11 Ways I Got Going When Willpower For Physical Activities Was Low

I’m no fitness inspiration but I get in 3 sessions of physical activity almost every week. In this article, I will share 11 tested and proven ways I got myself some exercise even when I didn’t feel like it – try them out and see if they work for you.

1) Know Why You Want To Exercise

I started exercising because I was skinny and scrawny. I wanted to beef myself up to look better – I thought it was embarrassing that I couldn’t even complete 10 push ups.

As vainness slowly lost its appeal on me as I grew up, the main reason I exercised became to maintain my health and fitness so that I can hopefully continue to do most of the things that I am enjoying now in my youth.

How to know why you want to exercise?

Come up with the strongest reason you can for you to start exercising.

Your reason for exercising will likely differ from mine. But all that matters is that it is a good reason for you now.

I found that as I kept going, my reasons either strengthened or withered off and evolved into something entirely different so don’t worry about it, just come up with the strongest reason for yourself to exercise and make use of it for as it works for you.

2) Decide To Exercise Regularly

When I first started exercising, I couldn’t even do 10 push ups. Now, I can do about 50 push ups no problem – the transition of capacity from 10 to 50 push ups started when I decided that I will exercise regularly.

It wasn’t a complicated decision – I just planned out in my head that I was going to do push ups every day until failure and kept executing my decision until the point where I have the ability to complete 50 proper push ups.

How to decide to exercise regularly?

There are 2 parts to deciding to exercise regularly:

  1. Decide what regular exercise means to you – every day, every 2 days or even once a week?
  2. Decide what exercise you will do when the time comes for you to exercise – push ups, jumping jacks or maybe rope skipping?

Keep your decision simple sustainable to follow and you will find it easier for you to exercise regularly – this will largely depend on how seasoned you are as someone that exercises.

Hint: If I’m just beginning to exercise, “50 push ups, 20 jumping jacks and 10 laps around the stadium 3 times a week” is probably too complicated and unsustainable for me to keep up regularly. Remember, the keyword here is sustainability for sustainability builds success and thus, confidence.

3) Make Exercise A Priority For 1 Week

I had experienced periods of my life where I exercised a lot and periods where I rarely engaged in any physical activity.

As I reflect, I find that I spend time and effort on the things that I see as a priority. Sometimes, those priorities no longer contribute positively to my life, but I still cling on to them because I’ve already settled into a routine.

During periods when I exercised a lot, I found that it was because I made exercise one of the main things in my life.

During periods where I rarely exercised, it was usually because other things in my life have crowded out exercise.

When I become aware that exercise is no longer a strong priority in my life, I do a reboot of my priorities over a period of time, usually over 1 week.

How you can make exercise a priority in your life?

Complete whatever needs to be done and plan to set aside 1 week of your time where exercise becomes a main thing in your life, mark it down on your calendar – this helps to perform a reset of your priorities and helps gain some momentum to keep physical activity a consistent part of life.

4) Just Exercise For 5 Minutes

When I find myself completely unmotivated but that I had already planned in some time to exercise, I make it a point to get in a quick session of exercise.

In moments like this the quote “it doesn’t matter how fast you’re going, as long as you do not stop.” comes to mind.

Better to get in some physical activity than to have no physical activity at all.

How can you apply this?

Come to terms about your current level of willpower for exercise. You may not have the willpower to run 10 laps around the stadium, but maybe you have the willpower to run half a lap, then just do that for today.

Look at what your immediate exercise goal is and reduce it until it is something that feels manageable to you.

5) Envision A Healthy Future You

During exercise, when I find myself beginning to doubt why I should put in so much effort, I start to think of the things I can do in the future if I kept being consistent about exercising.

I spend a few moments picturing in my mind things like having the strength to carry my grandkids in the future, keeping trim and fit and being able to move about freely even in old age.

It’s a bit wild because I’m relatively young, but it sure does give me the extra boost of motivation I need to complete my exercise routine sometimes.

How can you apply this?

During times where your willpower/motivation is a bit low for exercise, spend a few moments to picture in your mind things in the future that you can only do if you had a healthy body.

6) Envision A Unhealthier Future You

When envisioning a healthier future you doesn’t work, I find envisioning an unhealthier future me often does the trick.

I picture a worse case scenario, unfit, diseased version of myself 10 years down the road as consequence for not exercising regularly – sounds morbid, but sometimes a scare is what need to get myself going.

7) Break Your Own Records

The shortest time that I took to run 1.75km is about 9 minutes. The timing is nothing to brag, but it pushed me to my physical limits.

These running sessions where I challenged myself was torturing, but I was so motivated because I looked forward to breaking my limits each session.

How can you apply this?

Whatever is the main exercise that you engage in, see if you can increase the difficulty with each session that you go into.

This can be in terms of the number of repetitions, the time it takes for you to complete your laps or the distance you go when you run/swim/bike.

8) Find Someone To Exercise With You

A good failsafe I’ve found to continue exercising in my life is to enlist exercise buddies.

It won’t work every time – there will be times when the both of us don’t feel like exercising but I certainly came across multiple times where I didn’t want to exercise, but followed through because I’ve already had an appointment to exercise with my exercise buddy.

How can you apply this?

See if there are any friends in your life who exercises regularly and lives in close proximity to where you live. Try to set up a mutual commitment where the both of you commit to exercising regularly.

9) Change Into Exercise Clothes The Night Before

There were times when I made it a routine to exercise in the morning before work/school. During those times, I found it helpful to change into my exercise clothes the night before.

This saves me the trouble of looking for my exercise clothes, thus making it easier for me to get started exercising and helps to remove my strong inertia of not wanting to exercise especially when the bed is warm and cozy.

How can you apply this?

Put on your exercise clothes (including your socks) and prepare everything you need for exercise (keys, money, earphones etc.) before you go to bed.

10) Set Up Exercise Session Goals

Setting up exercise session goals is about defining success for yourself for every exercise session that you get yourself into – is it 10 push ups, running for 5km, or getting your heart rate up to 80% for 30 minutes?

Unlike point 7 about breaking your own records, setting up exercise session goals is not necessarily about challenging yourself. These can be goals that just aim to maintain your current level of fitness.

How can you apply this?

Mark down in your calendar your next exercise session and put down under the notes section exactly what you want to accomplish during the session to consider the session a success.

11) Track Your Physical Activity

Knowing exactly where I stand with my fitness helps me have solid ground to plan my next move to improve/maintain my fitness level.

To know exactly where I stand with my fitness, I find it helpful to track my physical activity in 2 ways:

  1. The details for each exercise engaged in (Track your exercise as you are exercising. Most smartphones these days would be able to do that for free)
  2. A general overview of when I engaged in exercise (You can give yourself a general overview of when you engaged in exercise by downloading a free habit tracking app.)

How can you apply this?

Track your exercise as you are exercising and after you have exercised.

You may find this article I wrote after testing some free habit tracking apps useful.

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