Many people wonder how to find the motivation to exercise and eat healthy.
What and where is this special motivation thing you need to get yourself out of bed and out the door to your workouts?
The problem is if we wait for that burst of motivation, when someday we will wake up and finally feel the desire to exercise, we may be disappointed. The fact is it's something we create for ourselves, something we build and strengthen, not something we wait for. The good news is that within just 10 minutes of starting an exercise session your brain chemistry changes in a positive way.
This unique chemical transaction means dopamine is secreted, making you feel fantastic, strong and accomplished. This dopamine release is called a "reward pathway" which means the more you do something to release this feel-good chemical the more you desire to do that thing.
Rewarding yourself with that little surge of dopamine is an important part of a positive, self-perpetuating feedback loop. When you feel good it can be a highly motivating factor when cementing a fitness regime permanently in your life.
You could think of this concept like receiving compound interest on a deposit in the bank. Around it goes - the better you feel, the more you want to feel better. And the better you feel, the better choices you also make with your eating, the better you sleep, the better you cope with stress and so on.
The cycle continues with one thing supporting the other which in turn creates a positive upward spiral which leads to the best possible life.
Research shows that regular exercise boosts mood and reduces anxiety and depression and can provide all sorts of emotional, spiritual and biochemical benefits that make us feel, think and perform better in our daily lives.
This mental or emotional rejuvenation can also make us more comfortable in our body and lead to greater peace of mind. Or you may find satisfaction from exercising by knowing that you are setting a positive example for your children. Working out with a friend or spouse provides a chance to strengthen your relationship.
The quickest and easiest way to succeed at fitness is to create a positive feedback loop which includes experiencing enough results to continue to motivate you to keep going. So in itself, your fitness programme becomes its own reward.
This model is the same as a business that must become profitable to survive. You must create this self perpetuating feedback loop to stick to a healthy lifestyle. There is no substitute.
If you have previously struggled with maintaining a fitness regimen, it doesn't mean that you are unmotivated or weak-willed. It simply means that the self perpetuating loop was not in place or there was a break down somewhere in its creation. The perceived outlay of effort, time or money for exercising was too high, not enough rewards accumulated, or progress wasn't measured.
Both life satisfaction and fitness satisfaction are made up of hundreds of small individual steps, each one building on the others. It's never just one set of instant happy outcomes. Each time you exercise, you confirm that you are making your personal health and fitness a priority.
Sure, looking great is a terrific bonus for active people. But for many, fitness satisfaction and success is not defined by one's physical appearance.
It's not uncommon for those who initially choose to get started simply to look better or lose weight can discover that the real key to satisfaction lies in how they feel about themselves and their fitness regime.
At best, a commitment to exercise, fitness and physical activity is a reflection of your values about self care, health, and integrity. And like true beauty, fitness satisfaction radiates from inside.
■ Carolyn Hansen is co-owner of Anytime Fitness.