As I write this, it's 3 degrees in Louisville, KY (windshield of -16), with at least 3" of snow or ice on every runnable/ridable surface, and I'm in dire need of logging some miles...
Though, that is not what's stopping me from logging those much needed miles. I could very well pull out some of my expensive gear, layer it up and lace up my cleated winter shoes with the knowledge that I'll be satisfied & thawing out about 45 minutes later. But instead, I'm staying inside and writing a blog post that probably only my wife will read out of pity.
This battle, like all day to day decisions, is waged by motivations. Today, the motivation to stay warm and comfortable edged out my motivation to progress my fitness. If it's not the cold, it's the heat, or sleep, or TV, or the newest limited edition barrel aged beer or the...well, you get the idea. There will always be counter-motivations distracting you from being fit and healthy.
At any given time, you have at least 2 motivations duking it out like a couple wolves. We'll call them your "Fitness Wolf" and your "Couch Dwelling Wolf". The wolf you feed will almost always win because it's the strongest. The more it wins and the more it's fed, the stronger and more victorious it gets.
The trick is actively feeding the Fitness Wolf, the one that motivates health and fitness, and not the one who makes excuses to be inactive & eat crap.
Different things motivate different people, but to get you started here are some of my Fitness Wolf's favorite meals:
There is nothing more motivating than another person (or group) in the trenches with you, cheering you on when you succeed and riding your ass when you slack off. For me, my wife motivates me in this way, she's not always out on the trail with me, but she always encourages me to get out there and doesn't pull punches when i'm lazy. Plus, you know, I wanna keep looking good for her ;)
I also have friends I train with on a regular basis. We compete with each other and know we're in for it if we stand each other up.
A personal trainer or fitness studio with small group training (like, shameless plug, BAREfit) is another great option. Working with a fitness profession whose job is to motivate and equip you toward fitness is hard to beat, and having a scheduled session adds to the priority of exercise. This option also brings money into the picture to the effect that your wasting money when you don't exercise.
Signing Up for a Race/Event
This gives me something to train toward and makes my goals more concrete. As soon as I see a race I want to do, I sign up for it. The longer you wait to sign up, the more excuses to not do it pile up (and so does the entry fee). True story. When your just training for the sake of training, its easy to go through the motions and not challenge yourself. The knowledge that you have to reach a certain level of fitness by a certain date will make you work harder. Not being prepared for a race and then getting eaten alive is no fun. It's like when your a kid and touch a hot stove for the first time, you learn your lesson! Only your mommy won't be there to kiss it and make it better.
Maybe your not into mountain biking or trail running or other official races/events.... Well, make your own! Find something you want to do better (like doing 3 pull-ups or climbing a 5.10 route), set a realistic date, tell everyone you know about it and do a countdown on your calendar.
Taking Advantage of Social Media
If half of social media is cats and babies, the other half is fitness. There are so many people posting daily motivation, personal progress and unique exercises. First, find which app you want to use, my favorite is Instagram for its minimal clutter free interface, ease of sharing and ridiculous number of users to follow. Follow people with similar goals, on similar fitness journeys, or with fitness levels you want to aspire to. There are several online lists of best fitness Instagram accounts that'll give you a good start, from there you can search hashtags (i.e. #functionalfitness #barefitlife #pullup) and see who other fitness users are following.
Some of my current faves are: captainstefano (my straight up doppelganger), hunterfitness, progressive_calisthenics, explorekentucky, and the_southern_yogi (bonus points, she's a local).
Don't forget to post your own pictures, videos, goals etc. Knowing your followers are cheering for you will motivate your to reach those goals.
You know those guys who have the $1000 watch that tracks literally everything down to how much they sweat, or instal a power tracking hub/crankset that costs more than a complete bike? I am not one of those guys. I am not so much about numbers as I am about enjoying the run/ride/etc., but I still track basic metrics like mileage, speed, pace and time along with how beautiful the trail is.
In order to know how far you've progressed, you need to know at least the basics of where you started. The results of not doing any stat tracking is similar to not having concrete goals, you feel you are going nowhere, get discouraged and are prone to give up.
Smart phones and better, cheaper GPS watches are making it easier than ever to track your basic stats. My favorite free option (assuming you have a smart phone) is STRAVA, a running and cycling app with a really good interface and some cool social motivational features. If you don't want to dig you phone out to check your pace or if you, like myself, want to unplug as much as possible during exercise, a GPS watch is the way to go. My current favorite option is the TOMTOM Multisport. A full review is in the works, but in short, it's easy to use, not bulky and it tracks running, cycling and swimming, where most GPS watches will only track running.
and this too...
Videos like these get me hyped up and make me want to get out or else. Find videos or music or pictures or whatever, that hype you up again and again. Then take advantage of them liberally!
Now, grab a friend or 2, sign up for a race with them, post about it & your training schedule on Instagram then go out for a run/ride/climb/etc. On your way out boot up STRAVA to track your baseline performance and cue up your favorite motivational playlist.
Don't be afraid to combine your positive fitness motivations into a well balanced meal of motivational goodness. Unlike villains in old kung-fu movies, your negative motivations will not attack you one at a time. The more positive motivations you have in place the better your chances are to follow through with your fitness plans and reach your goals.
Again, these are the things that motivate me not a comprehensive list, everyone is unique in their motivations so share with us in the comments what gets you motivated...