“How do you find the motivation?”; “Where do you get the energy?”; “How do you fit in all the adventures?” These are just a few of the questions I am asked – and fairly often. The answer is that sometimes it feels simple – and the motivation, energy and time are easy to find – but sometimes it all feels like one big slog of exhaustion and with no time for anything.
It is the same for most people to greater or lesser degrees, I imagine, and a new book, Find Time for Exercise: How to Challenge Yourself and Enjoy the Benefits of Regular Exercise by Mike Dales, addresses this topic and many associated factors in great depth.
Mike, a recreation and tourism consultant who lives near Bridge of Earn, in Perthshire, believes passionately in the need for us all to “find time for exercise”. He also has a wealth of ideas to inspire and motivate everyone to enjoy exercise.
Mike’s main theme – or suggestion – is that to be motivated and to stay motivated for exercise there needs to be some element of challenge.
He says: “Many people find motivation by entering a race or taking on an event. This creates a focus for being active through regular training.
“But if you do not have a race or event to aim for, a lack of purpose or structure can lead to inactivity due to reduced motivation.
“In the book, I suggest different ways to add a challenge element to exercise, even without a race goal. There are lots of different ways to challenge yourself, whether you are starting out with exercise or already someone who is active, and this is a main theme in the book.”
Putting a number on it
For Mike the challenge he presents himself with every day is to do an active journey of at least 5km, whether a run, walk or bike ride. Sometimes he does a lot more and sometimes he does exactly 5km.
When I spoke to him he had done this for 3147 consecutive days. That’s more than eight years.
He said: “It started with a 5k bike loop near my home – and I just kept going. Now I have done that loop more times than I can recall. It isn’t cycling only because I sometimes run, walk, canoe, kayak or ski the 5k or more daily active journey.
“I see 5k of exercise as a way to keep a base level of exercise. When I have done much more than 5k on a particular day, such as running a marathon for example, I will walk 5k the next day as a form of active recovery. So, I am always active for at least 5k daily.
“This has become my main challenge and it works really well for me. Because I have put a number on it I have the motivation to stick to the challenge. Putting a number on it is not for everyone, but from my experience, I find it can be a great way to stay motivated.”
What’s in the book?
The book is really well laid out and very informative. Part 1 covers the impact of inactivity and health and well-being. This is well researched and provides lots of insightful facts. It also reveals the positive impacts of exercise.
Part 2 outlines Mike’s 5km challenge. He also has sub-challenges and targets. If you have heard of the Marcothon – the daily 5km challenge each December – you will be able to identify with the motivation that comes with committing to daily activity.
Part 3 reveals a number of case studies, with different reasons for taking on an exercise challenge, such as to lose weight, for improved physical or mental health and to be proactive and avoid those issues before they happen. There is also an interview with adventure cyclist Mark Beaumont in which he describes his daily exercise routine .
Part 4 offers more inspiring challenges. These include The Daily Mile, parkrun, active commuting and workplace activity.
Then comes part five, when the book challenges you to pick your own challenge.
10 very useful principles
Throughout the book there are 10 suggested principles that can help with the motivation to exercise. I really like these and identify with every single one.
I am going to pick my top five and let you buy and read the book to discover the other five.
1 Sit less, stand more, move more. It seems obvious doesn’t it but there are so many people – and this includes me – who sit still all day at their desk. One tip I have is that instead of sitting still and talking on the phone to a colleague or a friend, go for a walk and talk via your phone and headphones. You could also use a standing desk instead of sitting down full-time.
2 Have a winter strategy so that you maintain the motivation through the cold, dark, wet months. We all need to find that extra bit of motivation through the winter months. I make sure I arrange to meet friends for a run, go to circuit training or get outdoors for a walk, and all on a regular basis – and more so – in winter because if I don’t I will stay indoors looking out at the cold, dark and wet.
3 However much exercise you already take, even a small increase in your level of activity could provide you with benefits to your health and happiness. This is true for all of us, wherever we happen to be on that spectrum from totally inactive to superfit. It could be an extra 100 steps, an extra five minutes or whatever.
4 Set a measurable target, or series of targets, and don’t be afraid to revise your target(s) from time-to-time. To me, this means following the SMART principle. That is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. You can adjust the SMART target but having one will help with motivation and focus. It could be a race, doing exercise every day for a year, running 2000km in a year etc.
5 Find what works for you – and make sure you enjoy it. This is key in my opinion. Your exercise could be running trails or it could be laps on a track; you might take up SUP or sea kayaking; or it could be bagging Munros or ticking off trigs. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t keep on doing it.
And this brings me nicely back to the answer to that question about what motivates me to exercise? I always say yes to adventure.
Say yes to adventure
It could be that the adventure is a trail run on a new route with a friend, or a mountain hike somewhere new, or a quick dip in my local loch, kayaking, or SUP on a canal, or discovering a new gravel cycling route, or a run-swim. If I possibly can – and I can squeeze it into my work schedule – I will always say yes to adventure.
These adventures might be my own creations, or suggestions of other people. They might not be adventures that seem amazingly exciting but they are just that bit different to what I would normally do. This is what aids my motivation for always being keen to exercise and for keeping me fit and active into my 50s.
Sean, one of the case studies in the Weight section of the book, made the point that he had learned not to say, “No”. He turned down so many suggestions to take exercise, then realised he had to start saying, “Yes”. That is just one example of an inspirational and practical tip from the interviewees in the case studies section of the book.
I recommend you buy Find Time for Exercise by Mike Dales. It is a good read, easy to understand and makes brilliant sense if you are looking for more motivation to be active, fitter and healthier. It would also make an excellent Christmas gift.
There is a useful website, too. Buy the book, priced £10.99 (paperback) and £5.99 (e-book), on FindTimeForExercise.com. Mike also gives talks on the topic. See Troubador to buy the book and Amazon (book and Kindle edition).