Posts Tagged ‘motivation’

Getting Motivated

For those of us who struggle to exercise daily (or at least semi-daily), finding the right motivation is key. When my alarm goes off at 5:45 every morning, I need a really good reason to get out of bed; if not, I’m hitting the snooze and exercising tomorrow.

As an exercise physiologist, I’d like to think that the most current research is what motivates people to exercise. There are dozens of studies that tout the benefits of regular physical activity on reducing chronic disease; with just 30 minutes a day, you lower your risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, and even depression. That should be enough to make us want to move around, right?

Unfortunately, the research would suggest otherwise. According to a study done by Ingledew and Markland, exercisers tended to stick with a program much longer if their reason for working out was related to social interactions and those who were exercising for appearance didn’t last very long. Researchers have also found that when we perceive benefits to be either intangible or in the distant future, we aren’t very motivated. Just knowing that when you’re 75, your cholesterol will be lower doesn’t seem to be a potent motivator for getting off the couch.

So what do we do? There’s a great article on nytimes right now that suggests we will exercise much more often if we think about how it makes us feel, rather than how it makes us look, and if we think about how it affects us today, rather than how it will affect us 10 years from now. If yo look forward to your evening walk, thinking about how it helps you de-stress and how nice it will feel to be outside, you’ll be more likely to go than if you try to guilt yourself into going. Thinking about exercise as a punishment will always leave a bad taste and it will be a dreaded item to check off the to-do list.

I exercise for a couple of reasons; some noble, some not so much. Some days I look forward to my run; I feel fit and thin and it sounds like a fun thing to do. Other days, I force myself to go because I’m training for a race, or honestly, because I had an extra piece of chocolate cake the day before. But, what gets me out of bed in the morning at 5:45 is thinking how good I’ll feel for the rest of the day. If I tell myself, “it’s just 30 minutes. Then think what you’ll have accomplished before 7 am,” I’ll  get right up.

What motivates you to exercise?

How to Make a Change

Kevin and I saw an interesting documentary this weekend called Hunger for Change. (I’ll write a review in a few days!) It was pretty good, and got me thinking about the process of changing our habits. The more and more I read about weight loss and dieting, I’m realizing that for most of us, the struggle is not getting enough information about how to live, but instead finding the motivation to change our behaviors. There really are quite a few diet books out there that suggest healthy, well balanced diets and recommend regular exercise, and yet so many Americans are still overweight. Why? Because drastically changing your life is so hard! It’s one thing to read about it, and quite another to put it into practice.

When I look and Kevin and my journey to becoming healthier over the last few years, I have noticed a few things. I hope that these suggestions can help you a bit on the road to becoming a healthier, happier version of you!

One thing at a time. I am terrible at this! Whenever I watch a health food documentary, read about vegan diets or see photos of someone who is super-ripped, I think about how I want to completely over-haul my life. I make plans to eat only fruits and vegetables, wake up and the crack of dawn for a 2 hour workout and plan a 30 minute yoga session every night. And, of course, none of that happens. I hit the snooze button, put off the workout, and definitely eat more than just fruits and vegetables (namely Oreos, which are my nemesis).  Trying to make so many drastic changes makes me feel overwhelmed. The challenge seems impossible and so instead of being successful, I flop down in failure. The times I’ve actually managed to maintain better habits are the things that naturally developed over time. I started bringing one piece of fruit to lunch with me, and then two. I began by having a fruit smoothie for breakfast, which has now evolved into mainly just spinach and kefir, and I’ve found that fried foods aren’t really something I crave at all anymore. All of these changes were done on thing at a time, and over the course of several months or years. When we decide that we want to be a better person, we usually try to tackle all our problems at once, but I think that’s just a recipe for disaster. Instead, focus on just one good change you’ll make; something that doesn’t seem to bad or too hard. Once you’ve successfully mastered that, move on to the next thing. By next year, you’ll be shocked at how far you’ve come.

Visualization. I first started using visualization when I was coaching cross country during my PhD. I had my runners visualize their race, watching themselves do everything right and picturing how strong they would feel at the end. When they pictured themselves succeeding, they were much more likely to have a successful race. Visualization has been used in athletics for decades, but I think it absolutely applies in our everyday lives as well. If we want to make a change, the first step is believing that it’s actually possible. I use this in order to motivate myself to get up early and exercise. I hate waking up early and I usually use any excuse I can to sleep in, but lately I haven’t been able to get my workouts in at night. I know the only way to make myself exercise is to get it done in the morning, but I haaaaate waking up so early. This past week, every night before I go to bed, I visualize myself waking up at 5:45 (ughh) and running. Much to my husband’s surprise, I’ve actually done it!

Add, don’t subtract. This is one idea I stole from the Hungry for Change documentary; instead of trying to deny yourself, think about adding healthy habits to your life. Don’t focus on eating fewer fatty foods, but instead think about adding healthier ones. The entire process of dieting and restricting ourselves leaves us feeling deprived. A diet feels like something we have to survive and I know as soon as I start restricting foods (telling myself no sugar this week, or no junk food), that’s the only thing I can think about! Instead, I’ve been focusing on my goal to eat more fruits and vegetables. I pack at least one fruit, if not two in my lunch, and Kevin and I bought a juicer (which will be another blog!) to try to increase our consumption of vegetables.  The healthier my diet gets, the less I am interested in eating cookies and brownies (although, if you offered me one right now, I can’t say I’d turn it down!).  I don’t think about restricting anything; instead just focusing on the positive things I can add to my life helps me focus on the good stuff, and the bad stuff tends to just fall away on its own.

Have you tried any of these strategies? What are some successful changes you’ve made in your life?


Weekly Review: Nike Fuel Band

Maybe you’ve heard the hype all around the internet; the next big thing will be…. The nike fuel band! They’ve created a small frenzy by only selling about 1,000 of these things at a time in select “pre-ordering” session, creating insane demand for their $149 device.

First of all, what is it?

Nike created a more integral and effective way to track your fitness during the day than a typical pedometer. Nike fuel is a wrist band that you wear either all day or during exercise that can track all types of movement through an accelerometer. The band can sync up with your iPhone and tracks your progress throughout the day. It also comes with a USB port to plug right into your computer (similar to the Nike Plus system). You are able to set a fitness goal for the day and then your iPhone displays a red, yellow and then finally green light as you achieve your goal. Here’s a link to Nike’s website: Nike Fuel Band

Is it worth it?

Maybe, depending on who you are. One thing to note, however, is that I’ve read many many stories already online about people who purchased defective bands. It seems that Nike may have sent the first few thousand out too soon and plenty of the bands are defective. So, be careful and make sure you have a number for customer service.

You might think it’s awesome if….

You love to track your progress and need motivation. This will give you up-to-the-minute data about how active you are and can be an incredible motivational tool. You may be surprised at how sedentary you are at work, and it can be fun to try to get to that green light everyday. You can upload your results online and compete with your friends or your significant other, so it could be a turning point for you if you just haven’t been able to get an exercise routine going.

Not worth your money if…

You’re a swimmer. (It isn’t water-proof) Or, if you care at all about accuracy. While an accelerometer certainly is more accurate than a pedometer, these devices are typically worn on the upper arm, not the wrist and often correlated with a hip accelerometer. Additionally, instead of using a typical counts-per-minute analysis, Nike has correlated the counts with an algorithm to estimate oxygen utilization, a process they dubbed “oxygen kinetics.”  They then have created their own measure of total work, “Nike Fuel” which is a term they made up. You set your daily goal in Nike Fuel and track your progress that way. You can get estimates of calories burned and total steps taken, but that information can also be estimated through a simple heart rate monitor and pedometer, which would be significantly cheaper.

Overall, if you have the money to spend and you’d like extra motivation, this may be a great product for you. Just make sure you understand how to use the technology and that you’re not too worried about accuracy.

Have any of you guys tried this thing? What did you think?

*We just finished our first ebook! It’s available on amazon and on the kindle! Come check it out:



My New Morning Fix

I, like most of America love getting my morning fix of coffee in some form or fashion. Unfortunately, frap-a-chocolate iced sugar filled chino has hundreds and hundreds of calories. So, I decided to find a healthy fix; something that would wake me up in the morning without making me feel guilty for the rest of the day.  I didn’t want some lame substitute that makes me only miss my beloved cup of coffee. My wife and I recently joined a gym and they have a lap pool. Being that I was a water survival instructor in the Marine Corps, I decided to get my butt in the pool again and give it a go. It has been the best thing I have done for myself in a long time.

First off, I truly benefit from the fact that it is a low impact form of cardio so I have been swapping out some of my 4:30am runs with swims. *Side note from Sara: Kevin is crazy. I would never get up at 4:30 to run. Who does that?

 Second, I use my morning swim as a warm up for my lifting which I do right after. I am no meat head, I don’t live my life one scoop of protein at a time and I will never put any kind of pre weight lifter work out supplement in my body like NO Xplode or something like that. I don’t really need to; just jumping in a chilly pool at 4:30AM is the best wakeup call you can get! A simple 500 meters later and I am full warmed up in the right state of mind to get my lift on and get out!

The third and last benefit to my new morning ritual I feel fully energized by the time I get home and have my breakfast smoothie. I get dressed wake up my wife, get my things ready for work (wake up my wife again)and I don’t even realize that I haven’t consumed my morning coffee. This new found source of energy is with me all day. I work out again in the afternoon and call it a day. I have found a new; better source of energy and the best thing is the fact that it is negative calories! BOOM!! I would love to find out what you guys do to get your morning rolling so please feel free to post comments and let me know!


Make it an adventure

My wife and I are more like the average person than you might think. We don’t always wake up wanting to go on a 10 mile run or just drink fresh fruit smoothies and do yoga all day. Like everyone else, our motivation comes and goes in waves and sometimes doing the right thing for our bodies and health is really hard. I think the best solution we have come up with is that we just simply plan exercise into our weekend adventures.  When you have a hard time slogging through the week, it’s so liberating to have something fun to look forward to on the weekend, and it’s a great excuse to get in some extra exercise and vitamin D. My wife and I loved to go hiking when we lived in South Carolina.  We would regularly take a short road trip up the mountains and think nothing of going on 2 hour plus hike through the forest. We found hidden waterfalls and rock formations and didn’t even think about how many calories we were burning.  Another one of our favorite weekend adventures is boogie boarding. Here in South Padre Island TX, it is not uncommon to find 5-10 foot waves and fighting through the surf for an hour will leave you plenty exhausted but also quite refreshed from enjoyment.

If you can make your exercise fun, it will be the thing you look forward to all week instead of something you dread doing. Most of you may not live close to the beach or the mountains, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get creative about finding fun things to do together. It doesn’t really have to be that big of an event; just taking the dog for a 30-minute walk after dinner to watch the sunset or playing a game of tennis. Anything you can find to work in your daily or weekly routine will increase your physical activity and it’s an easy way to spend some quality time with your partner.


Try a Race!

Everyone wants to be healthier, lose weight, and get on a regular exercise program. Progress with a goal like that is often hard to measure and keep up with. The best method I have found to reach goals of working out regularly or eating healthy is to find a race or physical challenge, some measureable goal that I have to work towards. First, you have to pay money to enter a race, and since we all hate wasting money that helps keep you on track with a workout program. It also holds you accountable towards reaching your goal. You know that race day is coming and if you don’t get your butt in gear in time, you won’t be able to finish. Second, once you commit to training for a race, you start to worry about things like proper diet and hydration. It doesn’t seem like such a burden to eat well and take care of yourself because you’re doing it for a race, not because you “have to.”

Moreover, choosing a large public event like a race gives you a feeling of belonging to something larger than yourself, which in turn often drives you to complete a training regiment and helps you to not feel so alone in your decision to be healthy. If you decide to do a race or other large event, you may be able to find a training group to hold you accountable. It is also easy to find a training group if you can find an event that is large enough, and training with a group always lends a hand to meeting a goal, with positive peer pressure and a sense of involvement. Finally, there is the feeling of accomplishment you get when you finish a challenging race or event. That rewarding feeling often leads to bigger goals, which in turn helps you become more and more healthy. I know it can be intimidating to enter a road race or other competition, but just set the bar low the first time. If you’ve never raced before, try a 5k and don’t worry about your time; just try to finish. You might be surprised at how much you are able to accomplish. Once you’ve done it once, you will know how much you are capable of and you can set a higher goal next time.

I plan to enter a race in the near future and I will keep you all posted on how my training is going. Tomorrow, Sara will update us on her crazy training for the 24 hour race in January. What are you training for?


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