– by Tania Tétrault Vrga
When it comes to motivation for fitness and nutrition, it is believed that the key to success is willpower. We are taught that physical activity and healthy lifestyle somehow need to be difficult, that it requires a perfectly executed grand plan. Perception and reality are very different things. I call this the motivation myth. It is really a group of myths surrounding health and lifestyle that often prevent people from reaching their goals rather than helping them.
The first myth is that fitness has to be unpleasant to be effective. Of course you need lots of motivation if the thing you want to do becomes the thing you HAVE to do. It makes me sad when someone sees exercise is work, a necessary evil. If you’re one of those people, I’m sorry that you haven’t yet discovered the joy that that physical activity can bring to your life. The reality is that you can learn to love it, and that will bring you the results you’ve been after this whole time. If you love what you do, you will never revert back to your old excuses. If you look forward to training, you’ll never again say “Working out is boring”.
The second myth relates to the need to reward oneself for physical activity or for reaching an artificial goal such as pounds lost. While this strategy isn’t entirely useless, it reinforces the first myth, that the training can’t be a reward in itself. People are happiest and most successful when they feel empowered to achieve mastery over themselves or a skill they want to learn. When you spend time in each training session working on specific skills to master, you get to enjoy the journey rather than look forward to a far off result. To be fair, you may not find joy or a deeper purpose in your fitness journey right from the get go. It takes a bit of time to find what we like and learn to derive pleasure from our physical practice, and not all days will be good days. Those bad days are when a deeper understanding of the practicality of motivation is helpful.
The last myth is that you have to do everything at once, that the small steps don’t matter. We often think that being motivated means having the conviction to clock a certain number of hours at the gym every week, but that’s not what it’s about. To change our feelings, we have to change our thoughts and our language surrounding those feelings. If you want to start exercising, you might tell yourself: “I have to run 5 times a week or it’s useless”. This will seem almost insurmountable if you are sedentary. If instead you simply start by getting off the couch, it is a lot more realistic. We can break it down even more, once off the couch, the next step is to change into workout gear. Then, simply commit to warming up. Usually, by the time you’ve warmed up and got the blood pumping, you’re feeling better already. Before you know it, you’ve completed a workout. Forced motivation in the traditional sense works best in small chunks. A gentler more patient approach to motivation is the key.
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