By: Ken Austin
Keeping yourself motivated during a fitness program can be challenging, even for the most experienced exercisers. Working out can get dull and your routine can seem endless when you’ve been on the same route forever. Avoid the pitfalls of discouragement and disenchantment by planning ways to reward yourself for a job well done.
This is the only body you’re going to have, so you must take care of it to have the best life possible. You need to follow a regular workout program but it shouldn’t be a punishment or something you have to force yourself to do. That’s why it’s important to build in regular rewards to maintain your motivation.
The best forwards to incorporate into a fitness program are ones that do not involve candy or any kind of food. A common method of “treating” yourself or making yourself better after a tough day is to buy a candy bar or box of cookies because “you deserve it.”
Nobody deserves 300 extra calories to get rid of! Calorie-laden treats are not the way to motivate yourself because those kind of “rewards” will only involve more exercise later down the road. Instead, sit down and make a list of activities, music and books you enjoy. Choose the things that appeal to you the most – try to have a variety of small, medium and large rewards to correspond with small, medium and large accomplishments.
If your goal is to lose weight then plan appropriate incentives for smaller goals. If you wait until you’ve lost 20 pounds to give yourself a pat on the back then the journey seems much harder.
Plan to give yourself some kind of reward for every five pounds lost - buy a new CD or a DVD of a recently released movie. Another method is to keep track of how many calories you burn each day and when the total reaches 3,500, reward yourself by buying a magazine off the newsstand that you normally wouldn’t purchase. Incentives for your mind and soul are better for you than rewards for the stomach.
When your goal is simply to increase fitness and build muscle strength, set up reward points for lifting or pressing heavier weights, for running two miles instead of one, and for being able to exercise for longer periods of time. Use the same type of incentives – magazines, books and music. Simply the knowledge that you will reward yourself can make workouts feel easier.
Exercisers who partner with friends or family to reach goals can use this method with a slight variation. Each person should write down his or her own reward ideas – things that you would like to receive as a gift to yourself for caring for your body through fitness. Partners should then exchange lists and whenever one person reaches a goal, the partner chooses one of the items from the list to reward the accomplishment. This introduces an element of surprise into the routine and can encourage you to press on to more accomplishments in order to earn the incentives you like the most.
An important note to keep in mind is that incentives should match the size of the accomplishment. Buying yourself a new piece of expensive jewelry in return for losing a few pounds will lead either to dissatisfaction with your other incentives or bankruptcy, since you buy more and more jewels.
Instead of going overboard on smaller incentives, reward yourself with an item that you like and enjoy but rarely buy or take yourself to a movie (but skip the concessions stand). If you meet a mid-size goal like running five miles when your ultimate goal is ten, buy some new fitness clothes or take a day off work to relax. Accomplishing your ultimate goals calls for the biggest, splashiest incentive you want.
If you have worked and sweated your way out of thirty pounds or more, take a spa weekend to pamper your beautiful new body! Or if you prepared for a marathon for months and then completed the 26 miles, take a mini-vacation to a nearby scenic retreat and spend your time relaxing and reveling in your accomplishment.
Keeping your motivation high can be challenging with the demands of everyday life. Adding incentives to encourage you along the way will not only help you reach your goals faster but will make your life a little sweeter as well.