It’s never too late to start exercising and reap the benefits. But if you’ve recently started to train and then stopped because of feeling not really motivated to work out, then maybe you have overlooked the first step to fitness consistency: your “why?”
It’s that heart-lead desire that set us up to win and ironically involves no real physical activity at all. It simply requires answering a well-asked question: why does this matter to you? It’s a figurative exercise rather than a literal one, and as everyone’s motivation is different but still extremely important when setting goals for health and fitness, you need to find out what’s yours.
Your why is your definite driver, the thing that touches you deep down in your soul, giving you the motivation and drive that ultimately gives you hope. When you discover your fitness why, everything else falls into place. It’s like a domino effect that makes creating and following that fitness plan effortless and easier, helping you feel better quicker.
However, figuring out what you want so passionately that you’re willing to change your actions is not that obvious, especially in midlife when exercise might not make the priority list.
According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control nearly half of middle-aged American women are not exercising enough to keep their bodies strong and healthy. The same in the UK. Research from the University of Essex found women to be 34% less likely to do enough strength training and meet overall exercise guidelines compared to men, while adults aged 50 to 65 were less likely to do enough exercise compared to younger people.
There might be several barriers to exercise. “Midlife is a busy time,” says Margie Lachman, a professor of psychology at Brandeis University and director of the Boston Roybal Center for Active Lifestyle Interventions. “Typically, people in this stage of life have multiple roles and they are multi-tasking like crazy, working, raising children and sometimes also caregiving for older parents, not to mention other responsibilities they might have in the community. Sometimes, they may also feel guilty doing something perceived as taking time for themselves, versus working late or spending more time with family.”
These obstacles – while disheartening – don’t have to be insurmountable, though.
There is a general thought process that says people either move toward pleasure or they move away from pain. Usually, when it comes to fitness, we don’t move away from pain, we tend to be driven away from it. The pain of not feeling good or not having the energy, the pain of having too much weight or not being able to do the things we want to do. Time and time again, I see people trying to find reasons from a place of pain, looking to escape that place – but with no real direction of where they want to go.
The truth is, it doesn’t have to be that way. What if, rather than hurrying to escape your pain, you looked ahead to this place of optimism and pleasure? What if your why became moving towards that place?
Take a minute or two and really think about your answer and also ask yourself what are you actually going to get out of becoming consistent with your fitness? You might do it because of your family and you want to be able to be there for them in the long term, or you might do it because you simply want the freedom that feeling good gives you, or because you want to do everything on your bucket list. Maybe it’s just because you want to look better.
Whatever your reason for exercising, you need to find a why that’s worth waking up for because when you focus on moving towards what you truly want – rather than away from where you are- you become empowered.
So, for example, if previously your motivation for getting fit may have been: “Because I’m too weak, I need to lose weight, or feeling old”, once you find your true why, your perspective will change and your reasons for working out will be: “Because I’m going to be able to do so much more with my life, I’m excited to be stronger or I’m going to feel energised“.
Basically, you can change your approach to fitness if your why becomes important and visible to you. If you are consistent with your exercise, there’s no doubt that you and your body will feel better and stronger even if the scale hasn’t moved as much as you hoped. Remember that by finding your why and acting on it you will have embarked on a long term journey which may take a little bit of time to get used to but, ultimately will take you to the place you really want to be.