Is exercise a dreaded item on your to-do list? Do you have to negotiate with yourself to get to the gym? If so, these tips will have you working with your brain instead of against it so you’ll actually look forward to your daily workouts.

  1. Make exercise a no-brainer.

While we like to think of ourselves as being guided by logical thinking, the reality is that emotions are much more efficient at driving behavior. The trick to making exercise a non-negotiable part of your day is to get in touch with the feelings behind your motivation. The way to do this is to get deep about your Why. Answer the question: Why do you want to exercise? Write down that answer. Next, take your answer and ask yourself why you want that? Continue this until you have gotten to to a place where you’re feeling strong emotion. As the saying goes, “Your Why should make you cry.” At the very least, it should put you in touch with deep disappointment or smoldering anger. For most people it takes about 5 question and answer cycles to move from “logical” thought to intense emotional reaction. Here’s the benefit: Imagine yourself driving home from work and trying to talk yourself into going to the gym. If you leave your exercise plans at the level of conscious thought, it is relatively easy to talk yourself out of it with false promises of “making it up tomorrow.” However, if you are connected to the core reason Why, there is no rational discussion. Skipping the gym (and turning your back on your core reason Why) would be emotionally uncomfortable. Instead, you follow your gut which makes going to the gym feel both empowering and relaxing.

2. Close the gap.

The average distance between trash cans at Disney World is 30 paces. This is because Walt Disney himself realized that people would only hold onto their trash for so long before dropping it, thinking that no one noticed. The same psychology can be applied to your workouts. How much of a logistical gap, a strategic effort, will you work with before tossing out the idea of a daily workout? The threshold is different for everyone. Close that gap by planning ahead. Pack your gym bag the night before. Create a playlist that you’re looking forward to hearing. Choose a gym that is conveniently located or try home-based workouts like walking/running and bodyweight exercises. A word of warning: don’t post your workout plans before you accomplish them, hoping that it will keep you accountable. The reason is that it pulls the motivation away from self-care and into meeting others’ expectations. Your best bet is to wait until you’ve completed your workout before sharing on social media.

3. Take it off the to-do list.

I’d be willing to bet that you don’t have showering on your to-do list every day. Why? It’s a non-negotiable for us. Exercise should be the same. It is a basic form of self-care, much like brushing your teeth and getting enough sleep. Just because you can get away with not doing it for a while doesn’t mean it’s not a necessity. Skipping a workout might give short-term relief from the worry of how to fit it all in, but a daily workout has the potential to boost creativity, productivity, and focus. If you want to be at the top of your game, invest the time in yourself and make exercise an automatic part of your routine.

4. Respect your personality type.

A common recommendation is to get an exercise partner. If you are an extrovert, then by all means buddy up and enjoy. Introverts, however, usually find that this is another drain. Bullying themselves into working out with a partner leads to a loss of motivation. Exercise is your time to recharge emotionally while you’re working on your fitness. If you want the biggest return on the investment of your time and energy, respect your personality type and work out in the way that suits you best.

5. Just go.

Use the 10-minute rule: Unless you are sick or injured, go ahead and exercise. This tip has everything to do with your brain. If you’re tired at the end of the day, chances are good that it’s not physical exhaustion, but your emotional and mental energy that is lacking. Committing to 10 minutes of exercise will boost your mood and gives your brain the opportunity to dust off the negativity. If you still feel like stopping after 10 minutes, you still get the emotional satisfaction of a completed workout. Whether it’s 10 minutes or a full workout, you will discover a dramatically effective way to ensure that exercise is part of your life for the long-term. Exercise is tremendously beneficial for burning off work-related stress that can lead to insomnia, emotional overeating, and heart problems.

6. Consistency beats intensity.

Many people believe that they have to push themselves to the absolute limit each time they exercise, but if you want your motivation to last, your exercise has to feel good enough that you want to do it every day. Is it okay to challenge yourself? Definitely! Just make sure that it feels invigorating, not painful. In the current fitness culture, there is a glorification of extreme exercise that borders on self-harm. Any fitness professional who promotes it is not thinking about your health and long-term success. Explore exercise options that feel good physically and that are easily adjustable. Fitness is not a linear progression. You will have days when you feel capable and confident and other days when you wonder if you aren’t coming down with a cold. Approaching your workouts with a mindset of gentle but firm consistency ensures that you get everything you need from your workouts and nothing that you don’t.

When it comes to diet and exercise, most people don’t really want to exist in “beast mode.” What they want is to feel better, have more energy, lose some weight, and integrate wellness, fitness, and sanity into an already overbooked schedule. By learning to work with your brain instead of against it, the potential to achieve this feat is not only possible, but very likely.

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