Physical Fitness is a natural consequence of doing what is right for you. No matter what shape or condition you are in right now, life is a process not a snapshot, so focus on the path rather than on what you think is “wrong” right now.
Being or becoming physically fit is a decision like “starting to stop smoking” – it starts in the mind. In order to have a pleasant, motivating experience on your path to physical wellbeing, your first step must be your mental foundation; this will determine your success. First of all, no one wants to be told what to do, motivation by external sources won’t work as well as discovering motivation within. Here is how you do that:
1. Determine your goal. What do you want to achieve concerning your fitness? Just say or write whatever comes to mind. Start with “I want to….”
Writing down your intention is helpful because it sets a plan in motion that can later be expanded with new goals as the first ones are accomplished. The joy of reaching your initial goal is strong motivation to achieve the next goal. For instance, if loosing 15 pounds is your goal, you might first set your goal at loosing 5 pounds and raise that number as you meet each small goal. Feeling more comfortable in your body or reaching a size 10 might be a stronger, positive goal but be as specific as possible.
2. Ask why you want to achieve that goal? Here is the energy that will keep you going in the right direction. Motivators (motivational factors) are positive; written in present tense and have a strong emotional impact, e.g. “I feel embarrassed being overweight” might be a reason but not a motivator. So you change it to e.g. “I love to feel my body working perfectly for me” or “I am proud of a healthy body” or “I appreciate my body and care for it”. I had a local client that I worked face to face with. She was a heavy smoker and hugely overweight. When I asked her about her motivation, she said: “I want to see my grandchildren grow”; she had tears in her eyes. She was aware of her situation and her motivation was to live. This is a strong positive motivator, something to experience every day and look forward to.
Let’s do an example/ experiment with one habit to change, e.g. you want to introduce regular exercise as a part of a stress management or weight loss program.
1. Determine the goal. “Exercising more” does not work as a goal, since it is too vague, not positive (more implies that you have/do too little), not measurable or time related. To make it more compelling for yourself, you may rephrase your goal into e.g. “Exercise 3-5 times a week 20-30 minutes”. This gives you a lot of freedom and space for variety. You can go Monday-Wednesday-Friday before work or Monday through Friday at lunch break. Make sure to keep it easy, doable and flexible. You can always add on later as you become more fit. At this point you start breaking the habit of not exercising and introducing a new one very smoothly.
2. Why do you want to exercise more? “Because my doctor said I should” would not be an intrinsic motivator. Instead, listen inside and hear or feel what you really want to achieve with that goal. Maybe you want to feel healthy or able to rely on your body, maybe enjoy being able to move with ease or feel good in clothes you love. A great way to find out what is really important for you is going outside on a slow walk and contemplate a little.
This inner work is essential for long-term success. You connect with your core and start to be driven by yourself, rather than by external factors. Contemplation walks can be your personal energizer, your treat for yourself where you “take yourself out to check in with yourself”.
Look for January’s column: Introducing a New Habit for Physical Wellbeing
Manuela is an international exercise consultant who has counseled clients by phone, skype and email since 2001. Learn more about Manuela at Well Core Network’s provider list (under Spain) or visit her website theWalkingGuru.org.
The intention with this column is to motivate and inspire everyone to treat their body with loving care.