It’s hard to even make you think I’m a good exerciser who can write about workout motivation.

Because I’m not.

I start and stop a lot; especially over the past year or two.

But I’m trying… again. I’ve found motivation for fitness.

Here’s 4 reasons why:

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1. I examined my beliefs about exercise

Belief is a really powerful thing. What we believe says a lot about us. And I think that’s where all behavior starts.

When I think about how belief works, it reminds me of retirement funds.

A lot of us know it’s wise to have them. Most of us assume if we put money into them, they will pay off in the long run. Some invest a lot into this process (especially those who have money to invest). Others do not.

But, when it boils down to it:

We only invest in retirement funds if we believe they will produce a return for us. If we don’t believe that, we don’t invest.

For awhile, I treated exercise a lot like a retirement fund. One day, I found motivation for fitness and invested my time and energy into working out. But the next day, I did not.

I’ll spare you the excuses on why that’s the case.  Because here’s the real deal:

I didn’t believe exercise was good for me.

So what happened? Why the change? Where did I get my workout motivation?

It had a face-to-face honest look in the mirror and realized I wasn’t practicing what I preached. I’d been editing resources about exercise for colon cancer survivors, realizing my own level of fitness was dismal.

I realized I didn’t believe what it was saying or else I’d be acting upon it.

So, I decided to change that and hit the gym.

But there’s more…

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2. Friends gave me workout motivation

The rumors are true – working out with friends helps.

Several years ago, I met my dear friend Nicole through personal training. Her accountability, coaching and support kept me motivated for fitness and visiting the gym.

A few of my other friends, Ashley and Amy, offered to join me on a 10K several years ago. Know what? I finished that race.

I’ve identified a pattern to my working out and fitness motivation – when I’ve got a buddy, I stick with it. And I’ve finally surrendered to the idea:

I cannot stick with a workout if I go at it alone.

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3. I found fitness can heal emotional pain

If you know my story, you know it’s full of trauma. Colon cancer as a young adult (or at any age for that matter) is one of the many hard things I’ve lived through.

Radiation was my least favorite part of my treatment, carrying many painful memories and some of the worst pain. But one day, I experienced an amazing sensation of letting it go while working out.

I’ll tell you the story:

Healing from radiation on a spin bike

The pop music was blasting as I sat on a spin bike at the gym.

The instructor told us to pedal for 3 minutes as hard and fast as we could without stopping.

I thought I was going to die.

But every time I opened my eyes, I didn’t see the pearly gates or Saint Peter.

I saw a sweaty instructor and felt the uncomfortable seat riding up my butt.

So, here’s what I did:

I closed my eyes, listened to the music and let my mind travel back to the days of radiation.

The uncomfortable rectal exams by the well-meaning male doctors.

The hazardous symbol on the thick door that trapped me in the room with the big machine.

The sound of the laser frying my skin.

The sudden jolt of pain from the tattoos on each side of my butt cheeks, and one right above my tail bone.

The sunburned skin and its painful irritation in an area the “sun don’t shine.”

The humiliation of having to show someone that area at only 17 years old.

I thought of all of this, and I pedaled harder.

And harder.

Three minutes didn’t feel like enough when I heard the song change and the instructor yell:

“Stop! You’re done!”

I didn’t only leave that spin bike physically stronger:

I left emotionally stronger.

The memories of radiation have haven’t hurt me as badly or as deeply ever since that day.

And it’s major workout motivation to get moving when I’m struggling emotionally.

I’ve left a lot of bad memories in a puddle of sweat.

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4. Permission to take it slow is a workout motivation

The last key to my workout motivation that has really helped me exercise more?

Suck up my pride and take it slow.

I’m in my 30s, and sometimes I think I should be somebody I’m not.

Somebody who is:

Faster.

Stronger.

More fit.

But truth is, I’m me and my body has been through a lot.

Some days, it cooperates. Other days, it does not. It will likely never be on the cover of a health and fitness magazine.

But, I’ve embraced that and realize that doesn’t mean I can’t work out.

I’ve found beauty in taking it slow, which actually increases my workout motivation. Here’s what it looks like for me:

  • Walking around the neighborhood instead of running or jogging
  • Modifying the exercises so I don’t pull a muscle or hurt myself
  • Lifting less weight although everything inside of me wants to push it and prove I can do it
  • Stopping to rest and not beating myself up because of it
  • Saying no to the hard thing and saying yes to the easier thing

Why has this made a difference?

The permission to not be a badass exerciser has actually helped me exercise more because I’m not hard on myself. Instead, I celebrate!

What’s your workout motivation?

So there my friends are four ways I’ve found workout motivation. What about you? What gets you up and moving when what you really want to do is sit on the couch?

I’d love to hear your ideas!