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Finding Motivation When You Hate to Exercise

There’s a big difference between appreciating the value of exercise and actually wanting to get off your butt.


Thursday, March 6, 2008

We all know by now that exercise is good. But I have noticed that those who do get this fact fall into one of two camps: those who love to exercise and those who drag their tired old butts to the gym just because they know they are supposed to. I fall squarely into the second camp.

Last week I did exactly that-dragged the aforementioned tired old tushes to the gym to take a spinning class. I figured I would benefit from the stress-reducing endorphins and feel virtuous in the end. Instead, I was screamed at by a sweaty geezer babe with a microphone to “Increase the tension!” “More tension!! More tension!!! Up it!!!!” : all in a voice that would have probably killed my French bulldog if he had been in the room. Talk about an endorphin-kill.

Michael Seabaugh

I know she meant well and was just trying to motivate her Monday morning, mostly middle-aged spinners into realizing their various fitness goals. But she probably didn’t realize that most of us were Camp Two exercisers and resented the hell out of having to sweat on a Monday morning in Santa Barbara. Or, on second thought, perhaps she did, which is why she seemed so hysterical in her attempts to get us to do exactly that.

So, here is the issue: If you know you have to exercise in order to “keep it going on” but would rather be working on the front lines of a slaughterhouse instead, what can you do to motivate yourself to actually

slog to the gym, mount a machine, and attack it like you actually mean it? Obvious to me, the motivation can’t come from outside hectoring.

According to Gillian Hood-Gabrielson, Internet exercise coach, we all need to find our “why.” This makes perfect sense to me. If exercise is not something that is personally relevant to us, but just something we should do, then we will soon run out of fuel for the endeavor.

According to Hood-Gabrielson, “In order to be successful at any endeavor, we must have a good reason for doing it in the first place. Exercise is no exception. What will get you up in the morning on those cold, dark days when you just want to stay in bed? Many people say ‘because I want to lose weight’ or ‘I want to be fit.’ While these are good goals, they are not good enough reasons for long-term success. You must dig deeper. What is important to you? What do you value in life?”

Good advice. But what are those deeper motivations? I asked some of my correspondents to share. I did get the expected contrarian responses, such as Corinna, who admonished me for not including a third category: Those who hate exercise and don’t.

From the responses I received I have compiled the Healthspan Top 10 Motivators for Exercising when you would rather watch cartoons:

10 Looking in the mirror each day full-frontal.

9. An upcoming special event: class reunion, wedding, bikini season, knowing nudity will be required for an upcoming engagement.

8. Visiting your doctor and having him look from your chart to your exposed body with “that look.”

7. Keeping one’s metabolism elevated enough so that one can pig out on high-calorie fun foods.

6. Good old-fashioned vanity.

5. Doing anything that moves your body and makes you laugh at the same time.

4. Becoming accountable to a friend and rewarding yourselves afterwards.

3. Gorging on the “eye candy” at the gym.

2. When your jeans feel too tight.

And the Number One Motivator for Reluctant Exercisers?

It comes from Bob, who just turned 70: “I am motivated to do my daily exercise by visualizing the man I want to be when I get old.”

Dr. Michael O.L. Seabaugh is a licensed clinical psychologist with a psychotherapy practice in Santa Barbara. Comment at healthspan@mac.com and visit his Web site/blog at HealthspanWeb.com for more information.

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