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Get Motivated And Away From Being A Couch Potato
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Our health is one of the most important things in our lives, yet many people find it difficult to build a healthy routine.
The problem comes from two places.
First of all, exercising, for most people, is no fun at all. When you first start a routine, your muscles will likely be very sore, it’s easy to feel discouraged, and it takes time away from things you would rather be doing, like watching TV or hanging out with your friends.
The second, more insidious obstacle is that there are rewarding aspects of staying in shape, and the penalties for skipping workouts, are not immediate.
Going to work can suck just as much as exercising, but most people go anyway because the threat of getting fired or not being able to pay your bills on time is an immediate and powerful motivator.
The health and lifestyle consequences of the couch potato routine are worse – potentially even fatal – but you only experience them after years of inactivity, and by that point it takes years of
hard work to undo the damage. Luckily, recent advances in behavioral psychology can help you understand the roots of your own bad habits, and how to change them.
Instigation is Key
You probably think of exercise as one self-contained activity. From 7 to 8 you eat breakfast, from 8 to 9 you exercise, at 9 you go to work.
Your brain doesn’t see things that way, especially if building an exercise routine is a new experience for you.
Take jogging for example. Every action you have to take that is not already part of your daily routine is a new activity that saps your mental willpower.
Even things as trivial as deciding where you are going to jog and putting on your running shoes send your subconscious into a panic as it tries to figure out why today’s routine is different from yesterday’s and urges you to course correct.
By the time you’re out on the sidewalk jogging, you’ve actually overcome the hardest part already.
In a recent study, researchers broke the activity of exercising into two discrete actions: the instigation habit and the execution habit.
Instigation is everything you have to do before you start exercising: putting on your shoes, driving to the park where you jog, and so on.
Execution is the actual act of jogging.
The study confirmed that the consistency of the instigation habit is the main thing that matters when determining if you will continue exercising in the long run.
In other words, if every morning at 8 am you put on your shoes and drive to the park, even if you don’t actually run every day, you are still building that habit.
That means it’s not a big deal if you don’t feel up to jogging on a particular day.
As long as you still put your shoes on at 8 am and drive to the park, you are free to drive right back home and go back to bed.
You’re still building a powerful instigation habit, and chances are by the time you’re at the park you’re going to go for a jog anyway just so the whole thing doesn’t feel like a waste of time.
Understanding the secret of instigation habits makes breaking out of the couch potato routine easier, but that isn’t the same as making it easy.
You still have to do it every day, and you’ll be a lot more motivated to keep it up if you do something that you can actually get excited about.
Too many people base their workouts on what is most effective, but the fact is building a lifelong exercise habit is more important than seeing results from any given workout.
Swinging kettlebells for a grueling 40 minutes might burn more calories than going for a leisurely stroll through the woods, but which are you more likely to do every day?
You don’t need a Ph.D. to tell you that walking in the woods ten-thousand times over the course of your life will burn more calories than doing a kettlebell workout twice, and then giving up forever.
Actress and celebrity Amanda Seyfried once admitted that she struggled to stay in shape before she took her workouts outside and started getting her exercise by doing something fun every day.
Brainstorm activities that would be fun for you, including more creative options like playing paintball or mountain biking.
Many people are surprised how easy and enjoyable they find mountain biking, and it’s a surprisingly strenuous workout.
If you need a bike to get you started, we highly recommend the Diamondback Response XE for beginners. And, if you’re looking for something out of the box, give cryotherapy a shot. The results will surprise you.
Hold Yourself Accountable
Unfortunately, one of the quirks of human psychology is that many people find punishment far more motivating than reward.
As fun and interesting as you make your workouts, the fact is that there will come a day when you are tired and sore and you just can’t get excited about anything that involves movement or exercise.
On these days, you are going to have to rely on discipline and willpower to keep up your habit.
The good news is you can outsource your discipline to your friends and family, who can be the some of the best sources to keep you motivated to keep your commitments.
When you begin building a more active routine, announce your intentions publicly or to a few reliable friends. Then make sure they have a way of checking up to see whether or not you’re following through.
Even when you wake up feeling tired and sore, knowing that the punishment for skipping a day is having to admit to your friends and family that you didn’t follow through, should be enough to keep you going.
Actress Vanessa Hudgens uses this principle to get her through her workouts: she always makes it a point to sit at the front of her spin classes so the whole room will know if she doesn’t give it her all.
If mere shame is still not enough to motivate you, consider signing a contract that stipulates a financial penalty for failing to follow through. Studies suggest that even a small penalty is enough to guarantee results.
Now you know the psychological secrets of building a healthy lifestyle. By using instigation habits, choosing fun activities, and holding yourself accountable, you should have no problem breaking the couch potato routine for good.
Now you have no excuse, so get out there and do it! Do it now!