Updated: Mar 9, 2022
The 3 key ‘w’s — why, who, way
Years ago, I worked at a local gym and like clockwork, the first 6 to 8 weeks of the year the gym was packed, and then by March, it was back to the “regulars”.
The few weeks of new year madness had run its course, and the regulars, with a few additions, could get back and enjoy their spacious clubs and classes.
If you’ve decided to embrace fitness and want to stay the course, you need to, as Simon Sinek says, know your why.
New Year’s resolutions, beach vacations, and weddings aside, if you’ve decided to tackle fitness and want to honor your commitment over the long term, this is what you need to know.
Define your outcome
First, define what fitness means to you.
What will you have by being fit, that you don’t have now?
For instance, is there an immediate or future health concern that being fit will solve?
A friend decided to tackle his overall health, fitness included, after watching his dad ignore his diabetes and eventually lose both feet to the disease. There’s a family predisposition to diabetes, so in his mid 40’s he got serious and ate better and exercised more.
His why was to decrease his chances of following his dad down the path to a painful and limited lifestyle.
Next, consider approaching your why by thinking about how being fit will help you achieve some of your other goals.
Recently, I worked on a vision board exercise, which helped me see how being more fit would serve several areas of my life.
For instance, the mental health benefits of spending time in nature are well documented.
Becoming more fit helps to increase your balance, strength, and aerobic capacity. All things that help you explore and enjoy the outdoor world more.
Then there’s the self-esteem and confidence motivation. Maybe your why is about challenging the image you or others hold about you and what you’re capable of.
Build on past successes
Since completing my biggest physical and mental challenge back in 2019, I’ve been considering how to become once again, consistently active.
In 2019, I decided to participate in a cycling fundraiser, 150 km in two days. When I entered I knew I could raise the necessary money but was less certain about my ability to complete the ride.
The uncertainty and possible embarrassment of not completing were just enough motivation to get me on my bike 4 times a week. I set up my own training and proudly completed the event.
That story serves an important function for considering what might be next.
When you review your stories, especially the ones where you’ve accomplished something, it helps to get your imagination firing. The positive “what ifs” take hold and you start remembering stories related to other stories.
For instance, since the cycling fundraiser was a big physical and mental achievement, your mind starts to look for similar stories from your own life, or of others.
Like the story shared by a business acquaintance who decided to participate in a Triathlon despite not knowing how to swim or bike. That fascinated me.
Since I’d done one big, out-of-the-box event, I could relate to how she felt about deciding to undertake the challenge. And also, the changes that occurred in her self perception, once she completed it.
Those stories and the feelings attached to them are powerful. They’re…empowering.
Knowing about someone else who went “from 0 to hero” was inspiring.
Because the truth is, as you choose to become more engaged in your life, you’ll look for new ways to honor that desire. Including the best ways to build the mental resources to stay the course.
This leads to the next question….
The How to of Staying Motivated.
You’ve made the decision and you’re excited. You start, but…how do you successfully keep going?
Build a circle of support.
Obviously, it’s up to you to do the work, but when you invite others into your adventure ask for their support. Then, you get the best of two pieces of motivation — accountability, and encouragement.
You see, excitement will get you started, but encouragement will keep you on the path.
This is precisely why I reached out to my partner first and said, “So hey, I’ve got this idea, you might think it’s a little out there, but I’m excited.”
Then you share your why(s). These were some of mine:
· Trying something new to help me get more fit
· Becoming a better swimmer, so that we could enjoy his favourite activity more
· Added motivation to get outside and enjoy the weather
· Push myself to the edge of my comfort zone
· Bragging rights!
Turns out, he didn’t think it was so crazy. We’ve already started working out.
One is good. More is better.
Look to your family. Is anybody else already working out regularly?
People committed to their own health and fitness make excellent cheerleaders and accountability partners.
I asked my adult children. They’re delighted to be part of the adventure (who doesn’t like to see someone take better care of themselves?)
Both will be checking in with me on weekends, letting me know when they’re beginning their workouts. A crafty and quick little accountability nudge.
Combine your imagination with the feelings you expect to have when you envision yourself successfully completing your goal.
Picture yourself crossing the finish line, friends and family cheering you on.
See yourself doing it, that’s what athletes do, they use visualization to help them get into the feeling.
Whether it’s hitting a golf ball or picturing the downhill slope for a ski run, visualization helps you envision what will happen.
Then, you do the important next phase. You practice and learn and adjust so that you’ll be ready the day of.
For the cycling adventure, I pictured the terrain. Hills to be precise. That led to picking routes that, yes, had hills.
In the beginning, it was tough going. Some hills became the measuring stick of success.
How far could I bike up before getting off and walking?
I didn't berate myself for being unable, on the first try, to crest the hill. Rather, I gave it my best each time and over time celebrated getting to the top.
And then I looked for a bigger hill. :)
That’s the essence of a growth mindset. You choose to embrace the challenges, focusing on where to improve and surrounding yourself with people and practices that will help you succeed.
That’s the key to staying committed and motivated.
Gym regulars find their own whys and ways of staying motivated and committed. You don’t have to be a gym enthusiast to do the same.
It really boils down to knowing why being fit is important to you and then creating the strategies that help you stay the course.
Life is a juicy adventure and to make the most of it, being fit is the pathway to enjoying all that it has to offer. Know your why, create your way, and celebrate the wins along the road.
Originally published on Medium.