I’ve been working out at least 4 days a week since I was a freshman in high school. I’m now 26, so I feel like I have a solid understanding of how to stay consistently motivated and dedicated to an exercise regimen. I’ve read numerous articles with widely varying tips on how to accomplish this. These tips range from the simple act of getting a gym membership all the way to the intricacies of documenting a well defined set of fitness goals and personal rewards for accomplishing these goals. I’ve even read that getting dressed in gym clothes or making a commitment to walking the dog is enough to get the average person motivated.
While I don’t doubt the legitimacy in some of the suggested methods I’ve read, I don’t really think that they hold the key to long term exercise motivation and commitment. A regular exercise routine can be extremely redundant. The redundancy will eventually bore the average person out of their right mind. So even tough joining a gym, finding a workout buddy, and documenting fitness goals is a good start, it won’t exactly keep a person motivated 6 months down the road. In time, most people will start thinking hard about all the enjoyable things they would rather be doing instead… at which point the battle is lost.
So, what’s the key to long term exercise motivation? There are actually 2 keys, 2 very simple keys, music and variance. Motivation is usually driven by the desire to accomplish something, but it is kept intact on a moment to moment basis by continuously stimulating the mind. If the mind isn’t stimulated, it will rapidly lose desire for the original goal. In order to create a desire for exercise, you have to stimulate your mind by making exercise an enjoyable and adventurous experience, which is exactly what music and variance add to a long term exercise routine.
Music – Music makes us think, it gets us going, and it sets our stream of consciousness on a positive course. Both fast beat and slow beat music have the same stimulating effect on the mind, so alternate between the two while you exercise. Also, discovering new music that you like is one of the most rewarding experiences. Once you overplay all your favorite artists, start plugging their names into the various Web 2.0 music recommendation sites. These sites will assist you in discovering new bands and artists based on similarities to music you already like. Use your exercise time to rediscover your favorite artists, discover new ones, and build a massive collection of music that you will enjoy for the rest of your life. It won’t be long before you realize that music makes exercise fun.
Variance – No matter how wonderful an activity is at first, if it is performed in repetition over the course of several weeks it will ultimately become a dreadfully boring experience. Keep things fresh! Do a variety of different exercises each week. Your gym has numerous exercise machines, free weights, and pieces of cardio equipment. Ask a trainer for help if you need to, or just be adventurous and figure it out for yourself. Watch other people and learn. Just make sure you always start off with very light weight or speed settings when you are unfamiliar with an exercise. Once you have all the exercises down, start randomly alternating through them on a weekly basis. Do 3 or 4 sets of 3 or 4 exercises 3 or 4 times a week. Never do the same exact exercises in the same exact order 2 weeks in a row.