Monday, January 07, 2008

Getting Motivated

It's that time of year again....when thoughts turn to the inability to fit into one's pants....

I've been working out sporatically since Grad School. For the past 3 years - workouts have consisted of occasional spurts of self-motivation (mostly working out at home) followed by long stretches of inactivity.

OK - so it's pretty apparent that self-motivation can be a tricky thing. I need some form of accountability to get off my butt and do something healthy.

It can't be my boyfriend whining about how fat I've gotten (which he thankfully hasn't done. He wouldn't be walking among us if he had...)

It can't be Mom bragging about her weight loss (I'm proud of her and thrilled to see her so happy, but part of me still wonders if an alien has invaded her brain).

It can't be my friends (most of whom also work out sporatically and help me engage my vices).

Nope - has to be an external, objective source. Preferrably with a balance of punishment and reward.

In answer to my prayers, my workplace has started participating in The President's Challenge. The motivator here is that I don't want to embarass myself in front of my new co-workers. There is also some sort of reward system attached as well - though I'm not entirely certain what the reward is yet.

The program is the adult version of the Presidential Physical Fitness Award . Instead of being forced to run 400 meters and banging your head on the floor performing sit-ups as fast as you can, you have to log how much exercise you have done in a day and how strenuously you exercise. The goal - 5x per week, at least 30 minutes per day.

The emphasis is on just getting out and doing it. The second level is for those who are already active and disciplined.

As I decided to participate, I realized that my biggest motivational problem is that I don't have any concrete goals (besides wanting to fit into my jeans again). I'm not overweight - more out of shape. And setting goals like "I want to be able to throw the average body weight of my graduate committee 15 feet" just doesn't work for me anymore. Without goals, I find it very tricky to benchmark my success. Without those benchmarks - it's tough to stay motivated. And those benchmarks have to be worthwhile and achievable.

The President's Challenge provides both a goal and some accountability.

It's one thing to do something because "it's good for you." But that often isn't enough for an activity that takes longer than a couple of hours. Think about the success of your "voluntary" eLearning initiatives. Heck, think about the success of the "mandatory" ones. What's really motivating them to finish the course?


Karyn Romeis said...

I reckon companies could do a lot to help motivate their staff to keep in shape... after all, it's in their best interests for their staff to be healthy.

When a congestion charge was begun in London (you have to pay a charge to drive into the city), some organisations within the congestion charge area provided showers at work to make it more viable for people to cycle to work.

My own place of work is within walking distance of a pool and a gym, but there are fees to be paid at both of those. The company does have a deal with a chain of gyms for reduced membership rates for staff, but sadly, that chain doesn't have a branch near our offices.

However, on our premises is a large sports hall (think school gym, without any of the equipment) which we are free to use from 12-2, and which we can book for a fee at other times. Some of our guys play 5-a-side football (soccer) there on Friday nights.

Before my knee packed up, I used to love to go for a run around the beautiful park next to our offices at lunch time. It was just about a mile and a half, which meant I could fit in a run, a shower and lunch all within one hour.

Like you, I need to re-examine what I have allowed to happen to my body since starting my Master's degree programme. Unlike you, I am overweight. Not by an enormous amount, but I'm carrying more than I like to, and this must change. This must especially change before we visit South Africa in April and I see my sister for the first time in 5 years ;-). She has a personal trainer and a personal nutritionist and she looks fantastic... especially considering that she just became a grandmother!

Wendy said...

Ease of access makes a big difference. That's what's been so great about working for a decent sized university - the facilities are so close and so cheap it's harder to slack off.

Reading your comment, I was reminded of another motivator for my new focus on fitness - my 20 year high school reunion. YIKES!