Before I start working with a new client I always ask her some very important questions. Two of the most important ones are:
- How do you feel about exercise?
- How badly do you want to reach your goals?
Her answers to those questions gives me some insight into the best ways I can train her to help her get to where she wants to go.
If the answer to #1 is, “I can’t stand it!” and the answer to #2 is, “Meh, I could honestly care less” I know that chances are this isn’t gonna be easy (for either of us! 😉 )
And if you find yourself constantly falling off the workout wagon – you do it for a week or two, maybe even a couple months, then something happens and you don’t workout for a while, then you get back into it, then you fall off again… – you, my friend need to ask yourself 3 very important questions as well.
Question #1: Do You Even Want This?
If you constantly find yourself excusing your way out of workout classes or wanting to do anything, anything but pick up the dumbbells every time you go to workout, you gotta ask yourself, “Do I even want this?”
By “this” I mean do you actually want to be working out?
No one is going to force you to go the gym. I certainly won’t shame you for putting the barbell down.
If you’re going to get anywhere with anything you have to want it. Maybe not a lot. But definitely a little.
And if you hate working out, then we’ve got a problem.
If you’re constantly dreading hitting the gym you need to find something else – a different class, a different approach to fitness – that doesn’t make you feel like you’d rather go shopping at IKEA on December 24th with toddler triplets than workout.
There are so many options these days – yoga, spin, running, CrossFit, kayaking, hiking, mountain biking, walking, horseback riding, obstacle course racing, playing at the park with your kids…
You’re not limited to a couple of dumbbells and a floor mat.
So how can you make the process of reaching your goals more enjoyable for yourself so that instead of having to trick yourself into working out, you can actually enjoy the experience (or at least not hate it)?
How can you anchor what you want into something bigger, more meaningful so that you have a more profound reason to hit the gym other than “I should”?
How can you bring other people on board to inspire and encourage you to hit new goals and be better?
It may be about trying something completely new, or it may simply be thinking about exercise in a new way.
When my alarm wakes me up at 6am to go have a workout before anyone else is up, and I want to turn it off and snuggle under the covers even further, I remind myself how much better I feel when I start the day on my terms, instead of a demanding toddler’s terms.
Those mornings I wake up early I’m a much more patient mom and wife because I took care of myself and made myself feel good before anyone else could take control.
Those mornings I have a greater appreciation for my body.
Those mornings are the best mornings. That turn into good days (most of the time 😉 ).
I know that now. I’ve anchored that knowing into my conscious mind so that I don’t want to hit snooze because – even though I may not actually enjoy waking up and working out – I enjoy what my morning exercise routine does for me.
So yes. Wanting it. Really wanting it – and finding some way to enjoy it or squeeze more joy out of it – is key.
It’s a great start and what we need to move forward and reach our goals but it’s also just that – a start.
And if you want to stop falling off the workout wagon and stay motivated, you need to learn other key strategies for becoming a finisher. And that’s where questions #2 & #3 come in.
Question #2: What’s Your Base Camp?
Your Base Camp is like the base camp at the bottom of Mount Everest. You can climb up and come back down, up and back down, for weeks, or even months if you want to, but you never go lower than base camp (unless something has gone terribly wrong).
Base Camp is the bare minimum amount of exercise that you want to have in your life.
If you go lower than Base Camp you know that you’re not staying in line with your goals (and you’re not getting any closer to reaching the summit of Everest).
So if your Base Camp is working out 1 time a week, that’s the bare minimum amount of exercise you want to be pumping out in any given week.
You don’t have to workout 5 times, or even 3 times in a week, you simply need to workout 1 day a week to meet the bottom line you set for yourself.
Some weeks you might workout 6 times. Some weeks you might workout twice. Other weeks you’ll go for a walk one day and that’ll be enough to hit your Base Camp – you worked out once. That was your goal. Great!
You simply need to setup your Base Camp and commit to staying at or above that number.
This isn’t about pushing yourself to exhaustion or setting unrealistic goals. It’s simply about deciding what bare minimum feels good for you and running with it (maybe literally!)
So what’s your Base Camp? What’s the bare minimum amount of exercise you want to get in every week?
Bonus points for looking at your calendar for the next week+ and scheduling it in.
Life happens. Plans change. But as long as you keep your Base Camp in mind and work on always hitting the bare minimum it’ll be easier to get and (more importantly) stay motivated.
Question #3: How Can You Take Willpower Off the Table?
We’ve all been there. You decide you want to cut out sugar. You’re going to do a 30 day sugar detox. Hooray! Everything is going great. You’re making sugar-free choices like a pro.
But then day 3 rolls around and you get stuck working on a project until 10:22pm and when you finally finish you realize you’re starving.
You walk into the kitchen and there you see it.
The most perfect looking cupcake in the world. Sitting there. All delicious looking.
How easy is it to say no?
Not so much, right?
This is the thing: willpower is a finite resource. It’s like a muscle – you can only use it so much before it can’t deal and you find yourself licking frosting off your fingers without even remembering the taste of the cake.
And since it’s like a muscle that means that coasting on willpower alone is hard. Real hard.
Your willpower muscle gets tired (like newborn mama tired) when it’s overworked so trying to constantly make good decisions just based on our willpower is challenging.
Case in point: How many food choices do you think you make in a day?
10? 20? 40?
If you’re like most people in Brian Wansink’s study you guessed you make about 15 food choices daily.
The truth is, on average, you make 221 food choices every day.
No wonder it’s so easy to be halfway through the cupcake before we even realize what we’re doing.
Our willpower muscle is exhausted from trying to stay calm during that toddler tantrum in the packed changing room at Lululemon earlier in the day and it needs to tap out!
So if you’re trying to do more of something (or less of something) the smartest thing you can do is take willpower out of the equation and put it on autopilot as much as possible.
Rely less on your willpower and you’re more likely to be successful.
How can you do that when it comes to working out?
Here are some ideas to get you started:
:: Set workout dates with a friend. You can workout together or you can watch her kiddos while she works out, and she can watch your kiddos while you workout.
:: Get a bigger group of friends together and hire a babysitter to come to one house to watch all your kids so all of you can go for a walk, or get a workout in upstairs or outside (where you can’t hear them calling for you 😉 ) while the kiddos are playing with the sitter.
:: Hire a trainer. I know that 90+% of the reason that a lot of my local clients hire me is simply because they know that I’m going to show up at their house and they’ll get a workout in. Period.
:: Sit down with your partner on Sunday and map out when you’re going to workout that week. He can handle the morning or bedtime routine while you hit the gym. You simply have to ask, mark it on the calendar, and tell him to (gently) push you out the door.
:: Workout in the morning. Since our willpower runs low by the end of the day, it’s obviously highest first thing in the morning so getting up for even a quick 20 minute morning walk, yoga or weight training session is a smart idea. It’s out of the way and off of your plate before you even have time to make up excuses why you can’t.
:: Sign up for an afternoon workout class first thing in the morning. Bonus points if it’s non-refundable. Once you’ve paid and committed you don’t need to rely on willpower to actually go – especially if you’d rather not see your hard-earned moolah go to waste.
:: Go on Facebook and tell all your friends you’re going to workout (insert your Base Camp # here) days a week for the next month and ask someone to be your accountabili-buddy – you can cheer each other on and keep each other accountable.
When you keep falling off the workout wagon it doesn’t mean you’re lazy. You’re a mom. You have a million things on your plate and sometimes working out gets put last on the list because it’s just easy to slide it in on the bottom – underneath “clean the bathrooms”.
But if this is actually important to you, if you really want it (see Question #1) then let’s do this.
Choose your Base Camp. Stop relying entirely on your willpower to get it done. And make it happen.
P.S. Was this a good one? If you liked it, please share it with all your mom friends. Thank you!
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