Monday, August 19, 2013

Post Number One: Motivation

On Friday, I posted on the R.R.R. Facebook page about the idea of writing a post (or series) geared around healthy habits. I got some great feedback (which I always love and appreciate) and based off of the comments I think I will make this a series. Today’s post will be the first and it is all about MOTIVATION.

There is a lot I can say about motivation but maybe the first thing I should say is- I’m no expert. Well I mean, I am pretty good at finding and staying motivated, but I am just me. I am not a trainer, or coach, or any type of fitness guru. I am just one person who lost a bunch of weight and shares those details publicly. This is what has worked (and not worked) for me. It is up to you to figure out what works for you. I’m just here to encourage and support J

Ok, motivation. That slippery little snake. Often it can slip through my fingers just as soon as I get a grasp of it, other times I can coax it to stay around. It’s not always easy to find it. Sometimes it’s really just the ‘fake it until you make it’ attitude that is all you have. So where do you start?

I am guessing if you are searching for motivation there is probably something in your life you want to change or a goal you are trying to achieve. Maybe weight loss, training for a race, or even just cooking your meals at home- all of these require some motivation to get started. So my first recommendation would be to set some goals. Write them down, blog about them, tell friends/family, put them out on social media- whatever. For me, having goals (and sharing them) is a really great starting point to find motivation.

And make sure these are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound) goals.  Don’t just say “I want to lose weight”, say “I want to lose 5 lbs. this month” or instead of “I want to run a 5K” say “I want to run a 5K in November and I will train using the C25K plan” or something specific like that.

You need these goals in order to put a plan together. Because without a plan a goal is just a sentence.  So take your goal (or goals) and write up how you plan on achieving them. Create an outline, a schedule, a meal plan/grocery list; whatever you need to get from the starting point to the ending point. And maybe you don’t know all of your needs but start with something and feel free to go back and tweak it at any time. This plan is not set in stone. Make sure you don’t treat it like it is.

Ok, with me so far? You have your goals, you have your plan, you are ready to get started…at this point you should be pretty excited. I know I always get very excited when I am about to embark into something new. That excitement is usually enough motivation to get me going. The first few days/weeks are easiest to stay excited about. And I think this is probably true for most people. I would guess that what most people really struggle with is staying motivated (dedicated, committed, whatever you want to call it) once you have been working your plan for a while. Or staying motivated when things don’t go as you had anticipated. Or if you aren’t getting the results you want. Or when life just gets in the way. How do you stay motivated then?

Here’s what works for me:

1.       Really pay attention (I first achieved this through journaling) to how good your body feels from making positive changes in your life. Note how you feel after you exercise, or eat a really nutritious homemade meal, or get in short walks throughout the day. Recognize the impact these events have on your energy level, your sleep, your digestion- any physical cue your body is sending off. The reverse is important too. Recognize how you feel when you don’t work out, when you eat fast food, when you sit all day long and note those physical cues. Associate the good behaviors/positive cues and the ‘bad’ behaviors/negative cues. Once you have started to really understand the impact of your choices motivation comes a lot easier.  Trust me, at 4 or 5am when I am trying to rationalize shutting off the alarm and going back to bed the one thing that gets me up and going is knowing how good I will feel physically and mentally after a workout. No extra amount of sleep could replicate that feeling- exercise (almost always) wins.


2.       Surround yourself with positive influences. Not only will having positive people in your life help make you a more positive person but they also make it easier to make positive changes. Just like you may want to go through the fridge or pantry and toss out expired (or trigger) foods, you may want to think about the people in your life- friends, family- and get rid of (or at least spend less time with) those that are either a negative influence on you or those who do not support and encourage you. Ok, easier said than done. I know. And maybe you can’t ‘get rid’ of these people. But you can tell them what you need from them, support, encouragement, guidance, friendship, etc., and hope they can become a positive influence for you. If that doesn’t work, maybe try adding more friends that are positive- try to outweigh the negativity with positivity. In this day and age this is a very easy thing to do. You can find so many people out there on FB, twitter, blogging, that are going through similar journeys and can provide tons of insight and encouragement. Look at me- when I first started this journey (my original blog, 2.5 years ago) I told a few friends. That group of 5 or 6 has now grown to tens or hundreds of people that I engage with regularly, that I look to for guidance, that I lean on for support.  It is not only doable to create your own positive community- I strongly advise you to do so.


3.       Don’t beat yourself and don’t hide.  It is so easy to have negative felings of failure take over all of your good intentions. A couple missed workouts, a couple ‘bad’ meals and poof….it’s time to throw in the towel. But honestly, it really isn’t. No matter how bad things get – it is always fixable. You can always turn things around. But don’t hide form the people that will help you get back on track. Often times we (and of course by that I mean me) feel like we have to hide away from our support system. That any faltering from our path will be seen as a failure. That people will judge us. But they won’t.  I think pretty much everyone understands when traveling from point A to point B we rarely ever go in a straight path. Taking a couple wrong turns, looping back around, and sometimes even backtracking does not mean failure…it just means there were little lessons to be learned along the way. All of this, the good and the bad, is all part of the journey. So, don’t beat yourself up and don’t hide away. Learn from those missteps, change your behaviors accordingly, and lean on your support system for extra guidance. There is motivation to be found when you realize that you are truly never that far from your original path.

4.       Find what works for you. Maybe this should have been number 1. And I am sure I sound like a broken record with this one but seriously. It is really hard to stay motivated when you are doing things you really don’t like. If you hate running, don’t run. Try cycling. Or yoga. Or long walks with your dogs. If doing something is making you miserable you will only be able to force yourself to do it for so long. We are not all the same. We like different foods, our bodies like different movement forms. That doesn’t make one person better or worse than another- it just means we are all unique. Not liking something does not make you a failure. But quitting everything because you don’t like one thing- well that’s just an overreaction. And I get it- finding out what works for you can be tough. Maybe you can’t afford a gym membership or don’t have access to group fitness classes. Do you have a library? Check out some workout DVDs. No library- download a free workout app onto your phone for ideas. No smartphone? Hit the closest playground. Go for a walk, swing from the monkey bars, climb a tree. Heck, you can even go fly a kite. Don’t let dislike for one particular thing stop you from getting healthy and active. Just keep searching for what you love. It may require some outside the box thinking but once you find it it will be so much easier to keep motivated. The same thing goes for food and training plans. Be adaptable, flexible, and always willing to change to make things work for you.


5.       Find little things along your path that will help keep you motivated. So, let’s say you are training for a 5K. And let’s say you are, in fact, using the couch to 5K program. Maybe you can use the idea of having three running workouts weekly to hit as a mini-goal. Or maybe use hitting a new running distance or time as a mini-goal. For me, it took me about four months to go from running my first mile to running 3.1 miles at a 5K event. Four months may not seem like much but when you are training for something waiting 4 months before you get to that point seems like forever. It can be easy to lose focus or motivation in four months. So I set mini-goals. I worked towards running for 15 minutes non-stop, or running 2 miles, or finishing all three runs in a week. Things like that. I am sure you have heard this before. It’s not a novel idea but it works wonders for me. Same with weight loss. When I started out at 286 lbs. my goal wasn’t to get to 150 lbs. (ok, it kind of was my ultimate goal) but instead my goal was to lose ten pounds. Then once I hit that goal, and rewarded myself with something non-food related, I worked towards those next ten pounds. Mini-goals plus rewards always helped keep me motivated.


6.       Understand why it is so important for you to keep motivated, to follow through on your goals. Are you sick and trying to work towards being healthier? Do you have a family and maybe you want to get in shape so you can be more actively involved? Are you someone’s role model? Are you trying to cross something off a bucket list? What is the underlying reason behind these changes/goals? THAT IS YOUR MOTIVATION! Write it down. Make it a mantra. Never let that reason get pushed aside. For me it was my health. I don’t want to die young nor do I want to be extremely sick and die a slow, horribly painful death. I would/will do everything in my power to prevent that. No, it’s not always easy. Yes, there are days when I am not motivated, when my mindset isn’t in the right place. That happens. BUT, it is very important to go back to the why. That reason why will help keep you motivated. It’s just up to you to figure out how to bring that reason why to the forefront of your mind and keep it there as often as possible. Be creative. Post family pictures around your treadmill, where a bracelet representing your cause or displaying your mantra, keep old (or current) pictures of yourself, do whatever you need to do. Because ultimately- finding your motivation and keeping it is on you.

That being said, I am always here. I will gladly call/text/email/message you any time of day whenever you need it. I have been practicing my Jillian Michaels impression so I can either yell at you or I can just be myself and try to give you loving words of encouragement. Whatever you need J You know how to reach me.

What healthy habits would you like for me to talk about? I have a few ideas but would love to hear more. Also, any ideas for a name for this series? Gosh, I am so not creative…