It’s natural to go through the motions of an exercise routine. The brain can relax when it’s on autopilot, but the body doesn’t always benefit without new stimulation. Whether you want to push yourself more or just need to mix up your fitness regimen, check out these five proven ways to make your workouts more effective and fun at the same time.
Social support is a term defined by psychologists that explains why fitness with friends is so powerful. It facilitates meaningful accountability. Having encouragement from people you like and trust is priceless. Spending time with them influences your behavior positively. If you’re more of an introvert and like privacy, one workout companion will suffice. If you lean toward being extroverted, get involved with a group.
Write down the names of a few people in your life who are active and get in touch with them. Make a date! If you want to make new friends, explore local exercise classes by searching the newspaper, visiting a fitness center nearby or perusing bulletin boards in your community. Like-minded people help keep you on track.
Another psychology term, self-efficacy, is behind this strategy. It’s different than self-esteem, which defines your feelings of self worth. Self-efficacy is a belief in your ability to do something, such as walk two miles or run a marathon. When numbers are recorded, there is hard evidence of effort! Keeping track of daily steps, caloric intake and energy expenditure are all ways that people monitor their progress. Seeing the numbers enhances self-efficacy by rewarding you for pursuing new challenges.
As a bonus, share information with a partner. Smartphone apps such as S Health for android phones or Health for iPhones are an interactive way to track progress and accomplishments. Connecting with family and/or friends who are far away or on different schedules than you makes exercise more meaningful .
Do you like competition? It can be with yourself for a personal goal or with others. If you’ve got competitive drive, this works like a charm for getting more out of your workout time. Your self-efficacy is enhanced because achievements fuel a belief in personal ability, which invigorates your efforts.
Sign up for a run, bike race, obstacle course or Ironman competition. It’ll give you a goal to train for, increasing your drive to put forth effort. If you prefer to compete with yourself privately, try setting a goal such as jogging four miles by adding a one-quarter mile every week. Or try swimming a mile (1,600 meters) without stopping, by reducing the amount of breaks needed each time you visit the pool. Remember to track the progress.
Donate Your Workout
A charity walk or run is a non-competitive way to participate in something larger than yourself. Some of us find motivation by contributing to the greater good. It’s a win-win! Create social support by inviting a friend, family member or group from your office to join you. Make it a team effort. Contributing to a cause benefits your health and spreads good vibes throughout the community. It also provides meaning for exercise, making you more likely to stay on track and work harder.
Get Tuned In
Music is a powerful motivation tool. It keeps you on pace, passes the time and affects your overall attitude. Your heartbeat is the most primal rhythm on the planet. Set its pace for your cardio with your favorite tunes. Smartphone apps such as Pandora, Spotify and Songza have moods you can select to feel “energized,” “focused” or “confident,” and they’ll choose the playlists for you.
Spotify also has a feature that matches music to your running pace. You can set it to choose songs for your natural rhythm and increase the beats per minute to get you to a faster speed.
Be cautious, however, if you combine headphones with outdoor workouts. Always be aware of your surroundings. Tuning in to your own heartbeat or the rhythm of your feet hitting the ground is also an effective way to stay on pace.