It can be easy to have good intentions of exercising regularly but what can be harder is to make sure that you actually do this. It’s easy to understand why, life can get busy and at the end of a busy it can seem easier to spend an evening watching Netflix or mindlessly scrolling through social media when you know that really you should be out running, or out on a bike ride.
There is lots of advice out there about breaking these habits to ensure that you exercise more regularly. For example it is suggested that you lay your clothes out the night before or write when you will exercise in your diary. While these things can help, this isn’t what this blog post will focus on. Instead, we’ll focus here on some more evidence based strategies that will help you to exercise more consistently.
Surround yourself with internally motivated people
Before I explain why to do that we first need to understand a bit about different types of motivation…
There is lots of talk about motivating yourself to exercise, but often we often place too much focus on external sources of motivation. These are things like wanting to loose weight, getting certain times, lifting a certain weight etc.. There is nothing wrong with these types of motivation, but what is arguably more important is internal sources of motivation. This means that you exercise purely because you enjoy it for its own sake, rather than some external reason.
It can be hard to develop this type of internal motivation, especially if you started exercising purely to loose weight, for example. But even if you started exercising for an external reason, it is really important that you enjoy what you are doing. It might seem obvious but if you want to loose weight so start doing Couch to 5k but actually hate running this isn’t the best idea you’ve ever had. Instead you want to find a type of exercise you enjoy, which means you are far more likely to do it regularly and actually see the benefits from it.
One way to increase your internal motivation even more is to surround yourself with other internally motivated people. It has shown that being around internally motivated people can influence your own motivational state by something called social contagion. Research into this area has also found that not only does being around internally motivated people increase your own internal motivation, it also means that you are likely to train harder (but not feel like you are training harder) which is ideal really…
Now, as with all areas of research there is more research needed into how this works and if it is partly due to wanting to be seen to be behaving in a socially acceptable way. However, this is still an important finding and something you should take into account.
So, what can you do about this?
Well, at the moment when exercising with other people is hard one of the best things you can do if you struggle with motivation to exercise is to reevaluate your social media. Take a look at who you are following and interacting with on social media. If you find that these people are all posting about exercising for external reasons such as to loose weight and don’t actually seem to be enjoying exercise then that might be part of the problem. If you think this could be the case then it might be worth you finding some people to follow on social media who seem to enjoy exercising just for the sake of it rather than any external gain. By seeing these people posting about exercising for the enjoyment of it you may well find yourself wanting to exercise for the enjoyment of it as well.
When group exercise returns you could try to surround yourself in real life with people who exercise purely for the enjoyment of it. By encouraging this internally motivated mentality in those you exercise with you are benefiting all of you.
Having this increased sense of internal motivation will make you enjoy exercise more, meaning that you are more likely to do it regularly.
Now, just a quick reminder: none of this is to say that exercising for external reasons, such as to loose weight is ‘bad’ – it’s just that having internal motivations is also important.
Set the right types of goals
So I’ve written a lot about goal setting before but that’s just because I think it is really important. The key thing about goal setting though is making sure that you set the right types of goals…
Often people set goals such as “I want to loose weight” or “I want to get better at running”. The thing with these goals is that they are very vague and impossible to define. For example, how much weight do you want to loose? And when do you want to reach your target weight by? What you should do instead is set a SMART goal, which means that you will have a specific goal and know when you have achieved it. For more information on setting SMART goals you can check out this blog post.
Crucially you want to make sure that you set a series of process goals. Again, you can read more about these here but basically these are the little things you want to do regularly to make sure you achieve your long term goals. Research has shown that process goals are crucial for achieving your long term goals so making sure you set them is super important…
Having these little targets you will motivate you to exercise more regularly as you will feel like you are making progress towards your long term goal, something I think we all want to feel.
I hope you’ve found this blog post helpful – let me know in the comments if these tips have helped you to exercise more regularly.
Happy exercising 🙂