The Obstacle: It’s Too Cold/Hot/Rainy/Snowy
How to Overcome It
To get over a little personal discomfort, you need a truly powerful motivator. When most people explain why they want to exercise, says Carol Frazey, M.S., the owner of the Fit School, in Bellingham, Washington, “I often hear, ‘I want to tone my legs’ or ‘I want a smaller waistline.’ But that doesn’t spark something on an emotional level.” And it probably won’t be enough to get you out of bed on a wet Monday morning.
Plan of Attack
Write down the real reasons behind your desire to exercise, says Frazey. For instance: My dad had a heart attack at age 59, and I don’t want to live in fear like he did; I don’t want my kids to think that their half-marathon–running uncle is more fun than I am; I want to take a five-day bike tour in Italy and not be the one everybody has to wait for. “You need reasons that are so compelling that you don’t second-guess yourself when it’s time to exercise,” she says, adding that she encourages clients to put those reasons on their nightstands, bathroom mirrors, and computers. “Extrinsic motivators, like wanting to look good for someone else or losing weight, are temporary and fickle,” says Kristen Dieffenbach, Ph.D., a sports-psychology consultant and a professor at West Virginia University, in Morgantown. Intrinsic reasons that are about feeling competent and empowered “stay with you for the rest of your life,” she says, because the reward comes from the activity itself, not just from the results you get when you’re done.
Once you have your reasons, stay on the path by setting smaller, tangible goals. According to psychologists, these goals should be SMART—specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely—and they should build on one another. For example, if you’ve fallen into a sedentary lifestyle, a SMART goal would be to go for a 10-minute walk four days a week to start creating a routine. When you hit that goal, up the ante to 15-minute walks. “The right goals let you taste success, which motivates you to keep going,” says Cleere. On days that you’re not sure you can stick to your goal, take at least one step. For instance, put on your clothes and go to the gym; you don’t even have to work out. When you get there, chances are that you’ll do something, if not a whole routine. According to experts, even elite athletes say that the workouts they didn’t want to do were the best ones that they ever did, because they proved that a person can overcome her own inertia.