Ellen couldn’t get herself to exercise even though she knew how good it always felt, and she couldn’t understand why she couldn’t stay motivated. Yet when she talked about her experience exercising at the gym, it became clear what was holding her back. She was excited and enthused when she was trying something new or mixing up her exercise activities. While her routine at the gym, which she did over and over was anything but exciting. It was boring, and she dreaded it.
She realized, as she talked about it, that she has always known that variety was important to her, but she had discounted it as being a flaw in her personality as she tried to be good and do the routine she had been shown to do. Ellen felt she needed to be more serious and dedicated to specific exercise workouts and had to stick with them to reach her goals. Yet each time she tried that, she would get de-motivated and quit just weeks after starting a new program.
The answer was in the very thing she was fighting: variety. If variety made her excited and enthused, then this was the perfect thing to leverage as a motivator. Instead of seeing it as a flaw, she could instead see it as an advantage. To accept this, she also had to change her belief that the only worthwhile exercising was structured, specific and needed to be done at least 3 times a week. That was easy; she was delighted to give up this belief. The idea of doing the same routine again and again was unappealing and de-motivating.
Ellen is like many other people who have the misconception that worthwhile exercise is a specific and fairly rigid work-out routine. While most fitness professionals encourage variety and mixing up exercises to make them more effective and interesting when working one-on-one with a client. It is more challenging to offer guidelines with lots of variety to those not working with a trainer or fitness instructor. Instructors know how to safely modify exercises or mix them up for greatest results for their own clients. When they can’t be there to guide you, all they can do is provide a structured set of exercises. This is why in magazines or online sites, the routines are very specific and you are given a recommended number of days a week to do them.
Yet, it’s ideal to mix up your aerobic and strengthening activities. Our bodies adapt fairly quickly to doing the same exercise in the same way routinely, which means you get less return for your effort the longer you do the same thing. So, to the amazement of Ellen and many of my clients, variety works to their advantage.
The same is true with food. Most people who like variety in their fitness activities, also like variety in their meals and snacks. Again, this can be used to your advantage. Plan for more variety and let the desire to try new things help you to expand your healthy choices.
3 ways to tell if you need variety to stay motivated: