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  • Writer's pictureJackie

Little Stick-with-It Tricks

(Ways to stay motivated that seem tiny but work)

Do your workouts feel like a segment of “The Truman Show?” Logging into the same exercise videos most days? Treadmill feeling like you’re powering an actual mill? If you work out regularly, you’re probably used to occasional monotony, say, when a blizzard coops you up or when you’re staying in a hotel for a week. But we find ourselves in unusual circumstances nowadays. The number of days we need to exercise at home or in our neighborhoods can seem endless. How’s a health seeker to stay on track?

A solid plan with achievable goals should be your bedrock, but sometimes we just need a little trick to get us through THIS workout and then again through tomorrow’s and so on. Here are 6 little mental mechanisms that may just provide the needed push.

Daily wrist mantras —This sounds a little ridiculous but can be powerful. What’s the short message that propels you? It could be as simple as “strong” or “u got this.” It just needs to fit on your wrist, maybe as a little homemade cuff of tape—or however you choose to apply it. (I’ve been known to string bracelets of teeny alphabet beads or just scrawl on myself with a Sharpie.) The point is this message will ride along with you all day as a reminder to keep caring for yourself.

Making pacts —Accountability seals the deal for most of us. The minute we tell someone that we plan to workout, we can’t pretend we didn’t. It’s even more effective when they also pinkie swear to some health goal for the day. Each person knows the other will ask who kept to their side of the deal. Who among us wants to say we slacked?

Delaying rewards —Workouts always feel better when there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Most of the time just reaching the end of the workout serves this purpose! But in trying times, it helps to dangle a little carrot for yourself afterward—a soak in the tub, an hour on the sofa with Netflix, ordering in a favorite salad.

Saving the favorites—On the other hand, you might reserve a reward or two to enjoy during the actual workout. I only watch YouTube videos on the elliptical, for example (okay, unless there’s some serious reference reason like “how to trim bangs under quarantine”). Favorite shows, books, or music playlists all make great little motivators, especially if strictly saved for workouts.

Mini challenges—Break the doldrums by changing up your effort. This can mean anything from adding 10 minutes to a treadmill run to jumping into Zumba when all you usually do are cardio interval workouts. Find something to intrigue you into the day’s workout. You may just find a new exercise passion along the way. (Quick story: When I found myself in a cast to my knee at 23 and devastated that I couldn’t take my beloved “aerobic step” classes—yes, it was the 90s—my brother donated his weight bench to me, and so began a lifelong love of strength training. Unusual circumstances opened a door. And here we are—in unusual circumstances!)

Counting down (to the end of sequestering)—Though it may not feel like it, we WILL eventually venture back into workplaces, gyms, and the like. Cementing a workout habit now could be one of the best side effects of quarantine. Crossing off days of exercise on a big, old calendar creates a real sense of accomplishment and gives us the craving to grab the marker again tomorrow. You might even tack that thing right onto the fridge.

Whatever it takes, adopt a little strategy to preserve your workout momentum. Now is one of the most important times to care for you.

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