7 tips for maintaining fitness motivation

By: Gilda Schwartz

Author: Canadian Living


7 tips for maintaining fitness motivation

By: Gilda Schwartz

If one of your goals is to start a regular exercise program, there's no better time than now to start working towards it. To help you, we asked Peter C. Siegel, a sports and peak-performance hypnotherapist who has worked with professional athletes, such as hockey players Alexei Yashin and Tie Domi and tennis player Anastasia Myskina, and winning teams, such as the New Jersey Devils. Siegel shows them how to use visualization techniques and positive self-talk to improve their confidence, overcome negative conditioning and perform at their best. Here are Siegel's tips on how to get motivated. Use them consistently and they'll help you stay active -- and fit.

1. Cultivate a winning attitude by focusing on the times you've been successful.
A lot of people don't think they can change. These people often believe that the inner voice that says "I can't" or "I'm not good enough" isn't being negative but is simply realistic. It isn't. It's you projecting your habit of being negative. A negative person will look at others who are successful and happy and say, "They're just lucky." They're not just lucky. They've worked diligently for a long time to get where they are. They had a certain mentality that drove them to do what they did. You, too, can call up that drive and you can change.

One way is to focus on times when you've been really successful at something. Recall the specific thoughts, feelings and images you had surrounding that success. Then use those sensory factors to drive yourself toward other successes. What was your inner dialogue or self-talk? What did you see? If you had a great run, picture the route and other factors that made up your visual field.

Draw on any success in your life and remember those feelings of satisfaction, pride and self-worth. For instance, if you were a successful tutor to a child, draw on that experience and use it to drive yourself to success in other areas of your life. Think about how good it felt to succeed and use that feeling as a catalyst to stimulate the behaviour that brought you that success.

We do it all the time with both negative and positive feelings. When people see or hear something that reminds them of an event in the past that was detrimental, they feel the same uneasiness they felt then. We can do the same with positive experiences.

2. Replace unrealistic images with achievable goals.
If you're looking at an ad featuring a young, hard-bodied fitness model smiling and enjoying her workout and you're thinking, I'm going to do that and it will quickly be the same for me, banish that notion. You have to be realistic about what it takes to get in shape. Working out is, well, work. And you have to do it over many months, not weeks.

Say you establish a goal of losing 15 pounds. First visualize how you would look from the front and back having lost those 15 pounds. How would you feel? What dress size would you have gone down to? You would also hear your friends commenting positively. You're not just fantasizing; you're creating a focus for your energy - a realistic goal. Create a detailed sensory impression so your mind has a strong image to conjure up as a powerful impulse to do something.

It's not that you couldn't do it; you just never had a strategy, encouragement or guidance to lead you to your goals.

3. Determine and choose the workout that is best for you.
First decide what your goals are: do you want to lose weight or tone and build muscle? Then choose a workout that lets you achieve that goal. If you want to become stronger and trimmer, you should combine a cardiovascular routine, such as jogging, cycling or swimming, with targeted weight training. If it's uncomfortable, don't do it. Find something that appeals to you - there are lots of options out there.

4. Find a workout environment you like that caters to your needs.
Do you like the ambience (atmosphere, wall colour, music, condition of the equipment) and the range of services offered (such as nutritional counselling and stress-management coaching)? Is it too crowded? Create or find an environment that works for you.

5. Slip into a workout mentality before you get to the gym.
Think about all the plusses of working out: how great you'll feel afterward, your increased self-respect and energy and your decreased tension. Before you get out of your car, visualize the gym ambience and feel yourself begin to go through the paces and engage in the workout, enjoying the surroundings, the sounds, the people, the exertion and feeling good about yourself. The purpose: To mentally get yourself into the mood.

6. If you need someone to push you, look for a workout partner.
With a partner you'll have two people's energy to get you going. Look for a workout partner who has goals that are similar to yours.

7. Schedule regular workout times and treat them as you would any other important commitment.
If you can't find 60 minutes for yourself a few times a week, you're either overscheduled or you don't value yourself enough. Get your kids and husband to help keep you on track. Tell them that staying in shape mentally and physically helps you be the best mother and wife you can be. Maybe Dad will watch the kids while you work out. After all, if you start feeling better, your partner will likely be happier, too.

If you always have one more obligation or crisis that you think is more important than working out, remember that, as well as improving your self-image, working out will help you release stress and work through problems. How? Your negative energy is consumed during physical activity and, as you get fit, your body works more efficiently. As well, working out releases endorphins, peptides that react with the brain's opiate receptors to make you feel better.

Don't beat yourself up if you miss the occasional workout or if you fall short of your goals. Show yourself respect and understanding when you slip up. Just decide to make it up to yourself by getting back on track and continuing with your motivated, determined workouts.

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7 tips for maintaining fitness motivation