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Get motivated: Tips from a health coach

Finding the motivation to make fitness a part of our daily routine can be difficult. I’m sure you’ve heard various motivational advice, such as you need to do something 21 days in a row to make a habit. Well, what happens on day 24 when it’s cold outside and you don’t want to get out of bed?

People often find their way to me after being diagnosed with a health condition where weight loss and exercise are a necessity to their health. As a health coach, I help individuals identify what they need within themselves to move forward and change behaviors with action-based goals. Here is my advice for motivation and success.

Baby step to success

It is important to understand your own priorities and what you are ready to commit to, to reach your goal. Then, break the goal up into smaller goals that are measurable, actionable, realistic and timely. Setting a goal to “lose weight” or “get healthy” doesn’t fit this criteria. How are you going to lose the weight? What things will you focus on to get healthy?

Putting it in motion: Let’s say you’ve decided to exercise your way to weight loss. Right now your days are made up of a desk job and chauffeuring your family to various activities and events, which doesn’t leave much time for yourself – let alone exercise. How are you going to accomplish this goal? Set a baby step goal. With a hectic schedule, setting a goal to get to the gym for 30 minutes, three days a week may be too big of a goal. Instead, a more attainable goal might be getting in 5,000 steps a day. The goal is measurable and actionable (walking 5,000 steps), realistic and timely (considering your daily commitments). 

Reward yourself, immediately

Studies have shown that people with long-term goals spend the least amount of time exercising. However, those who recognize the immediate rewards of exercise, like more energy, less stress and better mood, are more motivated. Take the time to recognize your accomplishments – the big and the small. Over time, the surge of endorphins (those feel-good chemicals) released in the brain after exercise will become an intrinsic reward. Your brain will recognize the workout itself as the reward!

Putting it in motion: You’ve committed to getting 5,000 steps a day. To help accomplish this goal, you take a 10-minute walk during your lunch break. When you return to your desk you are in a better mood and more focused on your work. How does that make you feel? Later in the day you check your pedometer and see you have met you goal. How does that make you feel? Pretty good, right? Taking the time to recognize how you feel about your accomplishment is a reward and motivation to keep doing it.

Power of positive thinking

So often we get stuck in a mindset of “all or nothing” when it comes to exercise (I can’t do my regular 30-minute run, so I’ll skip exercising today). Some is better than nothing, right? I like to point out that a one percent raise in your paycheck is better than no raise. The same is true about exercise and reaching your goals. Recognize the efforts you did do and don’t fixate on what you didn’t do. When you have a positive frame of mind about something, you are more likely to continue that behavior.

Putting it in motion: It’s been a hectic day full of meetings and driving from one activity to another. Now it’s the end of the day and you haven’t reached your daily goal of 5,000 steps. Before you get discouraged, think about what you were able to do during the day, like the extra spin around the grocery store before check-out and the five-minute walk you snuck in between meetings. Recognize that these are all positive things you did for yourself! Then, make a plan for how you will accomplish 5,000 step tomorrow (march in place during a phone conference or skip the dishes and go for a walk instead).

Your goals will continue to evolve over time, as will your behavior. Keep going through this process of setting small actionable goals, rewarding your successes and staying positive. And, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

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