Sunday, December 31, 2006

Motivation Tips for the Weary Resolution

It’s the beginning of the year and time for all athletes, noncompetitive or competitive, to assess what they want to accomplish for the upcoming year. The start of each year is when your motivation is high and training is fresh and fun because you feel that this is the year that all your goals and resolutions will be accomplished. Unfortunately, statistics show that the majority of you will break your resolution before April and resume the same lifestyle you had before you made the resolution to change. So, the $64,000 question now is how can you maintain these feelings when the weather turns sour, your social commitments interfere with your goals, and work begins to sap the last bit of energy you have left? Unfortunately there is not a magic motivation pill to take, but with understanding of where you are at in your training and by creating the proper motivation and focus towards your resolution, it is possible to reach your goals and consistently and maintain your motivation despite any adversity that you may face.

No matter what your motivation is, everyone reading this blog falls into one of five stages related to activity. The first stage is the Precontemplation Stage where for various reasons you have no intention to be active in the next six months. If you are seriously considering becoming active in the next six months then you are in the Contemplation Stage. In this stage you are planning what it is you would like to do, possibly dust off your old runners, and become an “imaginary athlete” where you do everything but get out and exercise. The third stage is the Preparation Stage where you have finally entered the active world, but not on a regular basis. This is a very inconsistent period where you are active sporadically and get little or none of the benefits that exercise has to offer. When you finally are active on a regular basis (3 times a week for 20 minutes or longer) you have entered the Action Stage. While this stage allows all athletes the physical and mental benefits of exercise, it is the most unstable phase of the five. Within six months, roughly half of all participants will drop out of their program and drop back to the Preparation Stage or quit all together. For those of you who make it past the six month mark you have entered the Maintenance Stage. Minus time off for injury or any other unforeseen breaks in the action, now you are on a path to maintaining your swimming and an active lifestyle for a life span.

Knowing which stage you are in is an important start for everyone because it allows you to look at your current activity level and develop your plan. Getting to the Action Stage of exercise is easy; it’s maintaining that effort and staying active that is more difficult.

Motivation is the intensity and direction of one’s effort, and in order for this to be successful you must create your own personal motivation. Your own personal motivation is essential to making it into the maintenance stage, and while others may help you along the way, you will not stay there if you are not internally motivated to do so. Internal motivation can be created by:

  1. Using of visual cues in your everyday life.
    When you get home from work exhausted from being on your feet all day and the first thing you see is your couch you are likely to sit on it. The couch as your visual cue pulled you towards it consciously or not. What would happen if your exercise gear was on the front seat of your car or the first thing you saw when you got home? Visual cues are instant reminders of what it is that you would like to be doing or what you would like to achieve.

  2. Use contracts, it is a positive way for you to commit yourself towards remaining active.
    This is especially important for the athlete who is in the Preparation or Action Stages of exercise. Having a contract to become active three times a week forces you to take ownership of something that you have committed to. It is also a way for you to involve other people into your training, which is a proven way to increase adherence levels for someone just getting started, or starting over.

  3. Variety in training is essential in keeping motivation high.
    Spice up the way you train. Focus on speed, endurance, different muscles, and technique. The key is to have something to look forward to when you go to exercise, if you don’t have a purpose behind what you are doing then it is likely that you will not go after it with as much motivation as you would otherwise.

  4. One of the most successful skills in creating motivation and increasing adherence levels is goal setting. In order to make sure that your goals have the ability to be successful, use the SMART goal setting principle:

Specific goals are goals that are obvious and directed, in a positive way, towards what you want to achieve.
Measurable goals are goals that can be put into a number or percentage so that you can track you progress easily.
Adjustable goals are goals that can be made easier or more difficult so that your motivation can stay constant.
Realistic goals are goals that are challenging but not impossible.
Time Based goals state a timeline for accomplishing your goals (days, weeks, or months).

Motivation can be maintained when properly created. You need to find out what motivates you and then create your own personal plan. Using cues, contracts, variety in training, and goals are all suggestions that can assist the process but it is ultimately within your power to meet your training needs. By recognizing the many benefits an active lifestyle contributes to your well being, you create the ability to adhere over time and maintain your ability to be active for a lifespan. Good luck and have a great 2007.

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