Perhaps my biggest personal fault (at least from my own perspective) is that I have a very hard time committing myself to an exercise routine. I know how to get into shape (I was actually in very good shape at about age nineteen), but that was actually fueled by other personal issues going on at the time, as I dealt with some hard feelings through intense exercise. Now that I (largely) feel good about myself, I have a much more difficult time convincing myself to exercise and stay in decent shape.
One obvious solution to this problem is to get a personal trainer whose job it is to motivate me. The only problem with that is that I’m a rather frugal person, so I’ve been researching alternative ways to get motivated without the cost of a personal trainer. Here’s what I’ve found.
Find a friend or relative willing to participate with you. You can mutually motivate each other, particularly at first, by exercising and eating together and communicating a lot. My best option for this is clearly my wife, and we’ve been discussing things along these lines for a while now, such as switching to a vegetarian diet at home and having one of us exercise while the other watches the kids.
Eat healthy in ways that are pleasurable for you. One easy rule of thumb for me is to ask any vegetarian friends you might have for their tastiest recipes. Almost always, these recipes are healthy and I’m often shocked at the tastiness, considering that my earlier impression of vegetarian food is that you’re sacrificing flavor for healthiness.
Look for a package that has a built-in motivator. The item that comes to mind here is Dance Dance Revolution, which includes a workout mode and is essentially a game that enables you to burn calories in the privacy of your own home. There are lots of little motivators that one can use, but this one works most effectively for me. The start-up cost with this is a bit pricy, but it’s always there for you, while a personal trainer has a constant upkeep cost.
Keep careful track of your data over time. For me, there are few better motivators than a lot of data that confirms that I am moving in the right direction. A month of very healthy living might burn me out, but if I can look at my stomach and see a bit of change, then look at a graph of the data and see a definite downward trend in my weight, I feel much more motivated to get out there and do it.
Read inspiring stuff. I find it very useful to regularly read, hear, and see inspirational stories about how others have done the same thing – heck, that’s part of the reason why I started The Simple Dollar. I usually try to read a bit from my favorite diet/healthy living books each night, just a page or two to keep my mind on the right track. Yes, I have several books that I read a bit from each night for inspiration.
Visit weight loss and healthy living blogs. Similar to the logic behind inspirational books, I also read a number of health-related blogs written by real people facing the challenges I’m facing. Some of my favorites include Lazy Man and Health and The Tao of Good Health.
Use pictures of myself in the worst possible shape. I have a couple pictures of myself where my weight looks pretty awful, and those pictures bother me quite a bit. Rather than hiding them, I use them as motivators, keeping one in my pocket and another one as my desktop image on my computer. They make me feel a lot of emotions, but generally they encourage me to take action to never look that way again.
What all of these ideas have in common is that they’re not expensive – and they work. In fact, these techniques largely work for any long-term goal that requires a lot of little steps along the way. One just needs to find the little things that helps one stay motivated.