Struggling with motivation? We've consulted leading experts for their top tips to help you reach your goals.
Make sure your goal is relevant and real
Researchers looking at the links between motivation and successful long-term health and fitness claim that if dropping a dress size is the only drive you have then it is far less likely to happen. “People are motivated to do things for different reasons,” says Dr Andrew Manley, a lecturer in sport and exercise psychology at Leeds Metropolitan University. “But there’s plenty of evidence to show that those who take up diets and exercise purely to lose weight, get into an outfit or reduce the size of their bottom will find the goals are self-limiting and that they will eventually give up.” According to Dr Manley, dieters who are fixated with obtaining a celebrity-style body or downsizing their shape are often doomed to failure because, as a motivational force in themselves, these goals are inadequate.
Do it for you
Don’t be swayed by fitness fads or preferences of friends, says sports psychologist Dearbhla McCullough. “Find an exercise regime that you enjoy and stick with it,” she says. “Set goals that are specific, measurable and realistic with distinct time boundaries, not one big goal that can be overwhelming. For example, the goal might be “I want to run a 5km in two months’ time”. But intersperse that with smaller goals en route to your main aim — you will run three times a week to achieve that and will run 2km without stopping by the end of next week.” Pin your main goal up on a noticeboard or on the fridge where everyone can see it. “Detail all of your exercise in a diary so that on tougher days you can look back and see how far you have come,” says McCulough.
Listen to music while you work out
When Professor Andy Lane, a sports psychologist from the University of Wolverhampton, looked into the effects of music, he showed it helps to regulate positive and negative emotions in exercisers. And extensive research by Dr Costas Karageorghis, a sport psychologist at Brunel University, has shown performance benefits of up to 15% in some people. “As well as enhancing performance, music lowers the perception of effort” Karageorghis says. “It dulls or masks some of the pain associated with training. We know from scanning the brain that when athletes are played loud upbeat music there is an increase in activity in the ascending reticular activating system.”
Putting things off is one of the most common reasons for fitness goals falling by the wayside, says sports psychologist Dr Josephine Perry of performanceinmind.co.uk. “A lot of people make the mistake of procrastinating about whether they should go to the gym or for a run, or they faff around with kit and trainers so much that they talk themselves out of doing anything,” she says. “Just get out of the door and do something without overthinking it.”