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Finding Your Exercise "Why"

What’s the hardest part of exercise? It’s not the sweating. It’s not the sore muscles. It’s not even getting up early to make the 6 am boot camp class.

Nope, the hardest part is motivating yourself to actually do it, day after day, month after month, year after year.

I’ve been there. Oh, how I’ve been there.

My exercise routine

When I was a young person, I didn’t really exercise regularly at all. Sure, I’d go for a hike here or there, and I definitely rode my bike quite a bit, but I didn’t play sports and didn’t think of myself as athletic.

By the time I was a senior in college, though, I managed to make exercise a regular part of my life. Like many people (I suspect), I started exercising regularly because I wanted to lose weight. I’d gained some after all those years of living on sugary cereal and pizza for every meal, and exercise helped me get back to my high school weight.

After that, exercise was just a regular part of my life. What I did change over the years (sometimes I walked every day, a couple of times I trained for half marathons, I’d try various exercise videos, sometimes I’d join the local gym), but I was consistently exercising 4-5 times a week for pretty much all of my adult life.

Lack of motivation to exercise

Then, at 34, I had a baby.

I know there are some mothers who manage to get right back into the swing of things and back to their regular workout schedule soon after their kiddo is born, but I was not one of those people.

In fact, my daughter is five now and it's only recently I've been able to get into a routine that feels good for me.

The reason is simple: lack of motivation. Okay, and time. But mostly it’s the motivation thing.

How to get motivated to exercise?

So I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, how did I get on track the first time, all those years ago, and how did I get back to a place where I’m exercising regularly without even thinking about it? And if you’re trying to figure out the same thing, how can you do it?

Why exercise?

For one, I think we all need to start with our “why.” Without it, excuses appear instantly. Back in the day my why was weight loss, but these days I’d say it’s to gain strength. I’m turning 40 in just a couple of months, and I know my muscle mass will decrease more and more if I don’t start focusing on building it up.

Your why might be similar. Or it might be weight loss. Or because your doctor told you some really scary reasons that you better get moving. Or that you want to set a good example for your kids.

What exercise?

Once you’ve figured out a why that actually makes you want to lace up your sneakers, only then is it time to focus on the what. If you’d choose a root canal over running on a treadmill then that’s not the right exercise for you. You should go for something that makes you feel alive, or is fun, or lets you connect with your friends.

Group classes, sports teams, walking or running clubs, anything that gets you around other people might be for you. Or perhaps you’d rather work out in the privacy of your own home to a video. Just look around and find something you can actually see yourself doing.


Another factor that may help is accountability. Even if it’s as simple as texting your friend to say that yes, you did wake up this morning and go for a walk, at least someone is on your journey with you and can ask you what’s up if you skip your exercise sesh.

Celebrate accomplishments

Lastly, consider bribing yourself, at least in the beginning. Did you meet your exercise goals for the week? Great! Go get that pedicure/new video game/insert thing you really want here. Just don’t, I repeat, DON’T reward yourself with food.

Once you’ve discovered your why, found something you like, and get in the habit of exercising on the regular, it really will become a habit. Trust me, I’ve done it before and I know you can, too.

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