What motivates you to get or keep fit?
You may be surprised to know that the two most powerful motivators in getting or keeping fit are FEAR and GUILT. Are you surprised? The times of the year when guilt and fear rear their persuasive heads is less surprising....*drum roll*...the end of Spring and New Years Eve!
FEAR: When our health deteriorates we instinctively seek to gain back control. Our anxiousness drives us to sign on the gym contract's dotted line and we enter a 3 month period of fear-fueled determinaton.
GUILT: 70 - 80% of us never return to the gym for the duration of our contract, incredible figure! Those that do return often do so out of guilt! A re-awakening of the promise we made on New Year's Eve or the guilt associated with wasted gym payments or our friends comments about redoubling their efforts to get back in shape – don’t confuse guilt with determination.
Does it really matter? Do we really care what propels us back into a mindset of health and fitness? It’s a good question, fear and guilt are certainly powerful motivators, but surely we can do better! There must be a way to create sustainable levels of health and fitness in our lifestyle that don’t involve bullying ourselves!
Well for some of us who love working-out, going to the gym, attending boot camp, running half marathons or playing competitive sports there is little need for badgering. These people seem to manage their personal or family wellness year after year. However, I would hazard a guess and say these people are in the vast minority. For the rest of us, we need to find powerful and frequent sources of inspiration or motivation to improve our lifestyle behaviours – welcome back fear and guilt.
Wow, that just seems so dire! Surely we can be inspired by people who have successfully changed their own behaviours; surely they can persuade us to improve our own?! Well of course they can, for a few days, weeks goodness maybe even months! But inevitably we need to find the trigger within ourselves.
Watch children play and ask yourself what’s their motivation? How do they play with such enthusiasm for such long periods of time? Think outside the obvious answer of “..they’re kids, that’s what kids do!”, true, but what motivates them? Could it be as simple as it’s just fun?
Okay, so kids play, that’s no revelation but think about it, they play to explore their imaginations, to socialise to investigate new possibilities and they have a LOT of fun doing so. Fun and Play are inseparable. So let’s link them together with a game and let’s control the game with our body. Now we have an extremely powerful combination of motivators:
Exergames are unconcerned with age, ability or fitness levels. They are made to benefit everyone. So now Fear and Guilt can be removed from our list of motivators. We can now feed our willingness to improve our wellbeing through positive measures, brilliant!
Fun is a terrific word, unfortunately its meaning has been diluted through overuse and misuse. For adults, fun isn’t as ‘fun’ as it used to be. Media and advertising have adopted the word to sell everything droll and boring. TV Shop fitness equipment ads are a perfect example. The latest Ab machines are promoted as “the best ever”. They are all easily setup, hit every muscle group, get results in minutes and pack away in seconds and they are all fun - NO, THEY ARE NOT!
I was fooled by a slick TV Shop presentation years ago and went ahead and bought a Chuck Norris endorsed contraption. Did it work? Yes it did, badly. It was built poorly of low quality materials but it did what it said. Was it fun? Absolutely NOT! It was uncomfortable, it took up a lot of space and it was boring. The best workout I got was carrying it from the Post Office to my home over 1 km away, nearly killed me, that wasn’t fun either!
Promoters love using the word ‘fun’ to peddle their wares. Fun has become a lightweight, insincere and superfluous word indiscriminately thrown into any and all product advertising. It’s like white noise, we hear it but it doesn’t hold any value, which is a shame because it’s our best ally in changing our wellness habits.
So it’s time to give FUN back its true worth and power. Next time you embark on your journey to the gym for weights, treadmill running, rowing or a Power Pump Aerobic class, take note of:
- How many times you smile,
- How often you laugh (genuinely laugh)
- How much of the time were you immersed in the exercise, the world disappeared.
- Did the time just fly past
- Was the exercise easier than you expected
You must have fun to make these behavioural changes stick. Work doesn’t have to be fun, cleaning the house doesn’t have to be fun, but damn it, getting fitter to improve the quality of your life MUST be fun, otherwise you simply will not sustain the effort.
Challenge yourself to seek activities that are Fun. If you have trouble accepting this, introduce a second word to add credibility - Serious. A suitably adult word. Let’s put it together with our new favourite word and we get - Serious Fun.
What’s your immediate reaction? I would hope you are smiling and taking that smile very seriously. I want you to believe that fun is acceptable, in fact it is mandatory and further to that, we deserve it! So tomorrow, chose activities that make you smile, laugh and immerse you in that moment as if you're watching an entertaining movie.
Don’t underestimate the power of Fun.
The true test of an exercise or fitness program is not feeling satisfied, pleased, nicely tired, suitably fatigued or utterly smashed you can achieve those results running on the spot or do endless burpees. No, the true worth of a fitness program is your willingness to do the program again and again, day after day and year after year. When an activity is fun, we do it willingly and we do it frequently.
Make your fitness fun and don't accept anything less. If you're stuck for ideas, send me an email and I'll do my best to get you sweating and laughing in equal measure :)