The Psychology Behind Staying Motivated

Put your hand up if you believe that exercise is good for you, keep your hand up if you always plan to exercise every week, keep your hand up if you always do the exercise you plan to do.

Are the hands still up?

The University of Birmingham Sport’s Performance Centre offers holistic support to elite level athletes including sport psychology to help them to stay motivated. Yes, even elite athletes have days when they don’t want to get out of bed to go and train! So here are three top tips from Sport Psychologist, Hannah Brooks, for getting and staying motivated to train, whether you’re a beginner or an elite athlete.

1.Set an outcome goal

Have you ever found yourself asking: ‘why am I doing this?’ Think about a time when you were trying to motivate yourself to get out of bed on a cold morning to go to the gym before work. If you knew why you were leaving that warm, cosy bed, it would be much easier to do so. Whether your aim is to lose weight, complete a 5k run, or squat your own body weight; having a goal can be hugely motivating.

These types of goals are called outcome goals and by having one of these you have your reason to get out of bed! I often tell athletes to write their goal down and stick it on their wall, or on their ceiling, so they get a visible reminder of what they are trying to achieve; something that is impossible to ignore, even at 6am!

2.Process goals 

It’s great to have an outcome goal, but there is another important type of goal – the process goal. Process goals help us to determine exactly how we will achieve our outcome goal.

For example, if you have never run before and you decide you want to run a 5km, first give yourself a time frame to do this in, find a race on a certain date, and mark it in your diary, then work out how you can get there. For example, you may want to increase your running distances slowly building up to that 5km. You might also want to add in a yoga class or circuit training to help with body strength and preventing injury.

Planning out the steps that you will need to take to reach your goal and creating a time frame to take those steps will help you structure your exercise effectively and provide a purpose for completing each session.

3.Plan for challenges

We can make a goal and plan things to a tee but it’s likely that everything won’t run completely smoothly all year round. So, it’s important to think about what might go wrong before it happens!

If you know something that might stop you exercising, create a plan of action.

For example, if you planned to do a bike ride outside but you wake up and it’s pouring with rain, what will you do? If you struggle to get to sleep and don’t want to get up to go to the gym before work the next day, what will you do? If you get stuck in 5pm rush-hour traffic and miss the start of your exercise class, what will you do?

Of course it is not possible to plan for every potential or possible scenario, however, if you think logically I’m sure you can come up with some common problems that you face and that may on occasions stop you from completing the exercise that you intend to do.

So, in a nutshell, to keep yourself motivated, think about what you want, how you are going to get that and what might stop you getting there! Don’t forget to enjoy it along the way!

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