twitter or your blog. Every time you achieve a goal you will get bragging rights. At the same time this social accountability will also ensure that you do not quit or go easy on yourself cause really who would want an online community on your case!