It’s 6pm. You’ve just finished work. You’re exhausted, hungry and probably even sleepy. Hitting the gym is the last thing on your mind, but you’ve got an expanding waistline and hips that don’t fit in your jeans anymore. How do you get yourself to exercise? Fitness Director at Olympic-standard training center Embody Fitness in Dubai, Rob Richards, has several tricks up his sleeve. He shares motivational tips he’s learned over more than 25 years as a strength and conditioning coach for national champions around the world.
1. Failing to plan is planning to fail
“The brain has a limited amount of decision-making ability, leading to decision fatigue. This occurs when your brain has to make lots of decisions throughout the day. Anything that is not automated becomes a decision. If you have not made a plan to go to the gym today at 6:00pm, for example, when it is 5pm and you’re tired, you will have to make a decision. Should I go to the gym or go home and rest? You will most likely make the easier choice that requires less effort: going home,” Richards says. However, he insists that having a weekly plan will make you much more motivated to go to the gym, as it makes it a plan rather than a choice.
2. If you love it, you will do it
Richards advices finding a sport you enjoy and planning more of it. “If you hate running, do not schedule a run. [But] if you like swimming, start your plan with swimming. As you get fitter and more energetic, then you can add some more variety. Some people love to exercise in groups or teams. If you are that kind of person, join a team sport or find an active social activity,” he says.
3. Feed the machine
“Make sure you have some food 60 to 90 mins before you plan your exercise. If you have had a busy day and skipped lunch, don’t expect to have huge motivation and energy for a work out. Generally, try for some food with low carbs and higher protein as carbs tend to make people more relaxed and less motivated (ever tried to work out after a big meal of pasta?) To know if you respond better to carbs or protein, try a few days of each and see what gives you the most energy during the workout,” Richards says.
4. Create a healthy personality with which you identify
“Ever tried to give a vegan some meat? What do they say? I don’t eat meat – I’m a vegan!” says Richards. He warns those looking to become fit to avoid trying exercises or routines that go against their identity, as it makes it harder to stick to it. “If you say to yourself, ‘I must exercise, but you think you’re the kind of person that hates exercise, then it takes a lot of effort to make yourself exercise, especially after a long day at work. However, when something is part of your identity, then it becomes part of your value and belief system. It becomes easier and more enjoyable,” he says, advising people to build a positive vibe around exercise, making it a part of your personality, not something “you have to do”.