Finding Your Mojo: Creating the Motivation to Exercise


I love exercising!  I could quite happily train all day, every day.  Even when working full time, I train twice a day.  I’m not saying this to gloat.  I realise that for a lot of people this is not the case. I hope that by having this discussion I can maybe help you to find the thing that makes you want to exercise.

I’m not going to go into all the science about what happens in our brains, dopamine, endorphins and all that guff.  We all know that exercise makes you feel good.  But that’s only if you can persuade yourself to exercise in the first place! I call that Mojo!

Here are my tips for finding your Mojo:

Find a reason to train

I don’t just mean set goals, I mean work out what it is you are hoping to achieve and what this means to you.  For example:

  • Losing weight could mean that you gain the confidence to do something you have been too shy to do or wear the dream outfit you have seen
  • Better health may allow you to enjoy a better quality of life in some way
  • Meeting new people and widening your circle of friends might be important to you if you are lonely
  • Endorphin spikes may help you to manage low mood

You could try writing your reasons and goals on a piece of paper, being really specific and personal to yourself. Keep them somewhere where you will see them every day and every time you are talking yourself out of a training session ask yourself: “ Will not hitting this session enable me to achieve my goal”?

Find something you enjoy

I hate rowing machines – they make my back hurt. Therefore, I don’t use them and guess what?  I don’t feel bad about it either! However I do love running, cycling, swimming, weight training and walking so that’s what I do. There are so many options for exercising available to us nowadays, it’s so much more than dragging your butt to the gym. There is dancing, Zumba, walking, CrossFit, team sports, rowing, fencing, HIIT classes, hashing, orienteering, martial arts  – you name it, you can find it!  So have a think about what it is that you are going to enjoy.

Make the time to train

Easier said than done I know.  I totally get that.  Especially, when you have family or work commitments. But you owe it to yourself and your family to find time each week to exercise. Every weekend I schedule the time in my diary, according to what else I have on that week.  I physically write in what I am going to do, when I am going to do it and specifically what type of session it will be.  That then becomes a non-negotiable, permanent fixture. To make it quicker for me to do this I have a training plan leading up to my goal so I know what sort of sessions I need to do that week and then I just have to fit them around life.

Look out for my forthcoming article on training for time pressured people – you can sign up to email alerts on the right hand side of this screen so that you know when I have posted.

 Find the right time of day for you

When are you at your most alert, most energetic and best at making decisions? That is probably the best time of day for you to train.  If you absolutely can’t get out of bed before 7.00 am then trying to train at 5.30 am probably isn’t going to last long.  And likewise if the toys come out of the pram by 8 pm you are better off training earlier!

Make sure you have enough energy to train

Trying to train if the last thing you ate was an apple 5 hours ago is not going to be that enjoyable.  You need to have some fuel in the tank.  However, see my article Fasted or Non-Fasted Training – When should I Eat? for more information on this.

If you are training straight after work then make sure you have a healthy afternoon snack to prepare you for this.

Be organised

If you are having to rush around at the last minute trying to find kit, decide what you are going to wear, making yourself late and, when you get to where you are going you are stressed and have forgotten your water bottle, training is not going to be enjoyable or sustainable.  I have a dedicated training bag to keep everything I need in. E.g. washbag, towel, locker money, trainers, water bottle, energy bar, gym pass etc.  I have my clothes ready in my bag the night before.  Then all I have to do is roll out of bed get dressed and go, if I am training in the morning.  Or if I am training after work I just pick up my bag, put it in the car and I am ready to roll. When I have a really busy week coming up I get all my kit ready, in piles on the floor for the whole week!  This way every day I spend a minimum amount of time on training prep and can just hit my sessions without really having to think.  I’ve even done that with work clothes but that’s another story!

Treat yourself

There is nothing like a nice training outfit and a nice training bag to help on your way with training.  They don’t have to cost loads of money.  Infact Primark do some OK training wear!  So make yourself feel special and give yourself a reason to look forward to training.  The two things I would recommend that you invest a bit more in to ensure good quality and comfort are a decent training bra and trainers.

Make it a social commitment

Train with a friend or a group or club. There are so many out there that are low key, not overly competitive and welcoming to newbies.  Once you are looking forward to seeing your friends, having a laugh and catching up on gossip you look forward to training.  Or if you can afford it find yourself a personal trainer.  They will soon become your friend, mentor and sometimes agony aunt and an important person in your life.

Gradual Exposure

Don’t make the first few times hard! Start gently, make it realistic, achievable and take the time to enjoy it.  For example, running:  you don’t have to run for an hour on your first session! You could just aim to do 10 mins for your first 3 times. That’s 30 minutes of exercising in a week that you didn’t do last week.  And those 10 minutes will soon become 15, 20 and then 30 and before you know it you are running a 5K. I thoroughly recommend a walk/run strategy and will be posting about this soon!

Gradual exposure also helps you to avoid injury by building yourself a solid base to work from without stressing the body too much too soon.

Track your gains

Make sure that you not only track your weight but also keep a record of what you do in each session.  So many times people have said to me “that session was really hard, I’m rubbish, I’m not making any progress” when it turns out that they have just trained harder than they have ever trained before (OK that was actually me)!  It’s very easy to lose sight of what you have achieved and to become despondent. Having a written record is really useful to remind yourself how far you have come. Also track your health symptoms and mood and other measures that are relevant to you, so you can see all of your improvements.

Set a Goal

You don’t have to be competitive to set a goal, enter a race or competition.  The beauty of entering a race or competition is that you make a commitment to yourself and you follow a plan that enables you to do the very best that you can (whatever that is) on that day.  And you get to do it in a really fun atmosphere with lots of like-minded people, many of them who will be first timers just like you, you make new friends and you may even get a free t-shirt!

If entering a race/competition really isn’t for you then why not make a commitment to yourself, set a date for achieving it and have a friend or family member support you on the day. Just make sure they buy you a t-shirt too!

Make it as easy as possible for yourself

By this I mean all of the above.  Plus, think of things that will make it less difficult for you to talk yourself out of it. E.g. I find that if I train first thing in the morning and I literally roll out of bed and go, then I am out and training before my brain has even realised what is happening.

If I am training after work then I don’t go home first. It’s too easy to flop on the sofa if you are tired and then too difficult to get yourself back out again. You can flop after you train!  Just finish work and go is my advice!

Be kind to yourself

Never and I repeat never think you are too fat, too unfit, too rubbish, too slow. The very fact that you are getting your butt out there and hitting the session means that you are totally amazing, because there are so many people out there who aren’t trying. I have absolute respect for anyone who exercises, no matter what they do, how fast they go or what they look like. Congratulate yourself after every session. That might sound silly but it’s similar to something I do when I am racing.  I congratulate myself for surviving each discipline of the triathlon!  I actually say “well done girl” to myself and have a virtual high five and crack on with the next one.

My Personal Mojo:

  • The buzz I get from being in the fresh air
  • I am able to get all my thoughts in head in order and destress
  • The laughs I have with the people that I train with and the friends I have made
  • It gives me the confidence that I can run/fight my way out of danger if I had to
  • I get to eat more
  • Body confidence
  • It makes me feel healthier
  • I have achieved things through training that I never thought I could
  • I just generally feel like a bit of a hero

I train by this mantra:

“Today I will do what others won’t so that tomorrow I can do what others can’t”

Jerry Rice (former American footballer)

I would love to hear what gives you your mojo.  Comment below and get involved!

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