Getting and Staying Motivated

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Motivation plays such a crucial role when trying to accomplish a goal. The goal to be physically fit and live a healthier lifestyle should be a no-brainer. However, why is it so difficult for so many of us to accomplish such obvious goals? Shouldn’t wanting to be healthier be enough motivation to put that donut down and go to the gym? Many of us have the intention of becoming healthier and being physically fit, but we lack the drive and motivation to do so. Below are helpful tips to help keep you motivated.  

Find Good Reasons: Everything you’ve enjoyed repeatedly doing in your life is because there is good reason to. There are thousands of reasons why it’s good to be physically fit and eat healthy, but you’ll be more motivated to do so if you find reasons that are specific to you. Perhaps you want to be in better shape so you can fit in your clothes better, or you want to be able be more active with your family or children. Maybe you’re tired of feeling lethargic every day, or you want to save money on food and health bills. Whatever the reason, find one that will make you want to stick to your goal of living a healthier lifestyle and constantly remind yourself of the goal you’ve made.

Make It Fun: Attitude plays a key role in motivation. You won’t want to keep repeating something you don’t enjoy or aren’t having fun doing. One way to keep yourself motivated and continuing to get in shape is to find activities you enjoy doing that will also help you reach your goals. For many, going to the gym everyday and doing the same workout can feel very boring. It may feel very consistent but acts like a chore that you must cross off your list every day. Try changing up your workout routine constantly so it doesn’t feel like you are doing the same thing every time you go to the gym. You should also bring an mp3 player with songs that can keep you pumped and excited through your entire routine. Audio books also work great as they can make working out feel less strenuous and keep you relaxed.

As far as food goes, eating healthy doesn’t have to mean eating a plain bowl of salad or an unseasoned, boiled, skinless chicken every day. There are many people who have no problem doing this as they have trained their mind to view food as fuel and sustenance rather than something you need to enjoy. However, for the rest of us, meals play a big part of our mood every day. We constantly look forward to what we are going to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and some of us can’t wait to try out that new restaurant down the street or try a new recipe from a cookbook. Like a workout routine, change up your diet constantly. Try healthy recipes and ingredients you’ve never heard of or make healthier versions of meals you enjoy.

Workout With Other People: Whether it’s a personal trainer, a friend, or a loved one, working out with someone else is always a great motivational tool. It makes you feel less alone on your journey because there is someone there who can sympathize with what you are going through or provide encouragement. They can encourage you to push for that extra repetition or keep you accountable and make sure you don’t go to McDonald’s or vice-versa. However, when finding a partner to work out with, make sure they are reliable and just as driven as you are. Sometimes people initially find a friend to work out with but they end up being flakes or less driven. They act like the devil on your shoulder, encouraging you to skip out on a workout or telling you it’s okay to have that milk-shake with extra toppings.

Group activities are also great ways to work out with other people. Most gyms have specialized classes such a boot camps, kickboxing, yoga, etc. You can also participate in intramural sports such as community based baseball, volleyball, and basketball. Whatever activity that keeps you happy, entertained, and healthy is always the best workout.

Reward Yourself: Positive reinforcement is always an effective way to get someone to feel good about what they are doing and encourage them to continue to repeat it. Most people tend to use food as a tool for positive reinforcement, such as “cheat meals” or “cheat snacks.” Perhaps after a long week of focus and dedication, you can treat yourself to a favorite meal or dessert. For example, actor and professional wrestler Dwayne Johnson, also known as “The Rock,” likes to eat cheese pizzas, pancakes, and brownies after “150 consecutive days of eating clean” and working hard. However, if you use food as a form of positive reinforcement, do so sparingly as sometimes it can develop into a habit. Before you know it, you’ll feel like you deserve to eat a scoop of ice cream every time you had a workout.

Alternative forms of positive reinforcement that don’t include food could be shopping or taking a vacation. It’s always a good feeling to try on clothes you would never thought you’d be able to fit into and really get a sense of the progress you are making.

Track Your Progress: As mentioned above, seeing yourself getting in better shape and progressing is a great motivational tool. It shows that all the hard work you are doing is paying off and well worth the effort to keep continuing what you are doing. The simplest way to track your progress would be go on the scale every day. However, this may not be the most effective form of measurement as weight can constantly fluctuate and scales cannot accurately show you how much weight being gained or lost is body fat. A lot of the times the fluctuation shown on the scale is due to water weight, which is easily changeable by how much you are sweating and hydrating yourself.

Effective ways of tracking progress and making sure you are going in the right direction is to take measurements and track body fat percentage. There are very simple and accurate methods of recording this data that you can do at home. However, you can always have it professionally done at most gyms or health clinics. Another method of tracking your progress is to create a photo journal and take a picture of yourself as frequently as you can. 

Living a healthy lifestyle and getting in shape seems like such an obvious choice when compared to the alternative, but it is very difficult for most people to make that jump because there are so many elements in our lives that make it difficult to do so. So many things can demotivate us from taking the better path because it may feel easier to eat whatever we want, however much we want, and exercise as little as we want. Stress and a busy schedule are also huge factors in our daily lives that makes us not want to get our work outs in or cook a healthy meal. Try using the tips mentioned above to make your goals to be healthy and fit more apparent in your every day. Don’t lose track of what you really want in life!

The High Intensity Rest

yawn.jpgGetting a good, restful, and sound sleep is just as important as any workout you do when trying to lose weight and become healthy. To get the best results from any workout, you also need time for your body to recover. During sleep, your pituitary glands produce more growth hormones than when you are awake. The main function of growth hormones is to stimulate cell reproduction, growth, and regeneration. This is significantly more important when you are living an active lifestyle, or are exercising, because the growth hormones help in the aid of muscle growth and repair. Consequently, stronger and bigger muscles will mean a faster metabolism, and we can always use a faster metabolism when we’re trying to lose weight.

Besides growth hormones, your body also balances two other important hormones that affect weight loss while you sleep. These hormones are called Leptin and Ghrelin, and they play a pivotal role in stimulating or suppressing your appetite when you are awake. Leptin is produced by your body’s fat cells and is responsible for curbing your appetite. Ghrelin is produced by your stomach and is responsible for stimulating your appetite. When you are sleep-deprived, your body produces less Leptin and more Ghrelin, resulting in an increase in appetite. This hormonal imbalance can suggest why you may sometimes have the urge to want to eat before going to sleep, especially when it’s past your usual bedtime. When your body gets enough sleep, more Leptin is produced to counter-balance Ghrelin production. This results in feeling more satiated throughout the day.

Getting enough sleep also lowers your cortisol levels in your blood. Cortisol functions by breaking down protein in your body and converting it into glucose. When you have too much glucose in your body, usually obtained through eating carbohydrates and foods with sugar, the glucose will get stored as fat. Moreover, cortisol affects your body’s ability to build muscle mass, which consequently has an affect your body’s metabolism. If you’re trying to lose weight, you want to make sure the cortisol levels in your blood are low by getting enough sleep.

According to the National Institute of Health, the average American adult gets seven hours of sleep per night. However, a study published in the Journal of Annals of Internal Medicine states that sleeping less than 8 and a half hours a night may hamper your body’s ability to lose fat. Some common symptoms of sleep deprivation are: relying on an alarm clock to wake up each morning, feel sleepy during low-energy activities such as meetings, or feeling the need to take naps or sleep in. Besides weight gain, poor sleep quality has also been linked to chronic pain, Fibromyalgia, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Here are a few basic tips to help you get a better sleep (Pete Cerqua, The High Intensity Fitness Revolution):

1. Reduce Caffeine Intake – Try cutting down to only one cup of caffeine a day (whether it’s a sugarless energy drink, coffee, or tea) and avoid consuming any caffeine past noon.

2. Don’t Eat Chocolate at Night – Though dark chocolate (in moderation) is a healthy snack, chocolate contains caffeine in it and should be especially avoided when it’s nearing bedtime.

3. Avoid an “Energy Boost” After 8:00 P.M. – Sugar or sugary foods will provide your body with an energy boost, which can sometimes by helpful before a workout. However, they should be avoided, especially before bed.

4. Abstain From Mental and Physical Stimulation – When you are getting ready for bed, make sure you close all electronics (including television, computer, laptop, iPad, phones, kindle, etc.). Electronics provide a mental stimulation that keep you engaged and awake. Regular books are usually an exception because they are slower-paced and easier to nod off to.

5. Physical Stimulation – For most individuals, working out and exercise usually wakes their bodies up because when you are working out, your heart rate is increasing. If you have trouble sleeping, try scheduling your exercises in the morning or early in the day rather than at night. This may also include any sexual activities.

6. Eat Foods High in Magnesium – Foods high in magnesium, such as almonds, legumes, pumpkin seeds, cashews, and dark leafy green vegetables, have been known to be a natural remedy for insomnia by helping to relax your brain and helping you fall asleep faster.

7. Take a Pill – Try something all natural, like L-Tryptophan or 5-HTP. These are basic, simple, and cost-effective.

Sources

1. Cerqua, Pete. High Intensity Fitness Revolution for Women: A Fast and Easy Workout with Amazing Results. New York: Skyhorse, 2013. Print.

2. Greenwood, Melanie. “Does Sleep Help With Weight Loss?” LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG, Sept.-Oct. 2010. Web. 03 Mar. 2013.