There is no denying that trying to keep focused and motivated on something that is hard, effortful, and tough to do can be really challenging and difficult over extended periods of time. That’s especially true with exercise and especially true during the holiday and festive seasons with lots more distractions, diversions, and interruptions to our normal daily lives and schedules.
Having struggled to engage in regular exercise throughout my life I know how easy it can be to get distracted and sidelined from it at any time but even more so during the holiday periods. So I thought I would share some of my tips and tactics I have found helped keep me going when it felt like everything around me was trying to get me to stop.
Tip No 1: Don’t Hit The ‘Fuck It Button’
It’s important to recognise that life is full of ups and downs, easy patches and tough times and so there will be many times when we have to prioritise what we do and when we do it. Now, no matter how much drive, enthusiasm, passion and commitment you have to exercise, no matter how focused, determined or bloody-minded you are to exercise, there will be times when other things will get in the way of exercising regularly.
When this happens it’s important NOT to hit what I call the ‘fuck it button’ in our minds. This ‘fuck it button’ is our innate tendency to cancel and write off all our plans and goals when we encounter a temporary setback or small change in our best-made plans.
This happens a lot with exercise and training schedules when we miss a workout or run. Instead of just accepting it and moving on to tomorrow, we hit the ‘fuck it button’ and decide to write the whole week of training off, which then because we’ve missed a whole weeks training we decide to cancel the rest of the month, and very easily one missed run or workout can soon turn into… “well I might as well not bother at all now.”
When something does happen and you miss a workout for whatever reason it’s important to not blame off yourself, which is easier said than done. I know that when I haven’t been able to exercise due to my workload or other personal commitments I often feel guilty and ashamed, thinking I should have done it if I really wanted to. However, I have recognised that at times other things have greater priority and importance to me than exercise and so now I am better at accepting missing a few sessions now and then.
As important as regular exercise is, it’s simply should not be the only thing that has importance in our lives. Missing a few workouts or runs now and then has very little effect on our health, strength, endurance in the grand scheme of things, and as long as we don’t hit the ‘fuck it button’ when we do miss a workout or run now and then and get back to it when we can then missing exercise now and then is ok.
Tip No 2: Focus On The Journey
Having goals with all types of exercise is great, but often they are not the best way to keep you exercising for life. For example, let’s say you want to exercises to lose 10-20lbs in weight, or add another 10-20kg to your squat, or even run 5K in under 20 minutes. You work hard for 3-6 months and achieve this goal… great stuff… job well done… but now what… sub 18 minute 5K, another 20kg or 20lbs?
Well yes possibly adding more goals after you achieve your original one can be useful, but I have learnt over many years of exercising and making many goals that when you achieve them it’s very easy to get lost and distracted unless you have learnt to appreciate and understand the processes of how you achieved those goals.
For me losing 20lbs in weight is not as important as developing the skills, knowledge, and discipline of knowing, tracking, and monitoring your weekly calories and macros. For me adding another 20kg to your back squat is not as impressive as learning how to progress and regress the volume and intensity of a training schedule to achieve it over a couple of months.
Without understanding, appreciating, and focusing on the skills and knowledge needed to achieve goals with exercise you will soon find yourself lost when you do achieve them.
Tip No 3: Surround Yourself With Like Minded People
Personally, I think humans are way too tribal and all too often sit in their segregated groups nodding and agreeing with each other and hating on any others who act, think, and even look differently to themselves. This group mentally is an unfortunate but normal part of our human nature and we all do this, myself included, but I think it’s getting worse and causing more and more issues and more and more problems in the world, increasing ignorance, prejudice and hate as a consequence.
However, when it comes to exercise I do think it’s vital for you to go and find your tribe, your clan, your inner circle and immerse yourself as deep as you can inside it. If you want to stay motivated, encouraged and committed to regular exercise surrounding yourself with like-minded people and having a strong support group helps immensely.
Whether that’s a running club, a CrossFit box, a gym, a Facebook group or a forum it doesn’t matter, just go and find those who share your interest, curiosity, passion, and drive for what you want to do and let them help and shield you from all the negativity, criticism, and bullshit that often surrounds all types of exercise. There is nothing worse than seeing people trying to exercise regularly being put off by some hateful trolls on the internet, or some bellend telling them they are doing it all wrong or that it’s not the best type.
Despite many claims made there is NO one type of exercise that will suit EVERYONE nor should it. Exercise just like humans comes in all shapes and sizes and so there is a type of exercise out there to suit everyone, you just need to find it and stick with it. And as much as I have my own biases and preferences when it comes to exercise I know that ALL exercise is great and no type is more superior to another… except maybe for squats and deadlifts!
I’m only joking… kinda!
Tip No 4: Keep It Fun
A favourite saying of mine is ‘when shit is fun, shit gets done’. There is no doubt that fun things get done more often than boring things and this definitely applies to exercise. Dragging yourself through something you loathe and hate just won’t last long, doing something you enjoy and value will.
Now don’t get me wrong I don’t think exercise has to make you skip around like a butterfly in a daisy field with your heart singing, in fact, I would argue exercise shouldn’t feel fun most of the time when doing it. For exercise to be beneficial it simply has to be challenging, difficult, intense and hard work and this just doesn’t feel pleasant, nice, or fun, in fact, it can feel downright horrible and nasty.
Many confuse and conflate exercise with physical activity when in fact they are two very distinct and different things, and both have benefits, and both should be done regularly. Physical activity, which is just simply unstructured physical movement such as walking, gardening, doing housework and other chores etc doesn’t have to be effortful, intense, or hard work, exercise does!
However, if you can learn to love the effort and learn to embrace the suck during tough, difficult, and intense exercise it does make doing it regularly easier. One way to do this is to find meaning in what you’re doing, not just when you’re doing it.
For example, I always question my reasons for running when I’m actually running and my lungs are burning and legs are throbbing. But when I stop and feel a sense of achievement of having run a few miles as well as now being able to have that extra portion of pie without feeling guilty and still able to maintain my bodyweight that’s when I really value running.
Tip No 5: Keep It Varied
Another favourite saying of mine is ‘don’t keep doing the same thing and expect to get different results’. This applies to so many things in life but especially to exercise. Now there is no doubt that focusing on one type of exercise can and does make you better at it, and if that’s what you want to do then I suggest you do that.
But unless you have dreams, aspirations and plans to become a world champion in a specific type of exercise there is no need to ONLY do that exercise. And I would still argue even if you are planning to be a world champion in something there is still room for doing some other stuff.
Doing various different types of exercise can keep you mentally engaged, interested and motivated but also can help you physically as well. Our bodies are very good at adapting to the stimuli we apply to them, but if that stimulus becomes consistent and regular it can lose its effect.
Giving our bodies and minds different stimuli from time to time can be a bit of a shock and feel uncomfortable but it can also help keep us adapting and progressing in many other ways. So if you are a runner, do some weights or go for a swim now and then. If you are a weight lifter, do some yoga or tai-chi now and then, and if you are a professional kickboxer… well you sir can just do whatever the hell you like!
My point here however is very simple… exercise variety is the spice of life… and the source of happy healthy bodies
So there you go a few tips on how you can keep your mojo strong when trying to exercise for life. I will say however that sometimes all the tips in the world just won’t help you and at times we just have to suck it up and grind it out. Life can be difficult, tough, unfair and hard bloody work and sometimes you just have to get your head down, move forwards, or sideways, or upwards or whichever way you have to go and smash it… just remember that tough times don’t last, tough people do!
As always thanks for reading…