How to Get (and Stay) Motivated to Workout After 50, 60 and 70

You’ve been alive long enough that there was a time we thought exercise was optional. You were around when Jim Fixx wrote The Complete Book of Running, and also when he died running. Then Kenneth Cooper wrote Aerobics and opened his clinic, and Covert Bailey wrote Fit or Fat. It used to be just the geeky runners in Nikes and too-short shorts. You could spot them anywhere. In 2020 we’re a nation of yoga tight-wearing women such that you would think everyone exercised. It’s not just acceptable, it’s recommended for everyone, and it’s hot. If you workout and it’s changed your life, you like to talk about it. If you want to age well, you better get well.

motivated to workoutBut what if you still can’t get motivated to workout?

Sparing a diagnosis or prognosis (because honestly, fear works) and your doctor telling you it is exercise or something far worse, this post is about helping you overcome some of the most common thoughts related to exercise avoidance. It may not even be that. Many of the clients who first start with me aren’t intentionally avoiding it, they in fact know they like it. They just can’t get going or keep it going. Let’s eliminate some of the obstacles first. Then work on some of the tricks to get you going when stress and a feeling you have so much to do push exercise way down on your priority list. If you want to get started right now? Check the Flipping 50 Kickstart 2.0. It is exclusively for starts, restarts, and for women over 50 who need exercise that will simultaneously balance their hormones, joint, energy, mood, and muscle needs. Let’s overcome some of the biggest barriers you might have that interfere your ability to get motivated to workout.

You don’t have to go to the gym

There are so many options from online experts today (can I just say, pick me? Pick me?) that you can choose do something – just about anything- right at home in your living room. You can hire a trainer that comes to you. (I was an in-home trainer for years – in fact now I do VIP days with clients by flying to them or having them here.) You still have to vet out your experts. I’m sure we can agree online doesn’t mean good. Certified doesn’t mean good. A degree doesn’t mean good. Important, yes, but any one of those does not an automatic expert-for-you make. Check credentials, testimonials, listen, watch, or read an expert’s content before you dive in. Your fitness pro should resonate with you as well as have the education and proof they’ve studied what YOU specifically need.

motivated to workoutIt doesn’t take a lot of time

Just 10 or 20 minutes is really all you need to start. In fact, it is better. The success record of clients who start, stick, and don’t get hurt is highest when they’re not perfectionists or overzealous. It’s okay, even an asset to have a big hairy goal, but to be motivated to workout you want to get there into baby steps.

It doesn’t have to hurt to be beneficial

Reality is that if it hurts it won’t benefit you. Most people never think of it that way. In fact, you’ve been told that you need to get through the pain and discomfort and then it will feel better, or the result will be worth it. Not true. Usually, unless we’re talking about a different kind of pain – chronic pain – it’s good to listen to what’s happening for you. Pain is a messenger. There may be a muscle imbalance, an alignment issue, a legitimate tear or strain occurring. That can be like a little alarm telling you that a muscle isn’t firing that should be or that you need to reposition or change something about the exercise technique or mode. For example, when running hurts it may be running isn’t your exercise right now, or maybe it’s the shoes you’re wearing or gait you have right now.

For every thing you can’t do, there’s something you can

We have somehow been conditioned from the 5-year old in all of us that thought she could put a cape on and fly to someone who first thinks something won’t work or isn’t realistic. Here’s a new way to think about it. The less realistic a goal is according to someone else’s standards probably the better. The bar is set pretty low on what anyone can do or be “at your age.” Often, in hundreds if not thousands of consultations I done over the decades someone would say, “I can’t run…” when no mention of running had ever come up. No suggestion of running had ever been made. I always found that curious. The brain goes to that one thing instead of the 49 other things you can do. There’s nothing magical about running. What can you do? What is it that you enjoy about running (or think you would) that you can find in another movement? 

You don’t have to want to exercise to have a good workout

Motivation is a fickle bitch. Pardon, my language but it’s oh, so true. You don’t have to be “motivated” and really want to do something in order to follow through. I’ve visited this concept before. You really want commitment. That choice is available to you at any time. Motivation is like a mythical unicorn that probably is not going to show up for most of us in big barrels. But any of us can commit. You’ve done it in your life elsewhere. Think about it. Got married? Went to college? Did the whole thesis? Paid off the loan? You need to make a decision. A temporary feeling of disinterest shouldn’t be confused with a lack of motivation or more importantly, lack of commitment. Have you been disinterested in things before and still finished? I was so very disinterested in reading specific chapters of textbooks and doing my chemistry, physics, and statistics homework. I really did not want to learn how to use technology to build an online business. But I did it. And you’ve done it too. You can do it again. So how?

Start small and slow

“Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.”

~Dara Tores

motivated to exerciseHave a plan

I suggest that lack of motivation is not the only thing getting in your way. Because motivation, like depression, comes and goes, so there’s more. If motivation shows up and you don’t have a plan you have confidence in being the best thing to do in the time you have, you just lost an opportunity, right? It’s hard if not impossible to be motivated to workout if you have no confidence what you’re about to spend time and energy on will move you closer to the benefits you want. Just having a plan increases your likelihood of reaching a goal by 50%. Other studies show even better odds when it comes to exercise. Subjects in a study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology with a plan had greater success (91%) than those who got motivation (35%) and those who were just told to track their exercise (38%).  In fact, researchers concluded motivation had no influence on success. (You might argue motivation had a negative effect. In suspect that in the study the motivational technique wasn’t personal enough for the subjects). How do you get a plan?
  • You study and create one yourself
  • You hire a coach for a program specific for your needs
  • You follow a program created for someone like you
      motivated to exercise Want to make sure you’re not making exercise mistakes when you start? Get my Exercise CHEAT SHEET & 5 video series.

Make is social

This one may seem odd. Since part of the reason you don’t want to go to the gym may be that you’re more of an introvert than an extrovert at heart. I recognize that. Stick with me for a minute. So why would I suggest making it social? There’s still something to not being in it alone. Social media and the internet ease of connecting with people like you makes it less isolating than ever to start and keep yourself on the hook in some ways. Yes, it’s still you lacing up the shoes or lifting those weights. But it’s nice to know others in your group were struggling to get started too and you can report back that you’ve checked something off your list. Increase your rate of success by 95%: The American Society of Training and Development did a study on accountability and found that you have a 65% chance of completing a goal if you commit to someone. If you have a specific accountability appointment with a person you’ve committed to, you increase your chance of success by up to 95%. Join a group of people with members who keep track of their results. We do this in each of our STRONGER programs. I see it with private clients. Clients complete specific weekly goals and decide when they’ll do them, then do them. New clients often want to list goals without a day and time to complete them. That makes it too hard to succeed and easy to fail.

motivated to workoutUse not feeling well to your advantage

While feeling good from exercise may not be something you can identify with, you may also be lucky enough that you don’t feel “bad.” That could get in the way of you getting motivated to workout. At least, you’ve settled for the way you feel right now. But there’s still a mood boost that most of us can enjoy that occurs from exercise. I’m not talking about the notorious “high” runners glorified. You may be someone that doesn’t even experience that influx of endorphins from exercise. Not everyone does. Did you know? It’s not a matter of you not doing it hard enough. If you’re a large-sized person you just don’t get the endorphin release someone else might be trying to convince you that you can. If you had breast cancer, gone through treatments, or you’ve been injured and had to regain your strength, you’d have a greater sense of not letting health slip away again. Sit with that for a minute. It doesn’t have to get to that point for you. But tapping into that fear and reality that it can happen to anyone may be a motivator.

Avoid opportunities to compare yourself to someone else

Have you ever ben called you a “frontrunner?” I have! When I biked with my partner on the weekends and I was out front I would go faster. When he would sprint and challenge me I would push for a short time and then fall back. Whether I “gave” up once I got behind or I was done doing the interval I was trying to hit (my excuse) I would never win from behind. Learning that about myself I’ve been able to strategically do all the things that make me a “winner.” I get up early. I don’t procrastinate, if I promise it Monday it will probably be done Friday. Recently, I pushed myself to ride with a group of women who are faster than me, better at climbing hills than me, and be okay feeling the benefit of being pushed during a workout instead of leading a workout. I get better when I do. But I have to remember to compare my old ability to my new ability. Not to someone else’s. Don’t just do videos you can do easily or go to classes that are simple. Find the challenging things. You want to go to a live class or retreat or get live virtual or in person support occasionally from someone. It’s so you can learn. Not so you can compare yourself. When you get motivated to workout, don’t squash that before you’ve had the chance to feel better. If you don’t feel better when you finish than before you started it may be because you compare. Even on the sidewalk stifle those, “I’m only walking. She’s running,” thoughts. motivated to exercise

Measure what matters to get motivated to workout

First, make sure you know the right values to measure. If you still only measure weight, it’s but one item and it gives far too little information. I coach clients using weight, body fat, lean muscle, inches, as well as micronutrient levels, and blood tests and hormone levels, sleep, and regularly ask about 4 dozen subjective questions that tell me how well they’re doing. Should you be tracking protein and fiber and heart rate and body temperature? Sometimes yes. Know what to measure and why. Then do. You can do it for yourself. But consider doing it with someone else. Getting motivated to exercise is easier when you say it out loud.

When something gets measured it improves. When it gets reported improvement accelerates.

  Resources: https://uponly.co/2015/01/08/how-to-increase-the-odds-of-reaching-your-goals-by-85-2/. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1348/135910702169420 Get the Cheat Sheet for better, not more exercise after 50 and 5 exercise videos you can do with me at home. (oh, and pssst…. if you’re over 60… you’re over 50, it fits you too. The biggest change in your second half will happen in your 50s and then it’s a pretty even playing field about ability, NOT your age.) Get motivated to workout and stay that way!
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