Just do it?

Winter is coming. Mornings are cold, and I gotta admit, I am getting lazy.

As the days get shorter every year, my motivation to be active does the same…I become less and less active until Spring arrives.

Part of this is the business of Winter. Hockey starts, school ramps up, my job is busier, too cold to run outside, etc. etc. But if I’m going to be honest, my lack of activity lies in my motivation.

via flickr by Sean Lloyd

The last few weeks I have given a lot of thought to my personal motivation. What has kept me running and working out this year and why do I gear down as the weather gets cold?

I started exploring by asking others what their motivation is.

Whenever I see a patient who has made radical changes in their lifestyle for the good of their health (eg: losing weight, quitting smoking, etc.) I always ask them what motivated them to change. I also asked various pharmacists and physicians what they thought the biggest motivator for healthy changes was. And yes, I asked friends and Tweeted it out as well.

Most responses landed in the realm of three main motivations.

1. Vanity

Undoubtedly the most popular reason people try and stay in shape. We want to look good and be attractive. When I asked Yoni Freedhoff about the motivation of his patients to lose weight, he replied that most say it is for health but he undoubtedly thought that vanity won out.

2- Health

Everyone knows that if you maintain a healthy body weight and keep your heart and lungs challanged with regular exercise you have less chance of developing diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and even cancer. I have seen patients come off a lot of medications after losing a significant amount of weight and incorporating exercise and healthy nutrition in their life.  Sometimes this comes as a medical “wake-up call”.  We all desire a long life and often are motivated to change when we truly realize that our lifestyle affects our health and life span.

3-For Others
Each of us have people in our lives that we love and want to be with for years to come.  Many people have told me that it was the birth of their child, a partner becoming healthier, or the realization that if they continued with their present lifestyle they would be reducing their own quality of life and potentially the years they have to be with those they love.  They want to see their children and grandchildren grow up.


My own motivation? A mix of fear and vanity. I have (for no particular reason other than knowing the statistics), a fear of breast cancer.  And I know that if I stay active my chances of developing cancer or of surviving a diagnosis both go down.

As for the vanity…..I do enjoy it when my clothes fit, and I’ve discovered that I also really like feeling strong.

So…..my love-hate relationship with my treadmill continues and I have given thought about how to keep from talking myself out of exercise.  Because really, I can always find an excuse not to do it!

To stay motivated I set goals for myself. They must be Achievable  in order to gain success.  And they must become more challenging over time. ie: Incremental. And since I hate the feeling of disappointing myself I usually work at reaching them.

Additionally, I have made an agreement with a friend involving regular exercise. It never hurts to have someone else to be accountable to….and someone to encourage you when you start coming up with creative excuses to not do it!

I would love to hear about what motivates you.