The tale is that if you toss a frog into boiling water he’ll jump out but if he’s in a pot which slowly heats up he won’t and will die. It is disgusting to be sure. We used to use it to describe people’s circumstances of living in violent relationships… But I digress.
Lately I have been thinking about motivation. Looking at some of the fitness literature and web information I read I see that the great success stories are often the people who had never touched a weight and then discover weight lifting and proper diet and of course dramatic changes ensue. I think for more of us it’s harder because we are not suddenly discovering a new way of living which we can attack with religious zeal.
Like the frog in the slowly heating water I’ve been lifting weights and doing some type of aerobic exercise for about 35 years. Also I need to shed 10 to 15 pounds of fat. I remember reading somewhere in an article about building muscle how really modest the gains a person who has been training over time can expect to make in a year. So how do I stay motivated to keep doing enough of the right activities? And how do I stay motivated to eat in a way that supports the exercise enough to keep making positive changes?
For me having a variety of activities I can pursue helps some. My preferred forms of exercise are walking in a hilly local park, using the elliptical machine in the new fitness room at my job, lifting weights in my basement and taking the occasional hot yoga class at a local studio. I recently discovered http://www.lauramustloseweight.com which is cool both because of Laura’s personality, and for me, because she is about my height. It’s a good graphic portrayal of both the truth and the possibilities. I guess images and stories help because it’s hard to move from abstraction to action. It would be nice to be motivated more by the positive, e.g. move towards what Rachel Cosgrove calls being a “fit female” than by the negative, e.g. ominous health worries or the image of myself as some sort of lonely Jabba the Hutt. In any case, if I figure out the secret to motivation I promise to share it.
I am happy to take inspiration anywhere I can get it. Seriously. Years ago my pattern with exercising would sometimes be that things got hectic at work and in the rest of my life and I stopped doing everything physical. Those breaks sometimes lasted as long as six months. Thank goodness a friend and I started walking about 4 miles together in a local park on Sunday mornings. I think we’ve been doing that about ten years. One absolutely crucial effect of this routine is that it keeps me from getting into one of those no-exercise phases. There were times when the weekly walk was the only exercise I did. More recently it’s often icing on the cake. The New Rules of Lifting for Women calls it “active recovery” I believe. That is, something you do that’s not actually strenuous enough to be exercise but is good calorie-burning activity that allows you to be ready for more weight lifting the next day.
The fitness efforts of friends real and virtual also inspire me. From friends that are making great strides with their own levels of fitness and sharing awe-inspiring lifting, running and biking accomplishments to those whom I see looking great as they change their body composition in positive ways. Someone tweets that he’s at the gym or someone posts that she’s hit a new PR, that helps me feel inspired to hit the weights myself.
I also find it helpful to work on a program. I am quite capable of coming up with exercise routines for myself but I find that I do better when I have the guidance, structure and variety of routines put together by experts. I know people are sometimes surprised to learn that I work out by myself in my basement and that I do keep at it. Ironically, for me the need to tear myself away from home to go to the gym would at this point in my life be a de-motivator and not a motivator.
Probably the biggest motivator of all is seeing results. This is especially motivating at first when one is making initial gains but one needs to be satisfied with more subtle progress as one goes farther on the fitness journey. A friend of mine recently introduced me to stickk.com which uses a combination of things to get one to set goals and stick to them including making donations to charities that one doesn’t like if one fails to meet a goal, having referees and friends to support the effort. This all coming from the results of a Yale study on what helps people stick to goals. I am not using it yet for that but the possibilities seem intriguing.