STRONG Fitness Magazine Australia shows you how to get motivated for the gym and your training goals – all year round.
If you’ve let your fitness goals slide a little during the colder months, we’ve collated the expert advice to get you back on track.
Here’s five tips for staying motivated:
1. Goal setting, or goal-getting.
There’s a wealth of research surrounding the connection between goal-setting and motivation. Goal-setting has been shown to aid everything from employee motivation in the office, to an athlete’s performance on race day. In one study conducted by Dominican University, participants who wrote down their goals were 33 per cent more successful in achieving them.
Setting goals is the most important part of staying motivated, according to Trainer Sinead Disaya. Even if it’s as simple as ‘I want to improve my deadlift’, a goal creates purpose behind getting up early to train.
Accompany this with goal-getting, and you have a winning formula. Goal-getting involves constantly evaluating and monitoring progress, and understanding what the goal truly means to you.
‘You have to ask yourself ‘why?’. Why do you want to deadlift 170kg? Why is it important?’ explains Lead Sport Performance Psychologist at the Mind Room, Michael Inglis.
‘The evaluation part of setting a goal is the most crucial factor as it involves regularly evaluating how you’re tracking in achieving it.’
2. Schedule and track your training.
You’ve set your goal, now what?
‘Tracking and writing things down is helpful as it allows you to see progress,’ says Inglis.
‘It’s hugely rewarding to see your own improvements, such as increasing your time, intensity, repetitions or weight. People are engaged in any activity if they see progress.’
Disaya suggests using a calendar to track and motivate you to get to the gym regularly. Place a big, red cross on the days you attend, so that you can visualise your attendance over a full month.
Apps are another convenient way of tracking your training and nutrition, and will help keep you accountable as you work towards your goal. For example, if you’re training for a marathon, you can easily track your running distance, pace and heart rate, and the completion of scheduled runs leading up to the event in the Strava app.
3. Use imagery.
Putting motivational imagery front-of-mind and visualising your path to success can help you stay motivated and create positive behavioural change. One study published in Psychology and Health analysed a group of 177 students who were asked to eat more fruit over a week. The students who wrote down a plan and visualised how they were going to carry out the behaviour increased their fruit intake twice as much as those who didn’t.
Whether you want to improve your deadlift or complete a marathon, Sports Psychologists advise athletes to feel the movements and sensations associated with the experience, and imagine the outcome.
Rehearsing in your mind activates the neurons – or the cells in your brain that transmit information – to interpret the imagery and generate an impulse to perform the action.
‘Practising imagery rehearses the neuro-connectors in your brain as it would in your body, even though you haven’t completed the task yet,’ says Inglis.
‘If you visualise yourself effectively doing a deadlift, for example, you have wired your brain as though your body has performed the deadlift physically, so the activity becomes more natural later.’
4. Buddy up.
Schedule your workouts with a PT or training buddy, and you’ll be more likely to show up to avoid letting the other party down.
A bit of healthy competition can also help. One study published in the journal Preventative Medicine Reports monitored 790 participants over an 11-week period while they regularly engaged in cardio and weight training. The researchers found that the group who trained competitively with their peers had 90 per cent higher attendance rates and a more aspirational mindset about exercise than those who trained individually or in a supportive environment.
When competitiveness kicks in, individuals push themselves and each other harder.
5. Know your ‘peak’ time.
Some of us are morning people while others are night owls, largely due to genetics. Know what’s best for you, but most importantly, maintain a consistent routine to help keep your body clock regular and aid motivation.
Research published in the journal Sleep found that maintaining a daily routine improved the quality of sleep in older adults, whose lifestyles and sleep were assessed over a six-week period.
‘With everything we do – such as when we eat, sleep or train – it’s important to keep it routine because this helps our bodies and our brains to adjust,’ says Inglis.
Inconsistent schedules are a training schedule’s worst enemy. If you prefer to train at lunch time or after work, pack your gym bag and block out your session time in your work calendar, so that your colleagues can’t book over it.