Why make an effort when it’s so comfortable on the couch? The inner bastard is used to talking our motivation down. We tell you how to defeat him with small tricks.
Carry the water box to the third floor – without gasping for air. A slimmer body, fewer aches and pains: Most of us realize that it is good to exercise regularly.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t automatically mean that we’ll slip into our sports gear and actually get going with a thirst for action. Whoever keeps us on a short leash all too often is the weaker self. He’s adept at coming up with 20 reasons why the sofa is a better choice than the sport unit. How do you outwit him?
According to sports psychologist Thomas Ritthaler from Munich, if we find it difficult to pick up the scoop, there is usually a reason behind it: We have not yet established the training as a habit in everyday life. Such habits have a great advantage because we follow them without much deliberation. “In the evening we brush our teeth – without having to negotiate long with each other,” says Ritthaler.
So the good news is: Once sport is firmly anchored in everyday life, the weaker self will no longer throw so many sporting excuses at our feet. The bad news: the path to habit requires staying power and a good portion of self-discipline.
According to Ritthaler, if we are still at the beginning of the sport, we are primarily looking at the costs and less at the benefits. Because we have to free up a time window for sport in our busy everyday life. And of course the first Pilates unit or jogging session is particularly demanding for those new to sports. Sometimes it’s even frustrating because you’re not in good shape and everyone else is passing you by.
It is then all the more important to bring joy on board. “We find the greatest motivation when we really feel like doing a sport,” says Ritthaler. “If it’s not primarily about wanting to get slimmer, but about having fun.”
In psychology this is called intrinsic motivation. This is the drive that does not come from the hoped-for recognition from outside, but from within ourselves.
But how do you get used to it? “At the beginning you should set yourself specific goals – for example with the question: What do I want to achieve?” says sports scientist Laura Blanz from the German University for Prevention and Health Management (DHfPG).
The next step is to derive a concrete plan from the goals. According to Blanz, “I’ll start jogging next week” is too vague. If, on the other hand, we plan to go for a run on Thursday after work at 5 p.m., we are more likely to go through with our plan. Especially when we have a plan B ready for bad weather: the hooded sports jacket or the treadmill in the gym.
The bigger the better? This does not apply to goals in sports – at the beginning. “Even if it may feel ridiculous: set yourself very small goals,” advises sports psychologist Ritthaler. Because even a minute of sport is more than not a minute of sport.
If the sports psychologist has his way, it can actually be a goal to exercise ten minutes a day. The argument “no time!” popular with the bastard thus comes to nothing. Because even on stressful days, a short walk around the block or a short abdominal exercise fits. And: If you work out for ten minutes on six days, you have done an hour of sport at the end of the week – not so little.
Sport dates with others can also have a motivating effect. According to sports scientist Blanz, the hurdle to not doing this is significantly higher. Finally, fitness wristbands and apps can also promote exercise because they make progress visible. “But you shouldn’t let that put you under pressure,” says Ritthaler.
What if we absolutely don’t feel like doing sports? “Then you shouldn’t punish yourself for it. Sport shouldn’t become a desperate compulsion,” says Blanz. Even though sticking with it is important for building the habit: it’s normal that things don’t always go perfectly. And that the weaker self sometimes convinces us with its sports excuses.
Sometimes the bastard can be persuaded by what Thomas Ritthaler calls a “five-minute deal”. You plan to train for five minutes. After that you can stop with a clear conscience.
Once you’re in your running clothes or standing on the sports mat, five minutes often turn into ten or fifteen minutes. The inner bastard has fallen silent.
Sometimes the body also reports that it doesn’t feel like working out today due to sore muscles or weakness. “You shouldn’t ignore these body signals,” says Blanz. So instead of jogging, a walk might do you good. Or instead of the sweaty spinning unit in the studio, a gentler workout at home.
So if you listen to your body and less to your weaker self, you have a good chance of incorporating sport into everyday life – and with it all the good things that it does.