Are you looking to make your occasional strength class or Sunday spin session a regular ritual? Many casual exercisers want to sweat more often, but they struggle with finding the workout motivation to make fitness a part of their daily routine.
Conventional wisdom hasn’t been particularly helpful in figuring out how to get in the groove and become that person who says, “I’ll meet you for brunch later. Gotta fit in my run first.” You’re told you have to “want it” enough. Or that you have to do something 21 days in a row before it becomes second nature. But what do you do on the 29th day when it’s cold outside and you’re dying to skip your run and sleep for another hour instead?
Fortunately, economists and psychologists have been studying how to crack the code of what compels us to repeatedly do something we don’t always want to do. Here are some of their best strategies.
Sure, some people might be motivated by vague goals such as “better health” or “weight control.” But if that’s not doing it for you, journalist Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business advises making the benefits of working out more tangible, such as by treating yourself to a smoothie or an episode of The Leftovers afterwards.
“An extrinsic reward is so powerful because your brain can latch on to it and make the link that the behavior is worthwhile.”He describes creating a neurological “habit loop,” which involves a cue to trigger the behavior (setting out your spinning shoes next to your bag), the routine (making it through spinning class) and then the reward. “An extrinsic reward is so powerful because your brain can latch on to it and make the link that the behavior is worthwhile,” he explains. “It increases the odds the routine becomes a habit.”
Over time, the motivation becomes intrinsic, as the brain begins to associate sweat and pain with the surge of endorphins — those feel-good chemicals released in the brain that are responsible for that “I-feel-freaking-amazing” rush you get after a great gym session. Once you’ve trained your brain to recognize that the workout itself is the reward, you won’t even want the treat.