Saturday, January 29, 2011

Simple Steps to Add Motivation

It’s the end of January and a time when, for many of us, the enthusiasm generated by our New Year’s resolutions is wearing off - or maybe it’s already gone! So how to keep motivated and continue focusing on fitness and healthy habits when it’s cold, snowy and dark outside?

This has been an ongoing challenge for me, not just in the misery of January but even in the pleasure of beautiful October weather (I live in Arlington, Virginia - summer is not a time when I consider the weather to be beautiful!). To counteract this and achieve my sister’s projection that 2011 is going to be “the year of Michele”, I’ve been spending some time lately reading different resources, participating in webinars, talking to friends, and developing some new systems that seem to be working for me. I’m not yet back to my best level of motivation or consistency but these ideas and practices are helping me to make some positive steps. And each positive step is one step closer to the me that I intend to be.

Technique #1: Daily Motivational Quotes - I’m sure there is some new, fancy, high-tech way to do this but I’m using a pretty old-fashioned method. When I read something that touches me and that I think will help me to remain positive or motivated or focused, I write the quote down on a 3 by 5 notecard. I keep these notecards in a desk drawer and each day, I pull out my pile of cards and read the top quote. I usually post that quote to Twitter or as a status update on Facebook. I like sharing them with others and seeing their comments. I also like having that extra level of interaction with the quote. It helps me spend a little more time with the quote and think about it a little more.

Technique #2: Schedule Workouts on Calendar - I have seen this suggestion so many times but have always ignored it. ‘I work part-time and have a flexible schedule, I should just be able to fit in my workouts when I want to.’ Doesn’t that seem like a reasonable statement? Sadly, that never seems to work as well in practice as it does in theory. So instead, every Saturday or Sunday evening, I look at my calendar for the upcoming week and schedule my key workouts on my calendar. It’s actually working really well so far. Other than the week I was sick, I have done every scheduled workout. Maybe not quite when it is scheduled but either earlier or late the same day.

Technique #3: Nightly Thankful - This may seem a little less specific or even a little flaky but it helps with having a positive attitude. Every night when I first lay down in bed, I list at least one thing from the day that I am thankful for. Sometimes it is a great workout. Sometimes its hanging out with a friend. Sometimes it’s enjoying a blue sky while I walk the dog. Sometimes its a positive conversation as part of my job search. Whatever it is, it forces me to focus on a positive at the end of the day rather than focusing on any negatives, stresses, or things that I need to do. If it’s been a bad day, this can be hard to do but I have decided that it is important to always find a positive and I am going to stick with that goal. Another technique that I have read of but haven’t adopted yet is related - it is to start each day with a gratitude list. The technique is that before you even get out of bed in the morning you list several things for which you are grateful. I like the idea: why not start and finish the day with a reminder of your blessings.

Technique #4: One Thing At A Time - In the past, I’ve put together ‘ideal’ training plans. And then I’ve promptly failed to follow them. So I’m not doing that this time. I have put together a year overview which takes into account my goal events. And I have mapped out key workouts in each sport to prepare me for those events. But I’m building up to that ‘ideal’ training plan. Just like always, my training plan incorporates 4 week training block and each block has a focus. My first block for this year (which actually started in late December) was a swim focus block. My focus during that block was fitting in two swim workouts per week. Anything else was a bonus. And I managed to meet that goal. Which then gave me a sense of achievement that built into the second block, which I’m in now. This is a bike focus block. So now, in addition to those 2 swims per week, I’m fitting in a long bike ride as my key bike workout each week. Again, that is all I’m requiring of myself. The next block will be a run focused block. Again, I’ll make sure I do my key run workout each week. By that point, by focusing on one thing at a time, I’ll have established a strong habit of swimming, biking and running each week. And I’ll have the sense of accomplishment necessary to successfully move on to the next ‘one thing!’

These are the techniques that I’m currently using and I’m pleased with the results so far. Next time, I want to write about the techniques that I’ve heard of or read about and am thinking about incorporating. I might even include some that I don’t think will work for me if I learn of any of those.