Be Fit For Life

with Ellen Cohen-Kaplan

Motivating yourself anew- 4 tips to get you exercising consistently

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Post-vacation, shorter days, busier schedule- beginning Autumn.
What does it mean to you? Is your schedule ramping up so it’s hard to fit in exercise? Maybe you need to think of new ways to motivate yourself. There’s a lot of research out there that looks at our internal feedback loops, and it has many implications for exercise.

First and foremost, we love a meaningful reward. Maybe you have intrinsic motivation that tells you that better long-term health, and avoidance of stiffness and weakness is enough of a reason to stay fit. Or maybe the risk of diseases related to being sedentary is enough. If so, you’re all set. But many of us need a more tangible reward to get ourselves to stick to a consistent fitness regimen. Think of what motivates you… Do you love getting new clothes, or taking a long weekend trip? Then make that your goal- after a certain number of exercise days in a row, grant yourself that reward. Make sure your reward is not a high calorie dessert or dinner! Of course, you can splurge occasionally, but keep the high calorie rewards a rare treat. If the dessert triggers more craving for sweets, rethink that reward !

Make a commitment and stay accountable. One reason the ice bucket challenge for ALS has gained so much traction is that most people videotape themselves doing it and put it on youtube. By documenting it, you’re staying accountable to many other people besides yourself. There are loads of apps for keeping a record of your food intake and exercise history which go a long way to keeping you accountable. Committing to a friend or loved one (and or working out with them) also keeps you honest. Most of are more likely to keep a commitment if we say it out loud, write it down, or sign a contract.

Practice positive thinking. You’ve heard this before, but be more specific about it. Visualize how much better you’ll feel after your workout. You may picture the fresh air, sun on your face, and how energetic you’ll feel afterwards, Maybe you’ll picture how strong and toned your muscles will be. Learn how to use triggers to cue your desired behavior- put your gym shoes near the door to remind you to do your interval walking and running, or pack your workout bag and put in your car ready to go so you won’t talk yourself out of it. You can post a picture of a younger, fitter you on your fridge, or a heavier picture to make use of both positive and negative triggers. Also, identify the barriers that prevent you from exercising. Is it too cold outside? Are you too tired or hungry? Identifying these barriers will help you problem solve and avoid many common pitfalls so you can stay in the game. One client, a teenage athlete had difficulty maintaining her weight despite the fact she was an ace lacrosse player and practiced every day for several hours. She was so ravenous by the time she got home from practice, she over-ate. After figuring out that she needed at least a 200-300 calorie snack at around 3, she was able to eat a healthy, reasonable dinner and keep her weight at her target level and avoid the bewitching hours between 4-6 PM.

Use money as your reward or deterrent. Decide to put money away for each time your exercise to go toward a desired trip, activity or tangible item. Or, pay someone else if you DON’T exercise. Money is a powerful motivator, whether used as a positive or a negative reinforcer.
To learn more, go to

Which one will it be? Whether it’s money, accountability, rewards or positive thinking, make sure you find something that works for you. Happy Fall !

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