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Lost your mojo? It’s easier to find than you think.

By Davina Donovan

It is a strange and confronting time. Some of your most favourite comforts have closed; some of you are working from home on top of homeschooling kids; others have lost businesses and jobs. On the other hand, some of you will been unaffected and are, in fact, loving the slower-paced life. It is a time of contradictions.

However, one thing that most of society have in common right now is a lack of motivation to exercise. The beloved gym has been shut down and it is becoming increasingly difficult to work, study, educate the kids and workout from home. Similarly, during times of stress, self-care practices are usually the first to go: sleep, exercise and diet (think extra wine and chocolate, more tech before bed, and no exercise). While on a rational level, you may be able to identify that you need to exercise and that you can feel the effects of the last 2 months; on another level, it is hard to get up from the warmth of your bed; do the daunting task of finding clothes and actually putting them on; and then bracing the world to get a sweat up. And for what?

You may have moments of inspiration when you see an Instagram post or someone running past when you hop up from your desk to check the fridge, again! You think: “yasss!! I’m going to exercise. Let’s do this. Whoop!”. You start planning your activewear outfit (*cough, cough, AT of course) and you may even go as far as browsing the internet for comfortable exercise mats or online workouts. But, we have all been there: that motivation quickly wanes when life happens. The kids need feeding, again; work demands creep in, or that wine bottle needs opening. Say bye to that fleeting motivation. It becomes a distant memory, only to be sparked again when the next Fitspo pops up on your screen. Motivation and inspiration that comes from watching someone else achieve something is referred to as passive inspiration. Research published by the APA* indicates that passive inspiration is short lived and completely unreliable. This means that the Fitspo you are following is probably not doing anything to actually earn at least half of what their title claims. So what works, you ask? Ultimately, you are best placed to search for the thing that works for you and then stick to that. If you do not yet know what that is, here are a few tips to get you closer to becoming the Fitspo that others are passively inspired by!

Seek extrinsic (external) sources of motivation first. Some lucky souls can decide to get fitter and healthier and then go on to achieve their goals. Simple as that. We all have that friend who says, ‘I’m going to do a marathon’ and then, in fact, runs the marathon (just for fun). Us mere mortals, however, need an incentive or a reward. So, ask yourself: ‘what will get me up today and ensure that I will follow through with this plan?’, and ‘what’s in it for me?’. Rewards and incentives usually have you avoiding something uncomfortable or gaining something pleasurable.

Here are a few common incentives you may be able to relate to.

Avoiding the uncomfortable:

  • Letting a friend down
  • Another conversation with the doctor about heart health
  • Huffing and puffing to walk up stairs

Gaining the pleasurable:

  • Being complimented on how well you look
  • Being able to run around with the kids
  • Being a part of a community

The next step: consider ways you may be able to avoid or gain one of the dot points above. For example, if letting a friend down is against your ethos, then contact said friend and arrange to meet for a workout knowing that if you cancel, you have let your friend down.

Now, here is the most important part. Establishing extrinsic motivation is only half of it. Really, what these extrinsic factors do is they propel you to take immediate action. Research published in the International Journal of Sports Psychology suggests that once you take that first step, and you start to feel the benefits that follow, you no longer need the incentive. The fact that you feel good and proud of yourself means you have built an intrinsic (or internal) motivation system. In other words, you do not need to be worried about letting your friend down to kick your butt out of bed. Instead, you bound out, activewear ready to go, because you feel good and happy by the act of exercising. And the best part – once intrinsic motivation hits, habits follow!!! So, reach out. Find that friend or join that workout group. Use something external, first, as your propeller and then watch the rewards naturally appear as they continue you forward.

APA* : America Psychological Association