Sure, we would all like to stay active and healthy. We already know it’s great for our physical and mental well being. But let’s face it, sometimes finding the motivation can be a real challenge. I’m 53 years old (at least in years) — Wow! That looks like a big number seeing it in type. I have a 15-year-old son who I try to keep up with and plan on doing so for quite a while. I’m fortunate to live in the Rocky Mountains where if you like the outdoors, things to do are readily available year-round. However, to enjoy these types of activities, physical fitness is pretty much a prerequisite. I have found that the older I get, the harder it can be to stay consistent with physical fitness. Ironically, the older we get the more important it is to stay consistent. Exercise can be addictive. Better yet, exercise is one addiction that I like to feed!
A great way to make exercise addictive? Make it fun. Make it an opportunity to experience new things. Okay, sounds like just another motivational list from a new year’s resolution right? I get it, easy to suggest a bunch of health reasons we already are aware of. Harder to put into practice. So here’s my unofficial, non-endorsed tips that have helped me make exercise additive and place me in the best shape of my life. (Minus the aching joints from my 53 years of age.) But hey, I know a little about where to go with help with that too. Wink. Wink.
Find a physically challenging hobby that you're passionate about.
It can be anything as long as it interests you and keeps you hooked and wanting more. I can’t state the importance of passion enough. Why do you have to love it? If you don’t love it, ya ain’t gonna stick with it. Not for long at any rate. Your love for an activity is going to be the inspiration to get your butt moving. Especially on the days, you’d rather find an excuse. Simply reminding yourself of the benefits of exercise doesn’t work. Not for me anyway. I already know them. I’ve known them for decades. Fun and passion are far better motivators. They work.
For me, mountain biking checks all the boxes.
I’m using mountain biking as an example. However, I get that biking in the Rocky Mountains may not be your cup of tea or even accessible depending on where you live... even so, I thought it may be helpful to explain why mountain biking works for me. Reading the reasons why may give you the framework to spark ideas that will help you discover your activity to embrace. Point is, find the things that will “hook” you personally and keep you coming back for more.
Here are a few “hooks” for me that make physical activity so addictive that I actually want to “indulge” as much as possible…
- Make it fun. Fun. Yep, if it's not fun, I don’t want to spend my free time doing it. Period. To me, mountain biking is an absolute blast. For me, nothing beats the hard work of a long climb with a payoff of a rewarding view that stretches for miles. Breathing fresh air. Pushing myself just to keep up with my buddies. Experiencing the thrill of bombing down the side of a steep winding mountain trail at speeds just outside my limits, while avoiding a possible encounter with wildlife that’s bigger and higher on the food chain. To me, that’s pretty damn fun.
- Leverage your hobby to create opportunities to explore and experience new places. Mountain biking has taken me places that I normally would not purposely have carved out time to experience (mentally or physically). In the search for new places to ride, I’ve discovered; the beauty of deserts, high alpine environments above treeline that look like you’re on another planet, the shorelines of the Great Lakes, and lush green rainforests to name a few. Together with friends, we’ve experienced being scared sh*tless while taking cover from lightning storms at 13,000 ft. We’ve ridden in freak snowstorms, we’ve had to figure out how to cross raging rivers that block our path. Overcoming the fear of having to navigate exposed mountain ledges with drops so scary we choose to hike our bikes instead of ride. Camping under the stars and planning road trips off the grid. Now, this may not be your idea of fun. However, the point is, whatever may be fun for you, make it so! Make it memorable. Because the memories you create are the things that will come to mind for inspiration when those days that you don’t feel like moving inevitably creep in.
- Find others that enjoy your activity as much as you do. This one’s huge. I have a couple of buddies who are as passionate about mountain biking as I am. Actually, I think they’re more stoked (and a lot better). They give me the motivation to stay in shape and improve my skills. For those days when I don’t feel like riding, I simply ask myself: “Are my buddies out this week?” The answer is always yep, there out there. And most likely, they’ve eaten better than me too. So if I skip my ride, and not the donuts, I won’t be able to keep up with them the next time we ride together which is usually twice a week. Better yet, our mountain biking routine has now evolved into several three-day trips per year to experience new places to ride. Consequently, I’m now much more informed on local breweries and how to find them than I’d ever been before.
- Carve out time each week and put it on your calendar. This goes a long way to help you stay focused. When you find friends who also enjoy your hobby— it's much easier to stay accountable and support one another to be consistent in your exercise.
Exercise doesn’t have to be a “necessary evil” or a chore. It can be fun, creating an opportunity for personal growth and confidence. Best of all it can provide an opportunity to make new friendships or find deeper connections to those you already have.
Maybe our paths will cross somewhere outside or at one of those off the wall breweries. Cheers, Scott