Do you ever find that the hardest part of accomplishing anything seems to be getting started? Sometimes it seems that it takes as long just to start working on something as it does to actually finish it! This article was no exception. All day I’d been telling myself that I needed to write something, since there’s not much point in having a weblog with nothing on it, is there?

Just before 9:00pm, I was all set, psyched up and ready to write. But somehow, on my way from the kitchen to the computer – which in my condo is only about 10 feet – I managed to convince myself that I needed inspiration from Donald Trump and “The Apprentice”. Then I spent another hour trying to figure out if he’s got a bad wig or a bad combover – but I’ll leave that to the tabloids. So here I am at 11:30pm, just finishing my second paragraph.

For a lot of us, it seems the only time we get things done is in the face of a looming deadline. Would taxes ever get done if Revenue Canada didn’t say they had to be in? Since April 30th was on a Saturday this year, I put offfinalizing and submitting my tax return until May 2nd – I actually managed to procrastinate for an extra two days!

Even at my day job, I sometimes find that I need the pressure of something “urgent” to get me going. For whatever reason, it seems that I focus a lot better when there’s something that someone needs done right away. When I actually have a (very rare) day where nobody’s screaming at me to get things done, I find it hard to get focused and cleanup all those “little things” that have been on my to-do-list for months.

So, sometimes it’s hard to find the motivation to do the stuff that I get paid to do. How am I supposed to be motivated to do stuff that I should do, because it’s “good for you”, like – oh no – exercise?!. I always seem to have good intentions, but I’ve found it too easy to have weeks that go something like this:

Monday, 5:46pm: “Ohhhh, the World Series of Poker on TSN… Better try to learn something so my little brother doesn’t clean me out next weekend!”
Monday, 6:01pm: “Man, that guy has balls bluffing like that! I’m starving – 6 o’clock already? Time to get dinner going…”
Monday, 7:14pm: “Finally, all cleaned up… I’ll just check my email and skim the news, then head to the gym.”
Monday, 9:36pm: “9:30 already? It’ll practically be closed by the time I get there. I’ll just add a couple exercises to the next workout to make up for it.”

Tuesday: “Let’s see, no workout scheduled for today. I wouldn’t want to mess up this workout program that I’ve got going, so I’ll pick it back up tomorrow.”

Wednesday : “Mike! You’re in town? A couple beers after work? Yeah, I’m in! When and where? Alright, 6pm, Moose Winooski’s! See ya there!”

Thursday: “Man, rain again? I don’t want to run in this crap!”

Friday: “Hey baby. Yeah, it’s been a long week – we should take it easy tonight. How about we relax on the couch with some popcorn and a movie?”

Running001All of a sudden another week’s gone by without any exercise. I hope I’m not the only one who’s had a few weeks like that. It always seems like there’s something else to do, and the things that we “should” do keep getting pushed off. Really, the 1997 World Series of Poker is a can’t-miss TV event, and the 23 messages in my Inbox just had to get read right away. You’d think that I’d have learned that 23 new messages really means 22 spam messages, plus the one I sent myself from work reminding me to write something on my weblog.

Ok, ok – I’m finally going to get to the point. Most of us know that exercising is important, for both our physical and mental health. But how do we stop putting it off? There’s no law against skipping tonight’s run, and we aren’t going to be fired for not going to the gym. However, we have to try to find ways to get ourselves motivated to take those first steps. I’m going to share a few of the things that I have used in the past:

1. Create your own big looming deadline.

Last summer, I had been running off and on from May through August. I’d go twice one week, then do absolutely nothing for two weeks. My friend Jill was training for a half marathon, and as a warm-up, she was running a 15km race right here in Kitchener (the course actually was along part of my semi-regular running route). Somehow, two weeks before the event, she convinced me to sign up and run it with her – even though I hadn’t run in about three weeks, and don’t think I’d ever run 15km in my life.
Now, I’m pretty competitive, so signing up for a race gave me some real motivation, mainly just to not come in dead last. I think I ran just about every day in the two weeks before that race. When race day came, I was pretty satisfied with the results. For those of you who care, I finished in one hour and four minutes, which wasn’t too bad for my first race ever.

Anyway, my point is that we can create our own external deadlines to make sure we follow through on our exercise plans. Sign up for an event, whether it’s a competitive race or a charitable fundraiser. Having to participate in something will be a huge motivating factor! You’ll want to make sure you’re ready for it, and to be ready, you’ll have to get out and exercise!

How to choose an event? My advice would be to choose something that’s going to challenge you – but make sure you know what your limits are. For some people, it might be running your first marathon. For others, a 5km walk would be a good goal. And just because I talk about running, remember that there’s a whole world of sports and activities out there for you to try! Choose something that’s going to keep you interested!

Oh, and make sure that there’s no way that you can get out of the event without some significant penalties. Pick one with a non-refundable entry fee – that way you’ll feel like you’re wasting your money if you don’t do it. It’s just one more little thing to keep you committed – and the more things that motivate you to participate, the better!

2. Tell everyone you know about your goals.

Wait!! Before you go running off to sign up for that event, make sure you read the rest of this article. There’s a second step to be done after you’ve signed up for the event. Tomorrow, tell everyone you know what you’re going to do and when it’s going to happen.

Getting other people interested is good for us in a couple ways. Telling people about your event means that they’re probably going to ask how your training’s going. When event day comes, they’ll definitely want to know how you did. We don’t want to be embarrassed by telling people we’ve signed up for an event, then have to tell them that we didn’t end up doing it.

More importantly, other people can help us feel good about ourselves when we do stick with it. When someone asks me how my training’s going, I like to be able to proudly say that I ran 10km last night. Or if they ask how the race went, it’s great to be able to pull up the results (scroll down to 92nd place) on the web, and show them so they can see for themselves.

3. Do something. Today. Don’t wait until tomorrow.

Mark Twain wrote:
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

Sometimes getting in shape or training for an event can seem like a daunting task. I want to run a marathon – but I know I’m not in good enough shape for that. I figure it’s going to take a few months of pretty serious training. But I’ve got to start sometime, so it might as well be today. If I know it’s something I’m going to have to do, there’s no sense in waiting until the time is right to get started.

So try to take that first step. My first step towards running a marathon might be a twenty minute jog. For some it might be a ten minute walk around the block. Or a half an hour trip to that new gym down the street to lift some weights. But don’t wait until after tonight’s episode of 24, or until tomorrow when it’s supposed to be sunny, or until next Monday because it’s better to start on a Monday. Get out there and get going – take that first step today!

Part of the problem may be that we spend too much time trying to analyze what the first step is going to be. I find myself saying “Let’s see… if I want to run 26.2 miles, then I’ll need to find a training program, customize it to my schedule, figure out my diet for the next six months,…” – the list goes on and on. So I could easily spend weeks just trying to figure out what to do.

Really though, it’s not that complicated. To get in shape for a marathon, you need to actually run a lot of miles every week. Lots, and lots and lots of miles. So I’m definitely better off just getting off my ass and running for half an hour than spending it in front of the computer trying to figure out if I should be running for 3 miles or 5 miles on my first run.

Weights001Now, don’t get me wrong. I think planning and tracking your workouts has enormous benefits. My company even makes software that helps us do just that. But the time we spend planning our workouts should be a lot less than the time we spend actually doing them, and definitely shouldn’t be an excuse to put off a workout! So even if you don’t have it all figured out today, try to get moving and do something! As long as it takes you in the right direction, doing something, no matter how small, is always better than doing nothing at all.

4. Be focused on what you’re doing.

Over the last couple months, I’ve been trying to get my company, Podium Fitness Solutions, off the ground. There’s a ton of work that needs to get done to get things going.

Lately though, I find that I come into my office to sit down and do some work, and end up reading articles on the web, playing guitar, or downloading my latest favourite song. I think I’ve finally figured out why. I have no idea what I want to do when I sit down at my desk. It could be because my task list looks something like this:

1) Build the product
2) Find some people who will actually use it
3) Eventually collect some money from them!

This list is so general that I have no idea what I need to do right now, in the next hour, to move me closer to having a profitable business. So instead of focused, productive work, I end up spending a few minutes working on this article for my weblog, a few minutes working on my sales pitch to gyms, and hours trying to figure out what to do – which I’ve learned doesn’t happen with web surfing and guitar playing.

With my workouts, I’ve generally been very good about having a clear idea of what I was going to do when I got to the gym. I was lucky enough to get a lot of information during my football playing days, and was given some great training programs. When I got to the gym, I had a step-by-step plan for my workout that day.

I’ve tried to continue to keep that focus – when I go for a run, I make a little plan in my head of the distance I want to run, what my route will be (flat or hilly), and the kind of pace (easy or fast). When I head to the gym, I make a little list of the exercises I want to do.

Now, the last two points may seem to be contradictory, but they’re not. I’m trying to say that when you do go do something, decide what it is you’re going to do, and focus on doing just that. Go to the gym today – and while you’re driving there, make a mental list of the exercises you want to do. You’ll be able make the most of the time you spend there.

Taking the first step is often the hardest part of accomplishing anything. But think about it this way – once you take the first step, then things can only get easier. Now I’ll let you going and sign up for that first event!


2 comments untill now

  1. […] Now that I’ve got that out of the way, on to my real post. I’m finally going to take my own advice, and have decided to enter the Peterborough Sprint Duathlon in two weeks. Now, I still haven’t actually signed up, but I promise to do that by the end of this week! I’ll be sure to post when I do! […]

  2. […] Dan’s Triathlon Journal Swim, bike run… Read about my triathlon adventures! « Motivate Yourself to Get Started Working Out! Cycling Survival! » […]