Forward, 30 Seconds at a Time


The struggle is real. You hear me? The struggle is real.

Though certainly not isolated, that one morning two months ago is burned onto my mental hard drive. My alarm clock had rudely interrupted the few short hours I had spent horizontal, and as I stumbled into the bathroom to get ready to go run, the tennis match began.

“You’ve only slept a few hours. You should go back to bed.” “If you just get ready and go, you’ll be glad you did.” “Yeah, but you’re pretty consistent with this exercise thing, so not doing it today isn’t going to make much of a difference. Go back to bed.” “But you look forward to catching up with friends and the support they give. Hurry up. Get ready.” “But it’s supposed to be cold today. Might even rain. Really. Get more sleep.” “Come on. Don’t be soft. Two hours from right now, you’ll be thanking yourself. Now go.” “Ok, go ahead, but…wait, where are your gloves? You’re going to need them. Well, you’re probably not going to be able to find them, so, you might as well go back to bed.”

It was beautiful. Thirty seconds of unglamorously sitting on a closed toilet seat, staring at the wall, listening to the silent battle, nodding as both sides made excellent points. In the end, I’m happy to say, I got up and went. And am glad I did.

Here’s the deal…if you struggle with motivation when it comes to staying consistent with physical activity and good health habits, welcome to the club. In fact, I don’t think the motivation issue ever disappears. And yet here’s the good news: While an ever-present part of the equation, we can learn to improve our ability to win the motivation wrestling matches.

Here’s how:

  • Plan ahead now how you’re going to mentally react when the battle begins. Script out three or four things you’ll say to yourself (out loud if you have to) when the 30-second struggle begins. Don’t enter the battle unprepared. Physical progress begins with mental progress and mental progress begins with proactive preparation. Any battles, especially mental ones, aren’t won accidentally. We have an infinite capacity to rationalize. Scripting makes rationalization tap out.
  • Have people expecting your involvement. Even better than progress is shared progress. Even better than commitment is shared commitment. When the audience size of our commitment increases, so do the chances of reaching our goals. Get around people who are committed to and enjoy the same activity you do, and then make yourself accountable to them. I’m utterly convinced that, of all that we can do to succeed in making progress toward our physical health goals (and enjoy doing so), having someone to help us get there is at the top of the list.
  • Lay out your workout clothes the night before. Whether your plan includes morning activity or not, get your wardrobe prepared the night before. Here’s a dirty little secret: I lay out my running clothes the night before, in the order they’ll go on my body. Yes, my OCD tendencies are on full display with that admission, but so is the reality that anything I can do ahead of time that makes saying yes to what’s best, easier, is time well invested.
  • Celebrate big-time when you see someone else making progress in their physical activity. I’m a runner, so I’m in awe of elite marathoners who finish 26.2 miles in a couple of hours. But my admiration is even greater for the big guy I saw running down my street the other day in the teeth of winter. For the slightly overweight woman slowly making her way on a running trail the other day. For the elderly man I saw lifting one weight at the gym. Getting after it, regardless of body shape, pace, age or weather, is incredibly motivating. So tell someone how proud you are of their achievement and commitment. With every step, they’re winning the battle. And that’s worth celebrating. And remembering, next time your battle begins.

Finally, something to tell yourself in the midst of your next thirty seconds:

This struggle is predictable and expected. I’ve got a choice to make. Choosing to not get moving is going to feel more comfortable right now but will probably bring later regret. Choosing to get moving now is going to be harder, but later on I’ll be glad I did it. I choose to be active. Now.

The struggle. It’s real. But you can do it.

2 thoughts on “Forward, 30 Seconds at a Time

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