I have started and stopped trained so many times – sickness, injury, travel – but usually it’s “laziness” or the dreaded “lack of motivation” that is experienced by so many seasoned and novice athletes. This experience can make your progress feel like the first time you learned a stick shift. In past posts, we’ve talked about setting good exercise and performance goals. Let’s talk about rewarding yourself to avoid this feeling of burnout.
Reward is not a dirty word.
Rewards is the reason that you continue to work out. Lose the reward factor and no one keeps going. They can be different for each of us. Money, food, seeing muscles grow or sizes shrink – these can all be rewards. Unfortunately, in exercise circles, the concept of reward is treated like a roach at a fast food restaurant.
1) Reward yourself frequently. If you are just starting to work out or experience the stop-and-go phenomenon in your workout schedule, using frequent rewards can be the best thing. Elite athletes have been trained to push their bodies for long periods of time without rewards. You need to build up to it. This brings me to my next point:
2) Be specific about how much of a reward for how much effort. Especially with food, you need specific boundaries to prevent eliminating all the hard work you put in. I am not personally a fan of using food as a reward but it may be a starting point for you. Your reward should be a reasonable size. I find layering rewards to be easiest (Example: 4 workout days in one week lasting 30 minutes earns a beer, 4 weeks with 4 workouts per week earns new piece of clothing under $10). You will have to adjust your own reward system but the example above is what works for me.
3) Give the power away. Rewards, to be effective, need to occur when you meet the requirements and not occur when you do not. Enlist someone to keep you honest with your workout goals. Give them the power to deliver or withhold the rewards.
4) Adjust. You will need to adjust your rewards (how much, how often) when you’re beginning. You may need to increase how much effort you put out to earn those rewards or you may find that rewards that happen naturally (Examples: growing faster, stronger, slimmer, etc.) are enough to keep you working out. Neither is wrong – just different.
One exception that is notable is that sometimes you may overtrain – physically exerting yourself too much too quickly. Resist the temptation to set too lofty goals. Start small and, as you reward yourself, you’ll find it easier to build up to the frequency or schedule you envision.