HOW I STAY MOTIVATED TO EXERCISE
by Rachael Newsham
"Where do you find the motivation to exercise, Rach?"
Ohhhhh that’s easy… they sell it at the motivation station next to the corner shop up on the main road. It’s really sustainable, so once it’s expired you can throw the whole thing away (if you don’t use it, you lose it) and someone else will turn it into a hula hoop or something equally fun.
I mean yeah that’s partly true, but up until I sat down to write this article for LM INSIDER a few minutes ago, I'd never compared it to a recyclable consumer good before.
Okay, so you order it online, yeah? Three-to-five business days for delivery? How about you send a stamped addressed envelope to PO BOX 8888 and then you get it back 12 weeks later with the edges ripped and cellotaped back together? No?
Ahhhhhh yep got it, you pay into a personal trainer's bank account and they send you newsletters every morning to your inbox and tah dahhhhhh, #instantmotivation…!
OR simply subscribe to this online platform of over 1,000 workouts and there will be no need for any motivation, as your workouts will take care of themselves. Literally they will occupy themselves and not complain one bit if you don’t pay them any attention, hahaha!
The age-old motivation mystery of "where do you find it and how do you keep it?" is one of the top three questions I get asked on a regular basis; so let me share my thoughts on the subject.
It’s understandable to assume that because I’ve been consistently in the world of health and fitness for the last 20 years, I’ve found the fountain of motivation and can show you where the keep cups are. Maybe there’s a fraction of truth in that, and when I say fraction, I’m referring to the fact that I DO have a keep cup and the fountain of motivation flows freely here at Les Mills Auckland City with the awesome variety of daily group fitness workouts.
But realistically – it’s my job. So, let’s start with that. I made my passion my purpose. Does that mean it’s my motivation to get out of bed every day to pay my bills? Yeaaaaaaaaah naaaaaaaaaaah, as the Kiwis say. That’s not it, Rach. Okay, okay, you’re not entirely wrong, as I do need to pay my bills. No sugar daddy in my life (!); but the money doesn’t keep me going.
It’s also not the fact that I’m only happy with my body looking one way, requiring me to sustain the exercise levels necessary to maintain my appearance. Over the last 20 years I've found my body in several shapes and sizes, none of which have felt wrong to me. So, it’s not the aesthetic that keeps me motivated either.
Cutting to the crunch, it’s the simple fact that I feel great for the 55 minutes I’m focused on the people in my classes. I look into their eyes, read their body language, enjoy bantering back and forth with them as I push the intensity or the appropriate levels of comedy past the point of no return, hahahaha! It’s the community and accountability that has been the core of my exercise consistency for the past 20 years.
I look forward to seeing my participants. I know where everyone stands. I can’t wait to see their faces when they hear the music of the class, or when the new combinations land and they look at me with shock and disbelief, or surprise and delight, or the best… which is when they shoot me daggers! Hahaha. THAT’s when you know you did a good job!
This accountability boils down to: the class expect me to turn up and fully show up for them. This is both in terms of my own physical exertion, then my vocal performance to drive that room through the roof! It's a place that very few people can take themselves, which is why we ALL enjoy leaving that part up to the teacher – myself included when I attend another Instructor's class.
Over the years, I’ve shown up to teach class when I couldn’t show up for myself at all. I’ve stood on stage, putting my microphone on with tears in my eyes and a shaky voice wondering how I was going to get it done. Every time, I always finished the class feeling a shed load better than when I started. So, what does that tell me about motivation? It's a desire to serve others who are in greater need. That's what enabled me to stand there and struggle through the tight throat, shaky voice and watery eyes. I knew people were relying on me to show up, so I did it and will continue to do it.
Think about this: if your best mate was feeling rubbish and was about to bail out on a night/day out with you, you’d be on the phone giving it the large one; pulling out all the lines and guilt trips to find a way to get them to stick to the plan. Why? Because you know YOUR quality of experience is always better when THEY are there.
This same thing can be said about our motivation to workout. When someone else is relying on us, we are far more inclined to show up. When your mate knows that your level of enjoyment will be far greater if they are there, there’s a huge chance they will show up for you because they care.
Okay cool Rach, but how do we STAY motivated?
Well that's the problem right there. If your expectation is that you will always have motivation to exercise, then you have set yourself up for failure before you’ve even tied your shoelaces! This isn’t a transactional experience; it's a relationship we are talking about. Humans have moods. Humans get hangry (hungry/angry). Humans have life admin stuff that gets in the way of their free time and affects their vibe for the day – how they interact with mates, partners, kids, colleagues and their workout plan!
Technically you can’t expect to STAY motivated in your relationship with exercise, but you can build processes into play, to help you to honour that commitment you've made to yourself.
Try being accountable to someone else when you exercise. You can create a reward and recognition program for yourself around exercise appointments. A friend of mine does this and it works well for them. When they get through a massive chunk of work (which at Les Mills involves a truck load of exercise), they have a piece of jewellery or clothing or spa session budgeted for, and THAT gets them through the darkness of DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness).
So how about we look to 'manage the motivation' rather than 'STAY motivated'?
I have learned to accept that sometimes it’s better to pause whatever exercise I’m currently into and focus on whatever needs fixing (i.e. better sleep, physical rest, nutrition, brain space or simply tired legs/body). This helps me enjoy those workouts that I do get around to doing, far more because the body, mind and spirit can handle them. In turn, this increases my levels of motivation because I feel successful. In the past I would have just muscled through it all and kept on going, thinking it was a sign of weakness if I couldn’t manage all the workouts the world threw at me. That made me lose enjoyment and my motivation subsequently decreased.
Accepting that on some days there will be less motivation than others, also allows me not to slide all the way down to rock bottom.
Accepting that exercise is a privilege reminds me that I'm best served NOT to take advantage of it in any way. I can’t afford to neglect it, take it for granted and leave it off my list of things to do. I also can’t obsess over it and make it the be all and end all, because that will mean I end up injured and burnt out. Instead, I respect it in ways that nourish and support the highest quality of life I can have, at whatever point of my life I am at.
This is my motivation to exercise.
Rachael Newsham is the co-Program Director for BODYCOMBAT. Originally from the UK, she is based in Auckland, New Zealand.