The biggest challenge most people face when trying to improve their physical fitness is a lack of motivation. They might get excited about some new diet or workout program, but after a short time, their motivation fades.
One of the main reasons people can’t stay motivated is that they’re not totally clear on what they’re trying to achieve. They’ll make statements such as “I want to get healthier,” “I want to have more energy,” or “I want to lose weight.” These goals are great starting points, but they’re not focused enough. To stay motivated long term, you need to ask yourself why. Why do you want to get healthier? Why do you want more energy? Why do you want to lose weight?
Long-Range and Short-Range Motivation
To answer these questions, consider the long-range benefits that improved fitness can bring to your life. This step is crucial because staying motivated requires envisioning some type of sustained long-term benefit.
Avoid focusing on short-range benefits. These are limited, time-bound advantages that come from improved fitness that generally have no lasting effect on your overall quality of life. For example, people often begin a fitness program so they can lose a few pounds to look good for a special occasion.
The problem with relying solely on point-in-time events—such as vacations, weddings, or pool parties—for motivation is that they are intermittent and infrequent. When people don’t have a short-term goal to motivate them, most revert to old—usually less healthy—behaviors until the next special event impels them to get fit. If you cycle between periods of exercising and then not exercising, dieting and then not dieting, feeling motivated and then feeling defeated, you’ve probably been too focused on the short-term benefits of fitness.
Finding Long-Range Motivation
Instead, you need to identify the most significant ways you would benefit if you were more fit. Perhaps your self-confidence and your overall outlook on life would improve. Or perhaps you would have more energy for participating in fun activities with your family.
After putting some serious thought into how better fitness might enhance your life, choose the top two or three benefits with the greatest capacity to increase your overall happiness. These benefits should be your primary sources of motivation. This crucial step forces you to reframe your ideas about fitness and begin thinking of it as a life-enhancing activity, not some chore or duty that you ought to do but dread.
Many people struggle to develop healthy behaviors because they don’t see how doing so will enhance their life. In fact, they view the task of implementing healthier behaviors as extremely disruptive. However, when you see the ways that pursuing fitness will generate significant long-term benefits, finding and sustaining motivation gets easier, and you’ll likely conclude that it’s worth the effort.
Ultimately, the secret to sustaining fitness motivation is recognizing all the ways fitness will make your life better and finding sustainable ways to get fit.