This is a guest post by Alexander Heyne of Modern Health Monk.
“You need to start exercising” your doctor or personal trainer might have told you.
“NOOOO. You’ll never take me alive!” was probably your response, right?
So rather than me try to “convince” you or give you 50 reasons why you should start exercising (which you already know anyway) I’m going to tell you something surprising instead.
There are ways you can “trick” yourself into exercising.
Hear me out.
Have You Discovered These Mental Tricks Yet?
You know what’s so funny about the fitness industry?
We’re taught to believe that exercise means lifting weights. Endless hours on the treadmill. High intensity exercise that we hate and really sucks.
But let me share something with you that few trainers will admit: movement is exercise, and as long as you’re getting in regular movement, you’re A LOT better off than someone who isn’t.
Sedentary life is an absolute killer.
Being sedentary is a risk factor for:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Systemic inflammation
- Chronic pain
- … And many other things (source)
So – any movement is better than none.
My mission here today is to help you move a little bit more. Not a lot. Just a little bit, okay?
You will dramatically improve many aspects of your health just by incorporating more movement into your schedule. Don’t think of it as forced, grueling exercise. Any movement counts.
Mental trick #1 – Intrinsic motivation.
Life is short – what’s the point of doing stuff you hate? If every day was filled with stuff we absolutely hate (Even though it improved our lives) it would be a rough and tough life.
That’s why when I train people I teach them trick #1 – follow your intrinsic motivation.
Intrinsically motivated people (whether that’s work, relationships, or exercise) A. stick to things longer, and B. have much higher levels of satisfaction with whatever they do.
And I want you to be in this for the long run! So follow stuff that naturally interests you.
So rather than forcing yourself to lift weights (if you truly hate it), work in the garden, take the dog for a longer walk, go for a hike, kayak, bike, or swim, or do some yard work.
Remember, the longest lived people in the world don’t lift weights or go for runs – they do a lot of low-level exercise every day.
Pick something you like that requires movement – and then schedule a bit of it every day.
Mental trick #2 – Don’t incentivize yourself too much.
Many of us were raised in the “carrot and stick” era.
If we didn’t do our school work, our parents beat us, or threatened us with something.
If we did something right, or got good grades, we were rewarded.
Many of us do the same with exercise, we tell ourselves, “Okay, if I just get this workout in, I can eat some ice cream later tonight.”Or we do something to punish ourselves, “I didn’t go to the gym today, dangit, no favorite TV show for me tonight.”
Here’s the thing: psychological research has shown that overusing external incentives may WEAKEN our intrinsic motivation (Stipek, 1996).
Are you following me?
That means the more you tell your kids “Okay, $5 if you finish your homework!” the faster they’ll get their homework done now – but the more they’ll hate it in the future.
So you’re actually weakening a person’s inherent ability to get motivated.
That means the more you’re rewarding yourself or punishing yourself, the less likely you are to intrinsically “like” an activity and keep doing it without earning money or getting a spanking.
This is why my #1 recommendation was to follow your intrinsic motivation.
Mental trick #3 – Believe you are in control.
Now this is cool.
Researchers wanted to figure out what separates highly successful, motivated individuals from people who weren’t so motivated.
Guess what was one of the top things they found?
It was an internal self of beliefs called “locus of control” which is quite simple.
If you believe life is out of your control, or things outside of you influence the trajectory of your life, you have an “external locus of control.”
If you believe life is in your control, and that you can control the outcome and trajectory of your life, you have an “internal locus of control.”
Can you guess which group was more motivated, happy and successful?
The internal locus of control group (Eccles & Wigfield, 2002).
And it makes sense, right? If you believe life is in your control, you’re likely to work harder because you know it’ll pay off and you’ll see results.
So here’s the thing: regardless of whether or not you believe it right now, I want you to do an experiment: for 60 days, tell yourself “I am in control, my life is in control, my happiness, health and wealth are all a reflection of my habits and in my control.”
Your motivation will change in a big way, and with it, your health.
The Magic Motion Pill
Motion (not just exercise) keeps you young, pain-free, and dramatically reduces your risk of virtually all health problems.
Whatever it is – just doing some light yoga, biking into town, or just gardening – it all counts.
But, if you do want a nice beginner’s workout to help restore some mobility to the body, here’s what I’d suggest.
Bonus: The Starter Workout (No Matter What Level You’re Currently At)
#1: If you can’t walk up a flight of stairs without huffing and puffing for a few minutes after:
- Walk 30 minutes
- Chair squats (3 sets of 8-12 repetitions)
- Pushups or Knee Pushups (3 sets of 8-12 repetitions)
- Mountain Climbers (3 sets of 20 reps)
(Do this 3x a week)
#2: If you can do at least 10 pushups:
- Walk quickly (or run) 30 minutes
- Jump Squats (3 sets of 20)
- Hopping Pushups (3 sets of as many as you can do)
- Jumprope Tabata (1-3 sets – total time for each set is 4 minutes)
(Do this 3x a week)
#3: If you can do at least 10 pushups and 5 pullups
4 sets of 8-12 reps each
- Dumbbell Bench Press
- Dumbbell Fly
- Pushups (3 sets until you can’t do anymore)
- Standing overhead press
- Lateral raises
4 sets of 8-12 reps each
The Secret to a Long Pain-Free Life: Movement!
One of the MAIN ways to fix (or prevent) chronic pain that results from a sedentary life is… *drumroll please*… movement!
Put your arms over your head. Do yoga. Crawl on the floor like a kid.
Sedentary life is deadly, there is no question about that.
The real question is this: what can you do every day, just a little bit, that will help feed your motion starved body?
- How to Work Out Whenever and Wherever You Want for more free workouts you can do at home, be it for aerobics or to build six-pack abs! ;)
- Healthy Living Challenge, with 14 tasks in 14 days to help you live a healthier life!
- Anti-Procrastination Program, your one-stop program to overcome procrastination for life (Premium program at Personal Excellence Courses)
Image: Free Digital Photos
About the Author: Alexander runs Modern Health Monk, a site that shows people how to reverse health problems caused by 21st century life. Check out his free weight-loss crash course, or recent article on fixing neck and shoulder pain for office workers.