Why the reasons to exercise are not enough to get you to do it

Years ago, as a ‘green’ exercise physiologist, one of my favorite posters hanging up in the cardiac rehab unit was this one:

To me, this was so convincing. Why wouldn’t someone want to exercise?

What I know now is that if you are an exerciser, these are great reminders of why you are exercising.

If you are stuck in the Shoulds with exercise, these only make you more stuck.

It is counterintuitive, but these big-time reasons to exercise are not the ones that will make you do it. These are big things that we all want, but they are oriented to a healthy future. What’s more important to your brain is how you feel right now. If exercise does not make you feel better now, your brain will find other things that will.

Your brain constantly gets messages from your body about how you feel and uses your memories and experiences to decide what to do to make you feel better now. No matter how logical it is to exercise for those very important future results, they will just not get you to exercise on a regular basis if right now you don’t have the time or energy to exercise.

If there was a fire in your home, you would not go organize your closet. You would put out the fire! This is how your brain makes decisions about exercise. If you are not feeling well in your body now, if your mind is overwhelmed with too many things to do, your brain will seek a way to put out that fire. The future results are not as important. Your brain needs you to feel better now.

Sure, you can override this and make yourself do activities with delayed rewards. The tradeoff is it takes a lot of brain energy. There are many parts of life that need that brain energy and making yourself exercise so some day you are healthy and well is low on that priority list compared to taking care of loved ones or making enough money to pay the bills. To your brain, the big-time future results from exercise are something that can be put off until later.

It’s the Real-time Results of everything, exercise included, that are most powerfully convincing for you to take action repeatedly. Yet those Real-time Results are often invisible. Instead, we focus on seeing future results like weight loss, finishing a 5K, a smaller size on the tag of your clothes, or a better report from your doctor on your next physical. We need convincing it is all worth our time.

If you want those big-time, far-off benefits from exercise, join me on a journey that reveals the Real-time Results from exercise. When they are more visible, your brain knows that exercise is a resource for being well now. In my next blog series, I’ll talk about exercise in the way that gets your brain’s attention now, so it is easier to take action now. You will Rethink Exercise from a present-moment perspective that makes your brain want to choose to exercise more often.
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One more thing: this will be done with a No-Should Guarantee. Should is the one word that destroys motivation more than anything else. I promise to talk about exercise in a way that helps you get out of the Shoulds and wanting to exercise now.  

Whole-heartedly,

P.S. If you want to Rethink Exercise to get out of the Shoulds, sign up for my blog on the right side of this page, so each Real-time Result is delivered right to your inbox!

Win by Building Inner Confidence

It’s pay-it-forward week at Exercising WELL and we are running a Win/Win Special.  From now until April 22nd, 2019, when you donate $45 to the Enjoy Life Education scholarship fund, you get your first month of the Exercising WELL Coaching Program FREE.  

Confidence can be reliant on external sources or it can be an inner sense of knowing your own strengths. Studies show inner confidence is much more reliable and resilient through the ups and downs of life1. When you take advantage of the Win/Win special, you help a teen build inner confidence through the Enjoy Life Leadership Academy and grow your own inner confidence that you know how to be Exercising WELL.

The Win Win special (4) 

Enjoy Life Leadership Academy

Students build confidence though a stronger sense positive self-worth. From the moment students enter the academy, they are encouraged to not only be who they are, but also celebrate who they are with confidence and pride. They not only do this for themselves, but for each other. Students are immersed in a culture of self-worth that builds a natural and lasting inner confidence. Check out this 60-second video to see how that is done.  

Exercising WELL Coaching Program

Exercise success often is measured by external sources, such as the scale, the activity monitor, or a fitness challenge. But studies show these external sources for confidence are like building a house on sand, washed away by the next stressful event in life. Through the Exercising WELL online programs and personalized weekly coaching, you learn research-backed strategies for being internally guided and self-motivated. You gain solid inner confidence for exercise that carries over to other habits for your health and well-being.

  1. What is the Self-Determination Theory of Motivation?

The way to STAY motivated for exercise

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In the last blog we talked about how the excitement of working toward a goal can be motivating, but that it is likely temporary.  Using goal setting to get motivated just does not give you the skills to stay motivated, which leads to the common ‘all or nothing’ approach to exercise.  

The heating system in a home senses the temperature and adjusts what it’s doing to sustain a comfortable temperature inside, even as the  weather changes. It is set up to continually produce and maintain that, even as conditions change.  What makes it work is a built-in feedback loop designed to sense what is happening moment by moment.

Systems are designed for sustainability. Using a system, rather than goals to get motivated, means you will stay motivated,  even as conditions change in your life. Your feedback loop for an exercise system is mindfulness.  Present moment awareness gives you the power to sense what is happening in your mind and in your body, moment by moment. This gives you a feedback loop, so you know when you are getting off track. More importantly, the curiosity and kindness of mindfulness allow you to make the necessary adjustments so you keep getting what you really want from exercise, even when life starts to get in the way.  

Wouldn’t it be great for exercise to always leave you feeling and functioning better, now, instead of waiting until you reach your goal to feel better?  Wouldn’t it be great if you knew you were doing enough, instead of always feeling like you should be doing more?  A systems mindset lets you know how much is enough, moment by moment.   A systems mindset frees you from worrying about your ability to stick with changes, because you get the Real Results you want each time you exercise.

Even if you do have goals, things that you want to achieve with fixed endpoints, such as completing a 5K, a systems mindset will help to provide a foundation of motivation as you work toward those goals. Even more importantly, the system will be there when the goal is over, keeping you out of that all-or-noting approach to exercise.  

It is smart to wait to begin working toward a goal until the time is right. You don’t want to set yourself up for failure by working on a goal when you’re not ready.   But, when you want to feel and function better, now is a great time to start!  Remember, a system is built to adjust when outside conditions change, so you don’t have to wait until conditions are just right to start. 

You use systems all the time to keep your life functioning well.  Why not use one for  exercise, to keep you functioning well?

Whole-heartedly,

Janet

PS: Exercising WELL is is a coaching and membership program I designed to guide you through building your system for lasting exercise motivation.  Take advantage of the amazing introductory offer only available until January 31. For only $85 you get a coaching call with me, a 28 day online program, and personalized weekly email coaching for a month! Rates will never be this low again!  Click here for more information.

How goal setting can drain exercise motivation

Have you ever wondered why movies like Rocky, Karate Kid, A league of Their Own and Field of Dreams are timelessly popular? Why sporting events draw huge crowds and TV ratings?   We do love a good story about pushing the mind and body to it’s limit, overcoming all odds to reach a goal, don’t we? It is so exciting and inspiring!

We often connect exercise with reaching a goal, like weight loss or running a marathon.   Goal are motivating.  They make life exciting and challenge us to grow to discover new strengths.  

Even with all this inspiration from goals, somehow exercise motivation is still a struggle.  Exercising to be healthy and well is a no-brainer. Why don’t we ‘just do it’?   This is the 20 Billion dollar question! Thanks to neuroscience, we have some answers. It starts with this goals mindset. 

Goals take you from point A to point B.

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With big goals, you would set smaller goals to keep you motivated along the way.   Goals are, by definition, temporary.  The sacrifices you make to get to that goal are tolerable because you know they are not forever.  You can suffer through the discomfort, knowing the celebration is coming at the end.   That grit of enduring challenges, the test of will, the digging deep for personal strength is part of the excitement.  It keeps us riveted at the movies and sitting on the edge of our seat at sporting events, and pushing ourselves until we get to our goal.

The downslide is, using goals for exercise motivation means:

  • your motivation is dependent on making progress
  • you are more likely to ignore signals from your body while pushing toward a goal
  • some other things in life get put on hold while working toward your goal
  • what you do to reach a goal, does not build the skills for lasting change
  • when the goal ends, so will your motivation

This approach can work, but it requires a lot of mental energy.  With a goals mindset, you are more likely to be an all-or-nothing type of exerciser.  This is why goal setting drains motivation in the long run.  

Is your main reason for exercising to be healthy and well for a lifetime?  If so, there is no point B.  You never want it to end.  Save goal setting for the results you want from exercise that are temporary.  For the results you want all the time, you need a different mindset, one that taps into your natural and more sustainable motivation. In the next blog, I will explain how.  

Whole-heartedly,

Janet

PS:  Have you had enough with being an all-or-noting exerciser?   My Exercising WELL coaching program is designed to guide and support you through shifting to a more sustainable way of exercising.  Take advantage of the amazing introductory offer only available until January 31. For only $85 you get a coaching call with me, an email-based online program, and personalized weekly email coaching! Rates will never be this low again!  Click here for more information.  

Thinking you are not an exerciser? Think again!

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In this week’s Rethinking Exercise email, I shared an inspiring story of a woman, who spent half a century believing she was “not an exerciser”, until she courageously decided to try again.

Sign up here for FREE and each week I will send you inspiring stories and thought-provoking ways to gain a new, more motivating perspective on exercise.