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In life, we face many ups and down. There are times where we have a perked interest in activities and hobbies, and other times where we lose our way. Exercise is certainly no different. Our motivation goes up and down.

Ask yourself this important question: Is your workout program the same as it was when you were getting your best results?

During the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program, (Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation) most of us get very motivated and see remarkable results from practicing regular fitness. This is because of the high-touch contact with and support from the staff as well as peers. This leads to an amazing transformation. The real challenge begins when this honeymoon period ends. At this point, the hands-on part of the program ends, and it’s time to begin relying on your own motivation and dedication to be successful.

In my experience, it is right after the programs end that our dedication and success becomes less stable. We tend to struggle with motivation to exercise and maybe even become complacent with our progress. Here are some suggestions to help prevent and treat those low periods when we start to miss the hands-on support of the staff and other participants with whom we’ve become attached.

Problem #1 – Support and Structure

You miss the support and structure delivered from program staff. Without their motivation, you are finding it more difficult to exercise regularly and as a result, you’re not experiencing the same level of fitness success.

Solution: Stay connected with the program staff, and attend classes and special events organized by your site or by participants in your cohort. Not only will you benefit from the staff and others in attendance, but they also will benefit from you!

Problem #2 – No Equipment

You’re finding it difficult to replace the equipment you were using at the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine site. You had great success where you were and now you’re left on your own at home.

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How can you continue to find exercise success?

Solution: This can be a hard situation especially if you used specialized equipment. Discuss your concerns with the staff. Ask them to help you create a home exercise program based on the equipment you have access to. With the most basic household items, anyone can get a well-rounded workout. Try this 30-min. home cardio workout or this 30-min. home strength-training workout. If you feel like you’d like more support and camaraderie, try joining a gym or fitness center. Another possibility is to schedule regular meetings with the exercise staff to help keep you on track. Even meeting with someone monthly can be enough of a commitment to keep many people both motivated and accountable.

Problem #3 – Lost Motivation

Your motivation is decreasing after the initial program. You had wonderful results while you were on site, but you now feel your progress and results have slowed or even stopped.

Solution: I’m a firm believer in both gratitude and reflection. I recommend starting each morning with a few minutes of gratitude. You can reflect on your fitness accomplishments thus far, how much exercise you’ve been able to do, how much time you’ve spent in recent months, and how good it has made you feel. Even write yourself a letter of gratitude in which you spell out some of the items above. You can read it daily as a reminder of how truly powerful your body is. Notice I didn’t say perfect, I said powerful. Our bodies, just like our exercise programs, don’t have to be perfect, and certainly won’t be, but remember our bodies are truly powerful amazing creations worthy of our celebration and thanks. Spending a few minutes each day feeling gratitude for your physical body and your ability to exercise can be extremely motivating.

Problem #4 – You Miss the Social Contact

You’re a people person, so the transition from exercising with this wonderful dynamic and supportive group to exercising on your own is making you feel isolated, and less excited to get out and just do it.

Solution: Recruit your friends to hold you accountable. By this I don’t mean they give you a hard time when they don’t see you exercising as much. What we want is for them to remind us of how important exercise has been for our recent success. Ask your friends to regularly ask you about your exercise without judging or giving advice. Just this gentle reminder and sincere interest can go a long way in helping us want to exercise. Take this a step further and ask new friends to join you in your fitness regimen. Maybe it’s time for you to inspire others and spread the value of fitness. Recruit a friend or two to walk several times a week or find a partner with whom you can join the local fitness center. You will find motivation in one another and have someone with whom you can share your daily success.

Problem #5 – Less Weight Loss, High Blood Pressure

During the program, the weight loss was consistent and you were feeling other great benefits. Maybe you even decreased your medication use or your blood pressure dropped. Now that you’re on your own, the results have stopped and maybe your blood pressure is even creeping back up.

Solution: Ask yourself this important question: Are you following the program just as you were when you were getting results? In my experience with the Ornish program, many people change their approach, which is why they start to get different results. The change may even be small such as one less day of exercise, an occasional “free day” with nutrition, or only doing 45 minutes of stress management versus the normal 60 minutes. Clearly and honestly assess your program to correct any changes. Remember what we say, “the program is the program.” What led you to your earlier successes will most likely lead you to success again if you simply follow the same daily practices.

What strategies have you used to overcome low fitness motivation?

Contributed by

Phil Hardesty
Exercise Physiologist

Have a healthy, happy and fit week!!

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