Tag Archives: Motivation

How to Encourage Someone Else to Start Exercising

No, this post isn’t about cajoling, bribing, manipulating, or otherwise pushing people to do what you want if – or even because –  it will be good for them in the longterm.

Not only is this kind of behaviour completely ineffective, it’s also destructive regardless of whether it’s happening between friends, relatives, or romantic partners.

The decision to change one’s habits for the better is something that every adult has to decide to do for themselves.

I won’t lie to you. It’s difficult to make big, permanent lifestyle changes. The only way these changes will stick is if the person who is trying them is genuinely committed to the process.

With that being said, there are a few things you can do if there’s someone in your life whom you wish would start exercising for the sake of their own health.

Be a Good Example

I walk briskly for about an hour every day. I also lift weights and occasionally dance or do yoga as well. When I invite someone to do something active with me, it’s always for activities that I’ve already been doing and deeply enjoy.

If you want your loved one to start taking better care of themselves, showing them how it can be done is one of the best things you can do. Words are cheap. Months or years of quietly demonstrating how to fit exercise into your life is a much better motivator from what I’ve observed.

Ask Them About Their Goals and Interests

One of my neighbours regularly goes to the gym, and his hours of weightlifting have changed his physique in all kinds of healthy ways.  I’ve been quietly impressed with how dedicated he is to growing stronger and building some serious muscle.

Feeling better was one of my biggest goals when I first began exercising again regularly a few years ago. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I was tired of feeling rundown. While I definitely wanted to lose a little weight at the time as well, having more energy, sleeping better, and eventually not getting sick as often were what kept me going before the numbers on the scale started to budge.

If you can figure out what your loved one would like to change about their life and what kinds of exercise they do (and don’t!) like, you’ll be able to suggest some routines that would help them reach those goals.

Keep It Fun

One of the things I love the most about living in Toronto is how easy it is to walk everywhere. Everything I could possibly need or want is within walking distance of my house: grocery stores, salons, movie theatres, parks, medical clinics, museums, and the library. I could easily go weeks without needing any form of transportation other than my own two feet when the weather is mild. Sometimes my spouse and I entertain ourselves simply by taking a long walk when we don’t know what else we’d like to do.

Of course, not everyone lives in a neighbourhood like this one. I’ve lived in suburban and rural places in the past, and I know how much that can affect someone’s daily routine.

The basic principal remains, though. Exercise doesn’t have to be something you tack onto the end of your day. There are many different ways to weave it into your routine in all kinds of fun ways if you think creatively about it. For example, I have a relative who lives so far out in the country that there aren’t any pizza places that will deliver food to them. One of the things her family likes to do is walk half a mile or so down the road to visit another relative of ours every day.

Even small amounts of exercise like that can really add up by the end of the day or week, and they won’t feel like work if you’re doing them to get to somewhere fun.

Back Off

This is by far the most important step in the process.

Adults have the right to run their own lives however they see fit. Once they know that you’re interested in working out with them, it’s up to them to decide when and whether this might take place.

Think of it the same way you do when you give a gift to someone. Once you’ve handed it over, what they do with it is something only they can determine. They might use it forever. They might use it someday when they’ve realized how valuable it is. Alternatively, they might decide it isn’t the right thing for them and never use it at all.

It’s okay to invite them to do a specific activity every once in a while, but that’s as far as I’d go unless they’ve asked you to invite them to work out more often than that. Let them think about it. They’ll either decide to take you up on your offer or they won’t.

Either way, it’s out of your hands now.

Things Nobody Told Me About Getting Back Into Shape

I was in great shape in my early to mid-twenties thanks to a physically active job I had back then that kept me running around all day. As my routine shifted over time, though, I found myself gaining weight and losing some of the strength I had built up.

My wake-up call came several years ago when I caught one cold after another. There was a stretch of about four months when I was either coming down with a cold, actively sick, or recovering from a cold. It might have been a string of bad luck, but I took it as a sign that something had to change.

There are some things I learned along the way as I got back into shape that I wish I’d known from day one. Today I’m going to share them with you.

The Beginning is the Hardest Part. 

Starting any new habit is tough. This is even more true when it involves something that leads to sore muscles and moving a body in a way that it isn’t accustomed to moving.

There were a few days early on when I stopped 5 or 10 minutes into a routine and counted that as a workout for the day. The next time I went back to that video or set of exercises, though, I made it my goal to last one minute longer than I had the previous time I’d tried it. I was often able to push through and stick with it much longer than than my original goal had been because almost anything is endurable for another sixty seconds.

It was honestly as much a mental challenge as it was a physical one in the beginning.

Your Diet Matters

What you eat and drink affects how you perform. For example, everyone needs to be careful to consume enough water or other fluids when they’re exercising outdoors in hot or humid weather.

I’ve also found that it’s easier to get through a workout when I’m comfortably full but not overstuffed. A bowl of oatmeal or some hardboiled eggs give me the healthy boost of energy I need to get in that final rep or those last few minutes of cardio.

Yes, I did have to make some changes to my diet in order to get healthier. This isn’t something I spend a great deal of time obsessing over, though, and I still have treats. They’re simply chosen a bit more carefully these days, and I don’t have them as often as I used to.

With that being said…

The Scale Only Tells a Small Part of the Story.

One of the most frustrating things for me when I first started exercising regularly again was not seeing any change in the number on the scale. I wanted to lose some weight, but my results bounced around in the same general area from one day to the next.

What I learned is that the scale only tells a small part of the story. For example, everyone’s weight shifts a little from one day to the next. I’ve had days where I magically “lost” or “gained” 5 pounds or more simply based on when I weighed myself, whether or not I’d eaten anything before stepping on the scale, how recently I’d used the bathroom, and how much salty food I’d eaten in the previous 24 hours.

So now I pay attention to the scale only if the number on it trends up or down for a prolonged period of time. It is one way to keep track of your progress, but there are many other questions that are also important to answer.

Is your clothing getting looser because your body fat percentage is changing even though your weight has remained constant? Do you have more energy? Are you now taking the stairs instead of the elevator sometimes (or usually!)? Have you finally moved up to a heavier set of weights or a more challenging workout in general? Did you finally figure out how to use that complicated piece of gym equipment that you thought you’d never bother trying?

Or, my personal favourites, are you catching fewer colds? Are you recovering more quickly from them? I still get sick a few times a year, but it doesn’t happen as often these days and my colds don’t last as long as they used to.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve never been able to get into jogging despite liking the idea of it and trying multiple times to enjoy this form of exercise. I didn’t like how uncomfortable it was to catch my breath after a few minutes of jogging or how jarring it was to my joints.

Obviously, this isn’t true everyone. I have a friend who enjoys jogging so much that they train for and compete in marathons.

I know other people who can’t do any vigorous exercise at all due to certain health conditions that restrict how their bodies are able to move. A few people that I’ve known have noticed a difference in their abilities from one day to the next. Sometimes they have more stamina than I do, while on other days they get worn out easily.

You’re the only person who can figure out what kinds of exercise work best for you. It can take a lot of trial and error, but at some point you’ll find the right activity.

It Gets Better

All of your hard work eventually pays off. My life has changed in many small but important ways since I started exercising again.

The first benefit I noticed was that I was sleeping a little better. I used to have some trouble relaxing and falling asleep, but that started to change for the better once I became more active.

I’m more willing to try new things now than I was several years ago. My confidence that I’ll eventually master them has grown and continues to grow.

My posture has improved. This one is a combination of having a stronger core, feeling better about myself, and having more practice with moving my body in ways it hadn’t moved in quite a while.

I have more energy, too.

Regardless of where you are with your fitness goals, keep plugging away at them. It gets easier as you go along!