If we know we should exercise, why do we struggle with it? The answer is complex, but as I said in my last blog series there is one word in that statement that changes everything. ‘Should’ makes exercise an externally-imposed activity with future results. Why does that matter so much? Your brain’s job is to pay attention to what is most important to you right now, what will keep you well right now.
Yet those of us in the healthy-person business keep telling you all the great reasons why you should get more exercise.
Exercise regularly to reduce your risk of
- colon cancer by over 60%
- recurrent breast cancer by approximately 50%
- Alzheimer’s disease by approximately 40%
- heart disease by approximately 40%
- type II diabetes by 50%
- death from any cause (overall mortality) by 40% 1
No matter how powerful these statements are, they are not enough to keep you motivated now. When you are feeling tired at the end of a long day or overwhelmed by too many things on your to do list or comfortable in your bed when the alarm goes off, what you ‘should’ do does not hold much power. What is ‘good for you’ at some point in the future just does not get top billing compared to these more immediate challenges to your well-being.
In the last blog, I simplified all the science-based factors for self-motivation into the Exercise Motivation Equation.
What is important right now and doable right now will be most motivating right now. The trick is keeping exercise important and doable in the present moment.
Step one: Importance. When businesses are clear about the company’s core values, know their ‘why’, and communicate it well, they are more successful at motivating you to buy what they are selling.2 This not only works for successful companies, it works for successful individuals. This is why a personal coaching call is the first step in my Exercising WELL program. When we use a coaching conversation to clarify your well-being Vision and uncover your most value-driven Why for exercise, you’ll find your self-motivation for exercise ramps up. In the coaching conversation, we transform exercise from a ‘should’ to a ‘want to’.
Once you know your Why for exercise, you are ready to discover what is most doable for your body and life now.
Step two: Doable. When your brain knows exercise will leave you feeling better now, it will want to do it. But knowing how to exercise in the way that is right for your body right now, rather than for the body you want in the future is not so easy. Many of the marketable future-based results like melting fat, having long lean muscles, and enjoying toned arms are not even doable because they ignore the natural laws of the body. Other results like six pack abs, reaching a goal weight, or completing a fitness challenge only distract from your Why.
Once you know how to move in the way your body was designed and are focused on what you can do now, exercise will immediately make you feel better right now.
In my next blog series, I’ll talk about the Real-time Results of exercise. When you know what is happening in your body with exercise now, you have the best chance of knowing how to get the results that are most important for you now, and leave you feeling better now.
Rethink this Week: Take a moment to explore your Why for exercise. Ask yourself ‘why is exercise important to me?’ Now, ask yourself ‘why is that important to me right now’ four more times. This seems a bit silly—repeating the question—but it is based on the well-established process of Motivational Interviewing3. Asking the question repeatedly, and answering it thoughtfully, will get you closer to the most value-driven reason for exercising. This is your Why. It is the deepest source of energy for your motivation in the present moment. With this motivation energy, you will be ready to use the Real-time Results of exercise that are most important to you to stay out of the ‘shoulds’ and in the ‘want tos’ for exercise. This process is more effective in a coaching conversation but doing this for yourself is a great way to get started with getting to your Why.
Enjoy Exercising WELL,
- Exercise is Medicine
- Simon Sinek TED talk
- Instant Influence, by Michael Pantelon, PhD