“Hacks” are basically innovative ways to motivate or trick yourself into exercising — a fun way of reframing the classic concept of “exercise motivation.” We all need motivation to exercise. I love moving and I still often need a gentle push in the right direction.
1. Couple exercise with something you enjoy
Watch TV or listen to a podcast, an audio book or music as you work out. Better yet, have a program you are only allowed to listen to or watch when exercising. Enjoy the finer things in life? Join a fancy gym so you feel special.
If you are a social person, couple exercise with seeing friends - get a fitness buddy! Friends make everything more fun. Plus, you are less likely to skip a workout if you are meeting someone. Meet your buddy and do fitness classes, go for a walk, do fun partner strength exercises at the gym or simply meet and do cardio on side-by-side machines.
2.Have a mantra or pep talk ready to go
Self-talk is extremely powerful. When I don’t want to train, I use self-talk to convince myself to move.
I say, “Kathleen, you always feel better when you move. Your health quest is something you are doing for YOU. Moving is not a punishment; it is a privilege. If you don’t want to do your entire workout, fine, but you have to do something. Something is always better than nothing. Just start.”
Or I repeat a simple mantra. My current favourites are “The worse your mood, the more important the workout” and “Perfection is the opposite of done. Your workout does not have to be perfect. Just do something.”
3. Stop associating working out with the gym
Your workout doesn’t have to take place in a gym to be worthwhile. Thinking it does simply gives you another excuse to be inactive. Make your workouts convenient so you are more likely to do them consistently. If the gym is not convenient, find an alternative. We all have enough reasons to skip a workout; don't make convenience one of them. Walk regularly, join a local sports team or set up a home gym. Just commit to something realistic — anything — and do it.
4. Reward yourself
Set goals and non–food-related rewards: a hot bubble bath, a new workout outfit or a movie with friends. Don’t let yourself have the reward if you don’t reach your goal.
Or, make your reward a simple visual marker of your success. Have a calendar on the fridge and place a sticker on it every time you exercise, or create a spreadsheet or graph and record your workouts.
5. Find someone who inspires you ... and learn from their experiences
This could be someone from your real life or someone on social media. Let your role model’s healthy choices inspire you and their experiences inform your choices. No one who is successful succeeds the first time. Try sending a message to your social media guru, or ask the person who inspires you in real life how they overcame obstacles. Then extrapolate and apply their experience to your own life.
If you are inspired by friendly competition, sign up for ClassPass or a virtual activity tracker with a friend who inspires you; compete with that friend on how many classes you attend or how many steps you take.
As you think on what hack might work for you, remember to harness the aspect of each hack that will allow you to use your own nature productively. If you enjoy being social, great: instead of only being social at a bar, be social while you exercise. If you hate being social, don’t try to make fitness a social activity. Maybe listen to music while you run instead of while you sit and eat potato chips. Pick hacks that serve your personality and learn from all your experiences.
Basically, find solutions not excuses. Working out in the morning? Sleep in your exercise clothes. Have an unpredictable schedule? Always have a gym bag packed and ready to go. Figure out what drives you, then do that. Build on the foundation of your inner nature; harness your personality, learn from every experience and always look for opportunities to move. Recognize what has and has not worked for you. Capitalize on what has worked.
Lastly, when you fall off of your fitness horse — it will happen; you are human — get back on a more informed rider.