How to stay motivated with your hiking fitness goals
Honestly, this is one of the hardest parts about working out. It’s not the actual workout, it’s staying motivated to workout especially in the beginning and when life gets busy.
When you start a new workout routine, it’s so easy to jump in head first, go to the gym every day for a couple days, then you’re sore, burnt out and stop going. Or you keep putting it off until tomorrow. I’ll workout next week, or I’ll do it tomorrow, I don’t have time today.
Don’t lie to yourself, we’ve all been there with those excuses. In high school and my first two years in college, I was very active. Gym everyday for 1 to 2 hours, sometimes even twice per day. It was my stress relief. But then I got to junior and senior year, I moved out and into dorms, classes got harder on top of 100% needing to take care of myself. So what did I do? Oh I’ll go tomorrow. Yeah, that tomorrow turned into 2.5 years later. After I graduated, I got my first full time job, and I thought this was my dream job! That February, they laid me off. I was beyond devastated, but while searching for my new job, my friend pointed out that I had wanted to hike Mt. Whitney all of those years, I just never had enough time to workout, here’s my chance. So I threw myself into training. I found to energy to stop making excuses and get myself up at 5am to hit the gym again (I’m a morning workout person), I went on longer and longer hikes every weekend, pushing and challenging myself to be stronger.
The point of that story? We all sometimes need a boost of motivation to get us off the “I’ll workout tomorrow” train, get off the couch, out of bed, and to the gym (or working out at home).
So how do you stay motivated to workout? Here is what I’ve learned over the years to keep myself going.
If you’re new to working out, don’t jump in and start doing 60 minutes of cardio, another 60 minutes of strength training, etc. Build up to it. Start with 15 minutes just to get your body used to moving. Build up to 30 minutes of working out, to 45 minutes, to 60 minutes, to 90 minutes.
Same goes for how many days per week you exercise. You should be moving everyday, especially if you’re like me with a desk job and you’re glued to your computer screen all day. Nothing wrong with it, but that means it’s even more important that you intentionally move every single day.
If that means you’re using your lunch break to take a walk around the building, stretching in the evenings while watching TV, whatever that looks like for you.
Start with exercising 2 to 3 times per week. From there slowly as your body adapts and you get into the habit of working out, increase that to 5 times per day.
You need a couple days every week for your body to rest and recover, but make sure you’re still moving 7 days per week.
It will become a habit
As you continue to workout, you will notice your body start to change. You’ll feel more energized, hiking uphill will be easier, you’ll start shedding some pounds and putting on lean muscle, it will be easier to move in your own body, you’ll feel better in your own skill, you will be happier, and so forth. Exercise does wonders for our bodies both physically and mentally.
As soon as you notice these changes, you’ll want to continue, you’ll keep pushing yourself to continue feeling great. It typically takes about a month of doing something regularly for it to become a habit, and right around there you will start seeing changes. Stick with it, because in the coming months, you’ll really see changes!
Accept the uncomfortable
Working out is uncomfortable, as it should be! That’s how your body adapts and gets stronger. If an exercise starts to feel easy, that means it’s time to make it more challenging.
Increase your weights, do something that feels challenging and different, like animal movements (which are great for functional strength).
Be mindful, there is a difference between uncomfortable because you’re injured and uncomfortable because it’s challenging your body. You want to keep the workouts uncomfortable so they’re challenging your body. You don’t get stronger by staying the same.
Add some excitement
Exercising should be fun! If you’re bored of your workout, do something to add some pizzazz to it. Try a new workout class like barre, pilates, yoga, spin, boxing, etc. Change up the routine you do, try a different form of cardio, anything that breathes life back into your workout.
I used to hate cardio, and still I prefer strength training to cardio any day. But cardio is so important for our bodies, especially with hiking. So I used to run on the treadmill, not because I liked it, but because I thought that was the best form of cardio. The elliptical just doesn’t do it for me. Then I tried the stair master, a little better, less impact on my joints. Then on accident, I ended up in an indoor spinning (cycling) class. I had no idea what I was doing, but the instructor played my favorite type of music, it was dark in the room with just some light, and between all of that, it felt like a party on the bike. I was hooked. It was so fun, I had no problem getting up at 5am to make it to my 6am spinning class. A year after that first class, I even got a bike for at home, so now I can recreate a spinning class right in my living room.
And to add to the excitement, I took a class on a Friday after work, and the instructor turned on disco lights half way through. I was just filled with so much joy and excitement. Now you tell me, is that going to fuel me to want to take more classes on Friday evenings? YES!!!
Go find that joy and excitement in exercising.
Make it work with your schedule
Schedule it into your life, just like with other things. Make it fit for you and you will help make it a habit. If you’re not a 5am workout person, that’s fine, workout during lunch, in the evening, at night (24 hour gyms exist for a reason).
No more “no time” excuse
Every single one of us has the same 24 hours per day. Yes, some of us have homework, full time jobs, kids, etc. But in all of those hours everyday, where can you squeeze in a workout. Maybe give up that hour of scrolling on Instagram and start doing squats instead for that hour.
We all have things we do during the day that are huge time wasters and we can cut them out. You’re probably saying to me, “but Jenny, I don’t do anything to waste time.” Yes you do. For 3 days, I want you to write down every single thing you did all day from the second you got up to when you went to bed, and how long you did that activity for. You’ll start to notice, where you’re wasting your time. And how you can spend that time exercising!
We all go through hectic parts of our lives, when exercise really does take a back seat. That’s ok, just recognize that you’re doing it. No more “I’ll do it tomorrow” excuse. That tomorrow turns into 2.5 years later, like it did for me. During those hectic times, it’s important to find ways to keep moving. Even if that’s 15 minutes before bed stretching, or doing lunges across your living room while you’re on a call.
Do not sacrifice sleep, you need it to help your body recover and rebuild.
Sometimes it’s better to act before you think. Your alarm goes off for you to get out of bed and hit the gym at 6am. Don’t think about how cold it is and how comfortable your bed feels. That alarm goes off, get up, get dressed, and go workout. Your future, stronger self will thank you.
Think about your hike
And finally, use the trip you’re going on to fuel you. When I increase the resistance on the bike, it’s hard and heavy and my legs want to stop, but I think about that hard pass I’m going to be hiking up and over, or the last push to the summit.
How does it feel to be on the trail? Let your mind experience the sights, sounds, the feel of your boots on the trail. Now get up and workout.