Alex Vietinghoff - Reshape your life (Tom Bateman/AQ)

One area that we can all improve on is getting or staying motivated. And I don’t just mean at the gym. Whether its homework, eating well or learning an instrument, it’s important to have drive and intensity to help you out.

Setting attainable goals rather than a huge lofty one is something you should keep in mind. I have an ultimate goal for my body, but to get there, I set smaller goals that I strive to reach every few months. That way I stay encouraged and positive because I get the satisfaction of achievement, but I’m also chipping away at the larger goal, which should be attainable within one or two years.

When I’m not feeling in the mood or in the zone come workout time, I remind myself of my goals and my reasons for setting them. I use words with positive connotations in my goals. For example, a few years ago right after the freshman fifteen, one of my goals was to lose belly fat. Rather than say “I want to lose fat,” I said “I want my abs to show.”

The word “lose” shouldn’t have anything to do with my goal. No one likes losing. It’s harder to stay motivated when you’re striving to lose. But if you’re striving to get fit, build muscle, burn fat or anything that sounds positive, then you’ll feel much happier about what you’re doing.

Getting exercise to become a regular habit can be hard. In my first year, I’d only go to the gym a few times a month, because I just wasn’t feeling it. A friend who was very passionate about fitness was raving about how great he felt and that’s when I decided I wanted to feel that way too. I started going to the gym with him, borrowing his exercise books and eventually doing my own research. Now it’s a huge part of my life.

I encourage you to find a friend or a personal trainer who is passionate about exercise and go with them to their sport or activity. Tell them to hassle you every time that you try to brush off a workout session or a practice. At first you’ll feel sore, tired or generally unmotivated. But if you manage to stick through the slump at the beginning, I guarantee that you’ll develop one of the best habits of your life.

Eating well can be even harder to do than exercising. But you can’t have one without the other. You won’t have someone with you at every meal to remind you about healthy eating, so it’s important to develop self-discipline. Focus less on the body image you want and more on the feeling you get from healthy eating – long-lasting energy, clear skin, good sleep, to name a few.

In an earlier column I mentioned giving yourself “cheat days” once a week, then once every two weeks, then once a month and eventually cutting out junk food. But there’s another way to be a healthy eater. When I do groceries, I only buy healthy foods. That way I don’t feel guilty if my friends ask me out to a fast food joint every now and then or someone offers me a handful of candy. If you plan to eat healthy every day with the knowledge that at some point during the day you might have some small unhealthy snack, you don’t have to worry about entirely cutting out your chips or pop or Swedish Berries. Just don’t eat them every single day. Try for once every two, with a few lenient days here and there. It’s a lot easier.

Everyone has different things that can strongly motivate them. Once you find yours, stick with it and use it for every aspect of your life.

Alex Vietinghoff is a certified ski instructor, works at the J.B. O’Keefe Fitness Centre and is currently studying to be a personal trainer through Fitness NB. He is also vice-president student life of the St. Thomas University’s students’ union. Questions or comments about his column? Contact him at alexvietinghoff@gmail.com

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