Sheryl Kraft, a freelance writer and breast cancer survivor, was born in Long Beach, New York. She currently lives in Connecticut with her husband Alan and dog Chloe, where her nest is empty of her two sons Jonathan. Sheryl writes articles and essays on breast cancer and contributes to a variety of publications and websites where she writes on general health and wellness issues. She earned her MFA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College in 2005.Full Bio
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When my phone rang at 7:30 this morning, my first reaction was fear. Something about a phone call too early or too late always sends me into a bit of a frenzy.
My mind, like a runaway train, started speeding in the wrong direction.
I NEED TO TALK TO YOU. HELP!
And then she started laughing.
My friend, M, who had recently lost 15 pounds after swearing off home-made desserts and taking up walking and Zumba classes was in crisis mode. She told me that for the past week, she'd been unable to stop eating and had not gotten anywhere close to lacing up her sneakers. "Everything else comes first," she admitted. "I pour myself a second cup of coffee, get on the computer, get lost in emails, and then...it's too late."
"How do you do it? How do you stay motivated?", she moaned.
I'm not perfect; not nearly. There are times I feel unmotivated, too. I feel lazy and tired and some days would rather do anything - even scrub toilets - than exercise.
Her question got me thinking of all the traps we all get ourselves into, and self-talk that helps us (but can alternately sidelines us, too).
We all need motivation, yes. But sometimes motivation is not enough. Sometimes we need to examine how to get past the things that are sapping our motivation and do some specific self-talk. Personally I'm willing to admit that talking and listening to myself can get me into a deep depressing hole at times – but at other times it can be most enlightening and helpful. I can be my own therapist by telling myself how I really feel and reasoning with the devil on my shoulder (or trying to, anyway).
When I feel like being a big lazy slob, I tell myself these things:
You need to exercise. It's important for your mental state.
You need to exercise. It's important for your blood pressure, cancer prevention, heart, lungs, bones, joints and overall health.
If you don't exercise, you'll feel sluggish and depressed the rest of the day.
If you don't exercise, it's going to be harder to get back in the habit.
If you go to the gym, you might not be happy walking in but you'll be oh-so happy when you leave.
Just go and work out for 10 minutes, then see. (Those 10 minutes invariably lead to much more).
This Matters> It helps to get in touch with why you want to exercise in the first place.
If you're reading this, tell me: what is stopping you? Here are some possible fixes:
If you tell yourself…I'll do it later today.
Instead…Do 15 quick minutes in the morning. Getting up 15 minutes earlier is not too hard (even if you're not a morning person). Studies show that morning routines increase the odds you'll stick with your workout. If you get in 15 minutes early in the day, chances are you'll either want to stretch it to 30, or do another 15 minutes some time in the afternoon or evening. Breaking exercise into smaller chunks can benefit your body just as much, some experts say.
If you tell yourself…I can't afford a gym.
Instead…Go outside. Remember when we were kids and gyms only existed for PE classes during school? We walked. We biked. We ran around in the street. And chances are, we were happy and didn't have a weight problem. Walking and biking outside is great exercise, and with the longer summer days, there's more time to do them. And here's another motivator to think about: Recent studies show that bicycling and brisk walking are associated with less weight gain among premenopausal women, especially those who are overweight and obese. Of course, there will be days when it's too hot to go outside. How about an exercise DVD (try Collage Video www.collagevideo.com) or a day pass to the local Y or other gym for those times? Or use the stairs in your house: run up and down for 10 minutes; more if you can stand it!
If you tell yourself…I’m bored
Instead...Find an exercise buddy. That will not only keep you accountable, but can give you incentive and a chance to catch up. For me, listening to my IPod loaded with energetic tunes or interesting podcasts really helps fight boredom. Or you can try books on tape or watching television. I find it helpful to switch up my routine - using the treadmill for 15 minutes, the bike for another 15 and the elliptical for the last 15 (when I'm feeling really energetic) helps to break up the monotony.
If you tell yourself…I always get hurt
Instead...Start slowly. An hour-long high-intensity aerobics class on your first time out will only send you searching for a hot bath or painkillers. Then, you'll swear off exercise for good. Work your way into your routine to stay injury-free so you'll want to go back again and again.
If you tell yourself...My calendar is so busy.
Instead...Write it down – in ink – like you would any other appointment. You need to decide to fit it in and keep a promise to yourself that you will not let anything else get in the way. Granted, there are those times when emergencies come up. Make it a priority and somehow you'll see that it can be done. To make it even easier, pack your gym bag the night before and leave it in the car; lay out your workout clothes and put them on as soon as you wake up.
So, what do you think? Still not clicking? Send me the story of what's getting in your way and I'll pass it on to a motivational expert for some answers.