Yes, we all know we should be exercising. Study after study tells us exercise will protect our hearts and our brains. It’s shown to prevent/delay dementia, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, and (it seems) almost anything else that could befall us.
So why did I spend the last 5 months not exercising at all? It’s not inconvenient. I have a treadmill, weights, a mini-trampoline, and even a karate punching/kicking bag. They’re in my basement den, and I passed them every time I went to and from my car in the garage.
And yet… there they stood. Ignored. Perhaps you’re doing the same?
It took my sister to show me an answer that, frankly, embarrasses me. (You can always depend on a sister to show you uncomfortable truths!) She got me to read The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin, which shows you which of four personality tendencies you have. I was strongly the “rebel” personality. According to the book, Rebels don’t want to do ANYTHING they are told to. Even if (gulp!) the person telling you to do something is yourself! Surely I couldn’t be that pigheaded? But… maybe so, because understanding this STILL did not change my behavior!
How to motivate yourself!
My turnaround came from reading a book called Age in Place, by Lynda G. Shrager. It’s all about making your home and life more capable for aging at home instead of in an institution. A good premise and a good book. But I stupidly read it right before sleep and had a terrible nightmare from it — all about being helpless. The book tells how to make accommodations for when you’re so feeble you can hardly do anything — including get to a toilet they recommend you place right next to your bed. It scared the heck out of me because by not exercising I was advancing the time when I’d be that feeble. THAT got me on the treadmill and I’m still exercising two weeks later. In fact, if I start slacking off again, I plan to re-read the book(!)
More ideas to motivate us
I also asked family and friends what they do to motivate themselves and got some excellent ideas.
- Work the farm/yard: Get an old farm that needs work. Or start a big DIY landscape project. One friend always loved horses, so she got four of them. Now she’s lifting bales of hay and shoveling horse manure and even occasionally riding her horses.
- Listen to recorded books: This is a great idea, but don’t sabotaged yourself by listening to recorded mysteries in your car. Once you do that, you’ll be driving long trips to a farther away Starbucks just to hear what happens next (trust me, I know!). ONLY listen when you’re walking. One friend said, “I go on long walks and listen to audible books on my iPhone. Right now I cannot wait to take a break and go for a walk in the park.”
- Get to the gym before you wake up: My sister likes to roll out of bed and head for the gym before she does ANYTHING except pee. She says she loves completing her workout before she realizes she’s awake(!)
- Shame yourself into 5 minutes a day: One friend picked one 5-minute routine she could do at home and told herself she could SURELY manage to do 5 minutes a day. After two months, she gradually expanded to doing more. But first she wanted to set in stone the routine of exercising every day. This is a great idea, unless you’re a “rebel” by tendencies(!)
- Make it a competition: A niece told me she responds best to competition. She took cardio kickboxing and she really pushed herself because she wanted to be best in the class. This also works great in sports, IF you can find someone relatively close to you in skill. I found this once in tennis, and later in life in racquetball. Going to exercise was easy when I was competing against someone close in skill and we both tried our hardest to win. It put me in great shape and it felt like fun instead of work.
- Pair it with something else: I’m on the treadmill 6 nights a week, while watching the Mets games. I never tried it before because “expert opinion” is to never exercise at night or you won’t be able to sleep. I’m exercising at 8PM and sleeping like a baby. So test “conventional wisdom” for yourself!
- Make it social: Speaking of tendencies, some of us just like to be with other people. So find friends who will join you in walks or other forms of exercise. If your current friends won’t, add some new friends to your life. They’ll motivate you because you’ll let them down if you don’t show up.
Have you found tricks that work to motivate you?
Marlene Jensen is a 71-year-old full-time marketing professor. Previously she was a VP at CBS and ABC and spent decades as an entrepreneur and pricing author/consultant. Sadly, none of these prepared her for the onslaught of marketers who now think her daily interests/needs consist solely of hearing aids, wheel chairs, adult diapers, medi-alert buttons, medications, and bath tubs you walk into.