I run. I’m pretty sure I can’t really call myself a runner – for more reasons than I have time to go into here. I also can’t really say that I love running. So, we’ll just leave it at, I run.
We all know exercise is good for us. There’s no newsflash there. If you’re trying to be healthy, you’re supposed to exercise. If you want to loose weight, exercise. If you have heart problems, exercise. Stressed? Exercise. You see what I’m getting at here.
Tim Hawkins is one of my favorite comedians, and he has a bit about moms that deals with another cure-all. He talks about when you’re a kid, and you tell your mom you aren’t feeling well that the first thing she always tells you to do is to “go sit on the pot.” Moms treat the action like it’s some sort of cure-all, and every problem originates from an unmet need to use the bathroom. It’s so funny because I have memories of my mother and both grandmothers saying this to me as a child. In fact, I actually do the exact same thing. In our house, the variation is “have you gone to the potty?”
Wow. I have totally digressed. Anyway, my OB/GYN and Psychiatrist have both recommended I get regular exercise to help boost my moods when I’m in a down swing. You know, increase those endorphins. Yet again the answer is exercise. Well, my preferred method is running. I consistently run two times a week, realistically aim for three and idealistically hope for four. (My husband reads the blog, otherwise I might be tempted to embellish a little bit here.) I have a lot of young children, a lot to do, and I get tired. I know, I know. If I would just exercise more, I would have more energy. Got it.
A few months ago,
I skimmed through a book while sitting on the floor in Barnes & Noble read a book on how to motivate yourself to exercise. The idea behind the book was so novel to me. I have always thought I had to just somehow will myself into doing things, especially exercise. Since then, I have realized there are books, articles, thesis papers and whole conferences that address the science/philosophy behind motivation.
Since I suspect some of you probably also struggle to muster up the motivation to exercise, I thought I would share some of the things I have learned. By the way, some of these can be applied to any area in your life where you need a little extra push. Here we go.
1.) Find something you enjoy listening to and reading.
Some suggestions would be an audio book, a favorite preacher or webcaster or music that motivates you. If your preferred choice is an audio book or some sort of a series, the book even suggested you only allow yourself to listen to it when you exercise to add an extra dose of motivation. Depending on the type of exercise you choose, you might even be able to read a magazine or book.
For me, it’s music. A very specific kind of music. Jeff likes to call it “angry girl music.” I’m not sure that is a completely accurate description, but the songs definitely have to have a certain emotional angst behind them. This kind of music just really energizes me and helps me draw on my emotions to keep me going. Since emotional energy is something I seem to never be lacking, it is an effective method for me.
Here’s my current running mix on Spotify, should you want to try it out. Jess Running Mix
By the way, if you don’t know what Spotify is, you must learn! Maybe I’ll post about that next. If you’re not ready to take that leap, my running mix is listed out in my next post.
2.) Use carrots.
Not the vegetables – at least, not literally. Find other things that you already feel motivated to do, and incorporate them into your exercise routine. This is where the finishing of a book series comes in. If you stick to your guns and only listen to it when you exercise, when it gets suspenseful, you’ll exercise so you can find out the ending. Other options would be allowing yourself some sort of reward for following through. A stop by Starbucks, a stroll through your favorite store, whatever. Some of my carrots are: time by myself, a break from the kids, time alone and a kid-free gym. I also really like to run when I don’t have strict time restraints. I feel like I am always rushing around, so when I can take my time and do what I want in the gym without having to hurry, it feels wonderful. It doesn’t really matter what your carrots are, you just have to find yours.
3.) Dress for it.
This one kind of made me laugh. I was sure that simply putting workout clothes on was not going to suddenly transform me into ‘Exercise Girl’. Crazily enough, it actually helps. If I put on my workout clothes in the morning on days I plan to run, the likelihood that I will follow through with it is much higher. They make me feel healthier, and already being dressed eliminates one more hurdle to getting to the gym.
I know this is going to sound kind of silly and probably a little vain, but buying an outfit or two that you really like helps, as well. You don’t have to blow a lot of money, just buy a couple pair of shorts and a few shirts. That’s all you need. Personally, I have two pair of shorts and three shirts that I bought at Marshall’s last year, and I wear them all the time. I don’t require
supportive expensive sports bras, so i don’t have to shell out much money for those. The cheap ones work just fine for me. I suppose I’m lucky?
4.) Get some accountability.
If you’re in Christian circles, this probably isn’t a new concept, but maybe you haven’t thought about applying it to your exercise routine. Sometimes just telling someone your intentions does the job, but sometimes you actually have to tell someone to ask you about it. Hard core – I know. Here’s a little warning. Be careful of who you ask to hold you accountable. If you make your husband your accountability partner, but get angry any time he questions you about it because you interpret it as him saying you are gaining weight, fat or lazy, that really isn’t fair and will cause much marital strife. Trust me on that one.
5.) Do whatever mental gymnastics is necessary.
In other words, sometimes you just need to trick yourself into it. Here’s what I do. On the days that I am really not feeling it, I convince myself to go to the gym by telling myself I will just stretch, maybe do some weights and then leave. Once I’m inside and start stretching, my emotional music starts working its magic. At this point, I up the ante. I tell myself that if I will get on the treadmill, I can just walk. Walking doesn’t seem so horrible, so I always give in to that. Well, it doesn’t take long once I’m on the treadmill with Pink or Kelly Clarkson blasting, before I’m running full bore. It’s at that point that I actually do really like to run. It just takes me a while to get to that point.
Hear me say, I know this seems ridiculous. The whole time I’m going through this crazy little ritual, I am fully aware of what I am doing. I know the end result will be me tricking myself into running. It is, however, relevant to point out that I am somewhat ridiculous at times. That’s right – I’ll own it. For instance, let me just give you a picture of what I look like while running. When I run, I beat the tar out of the treadmill. Really. Like I’m angry at it. I’m also usually lip-syncing whatever song I’m listening to, which of course, no one else can hear. Embarrassingly enough, sometimes I even throw out a few attitude-ish hand gestures, depending on the song, of course. Add to all of this that I tend to keep an emotional, somewhat scowling look on my face and am huffing and puffing due to all of the lip-syncing, you have quite a scene. (Somehow, lip-syncing has a similar effect as talking while running – it leaves you out of breath.)
You know the great thing? WE’RE NOT IN HIGH SCHOOL ANYMORE! Can I get a hallelujah? Even when I look like an unstable loon at the gym, no one says a thing. No laughing or pointing. No huddles of girls whispering. Not even any judgmental looks. Looks, mind you, but none that make you feel like you need to crawl in a hole. My advice is to do whatever you enjoy and makes you feel good, in the realm of exercise, at least. Be comforted. I have done field research for you, and the likelihood that you will be mocked is extremely low.
So, to all of you out there who are super disciplined or just lovey love exercise and enjoy waking up at 5 am to get your run on, I am so happy for you. And honestly, a little jealous. To the rest of you, I hope you find some of these tips helpful and even put a few of them to use. So, here’s to better mental, emotional and physical health for all of us. And don’t forget – make sure to sit on the pot!
What about you? Do you have anything that helps motivate you to workout?