Op-Ed: How to Stay Motivated

by Shmarya Richler – Montreal, Quebec

Before I talk about motivation a small announcement. I’ve received lots of very nice feedback for my two recent articles. Thank you to all those who have taken the time to write. One of the comments was a request for a web page. Great idea! So, I’ve created a page where I will try to post exercise information and some other stuff that will hopefully motivate you to start and maintain your health journey. Here’s the link to it. 


Another asked that I set up a health/exercise resource page. Another great idea. Please send me links to gyms, groups, nutritionist, coaches etc in your area and I will create a links page. I’ll organize it by city. Please send me your information at health@richler.org

Now that you are motivated to take better care of yourself let’s talk about how to stay that way. Hopefully you’ve taken the first steps (pun intended) to a healthier way of life. But once you start how do you make sure to stay the course? Perhaps you’ve started an exercise program and are starting to cut back on your food (Vitamin K) intake. The first couple of weeks you see some results, you’re down a few pounds and you are feeling better. But now is crunch time. The initial weight loss is tapering off and you start to realize that you are in it for the long haul. This is where people get discouraged. Just look at all the treadmills for sale on Craigslist in February after the new year resolutions wear off! Or the treadmill you use to hang your shirts, pants etc. 

I can tell you from my own experience that staying motivated is the hardest part of the journey. I struggle with it every day whether it’s getting out there on my daily run or making the right food choices. You see me running. The truth is I’m not. I’m fighting that little voice that tells me not to go out today, it’s too cold, it’s too hot, it’s raining. The same with food choices. I’m at the grocery store in the junk food aisle and I can hear the sandwich cookies calling out to me. Interesting that it doesn’t do that in the fruit and vegetable aisle!

So, how do I stay motivated? For me it’s the medication I don’t have to take. I threw the pills out (see my first article) but I kept the bottle. One look at it is all I need to run out the door! Here are some ways you can keep motivated that can work for you. Maybe you want to wean yourself from medication you are taking. Talk to your doctor about how exercise/healthy living can help you. He or she has probably already given you the healthy living lecture more than once.

Here are some suggestions to keep you motivated: 

  1. Exercise with a partner. Think chavrusa. The individual who bugs you to come learn at some crazy hour in the morning or evening. A partner keeps you on your toes. And you can return the favour by keeping your partner on his/her toes.
  2. Join a gym or exercise group. There are plenty of them around. Sometimes the act of going to a gym where there are other people like you is a powerful motivator. Also, after spending all that money on gym fees you better go there!
  3. Join an exercise group on Facebook. There are all kinds of groups for all ages. I’m a member of one called Runners over 60. Reading posts by others and hearing their stories can be very inspiring and motivating.
  4. Join my WhatsApp Group. I will be posting gentle exercise reminders on a regular basis. Often these reminders will keep you motivated. Follow this link to join: https://chat.whatsapp.com/GUYqg8WErDVASvCRr6XeLP
  5. Don’t look into the future. You’ve set a goal. You want to get rid of 20 pounds to fit into the clothes you bought 2 years ago because there is no more space left to move those buttons over. Try to think about how far you’ve come since you started your health journey instead of thinking of how far you must go. I do it when I run. I think of how far I’ve run instead of thing of how far I must go.
  6. Another powerful motivator is something called endorphins. It’s what happens to your brain when you are exercising. It has something to do with the increased blood flow. Runners call it the runners high. It’s real, and once you’ve experienced it through any kind of exercise you want to experience it again.  Every person who started an exercise program who I’ve spoken to tells me the same thing “My day is much better when I exercise”. Use the good feelings you get from exercise to motivate yourself. It works!
  7. Be an example. How, you ask? Let’s assume you are starting to eat better but you haven’t made any drastic changes. You are taking a slow approach. That’s good.  Maybe you’ve decided to cut back on sugar or diet sodas, so you picked one day a week when you won’t drink them. Maybe Shabbos. Instead of soda you drink seltzer or as us Canadians call it, club soda. You put a drop of orange or grapefruit juice into it if to give it some flavour. Hey, maybe you like it better than sugar soda. So, how does that make you a motivator? Well, your six-year-old will see you and emulate you. It’s called Chinuch 101. You go to shul three times a day; chances are so will your kids. You don’t spend half of davening at the Kiddush club; chances your kids will be better daveners. You make better food choices; chances are so will your kids. You don’t spend half an hour in the nosh aisle, you get the picture.  Emulation is a powerful motivator. 

I was recently listening to a radio program about healthy food choices and children. Someone called in and said that he is very health/food conscious.  He makes sure to have the right amount of vegetable, protein, and carbs at every meal. He doesn’t try to tell his kids what to do. One day he hears his two children as they are preparing their lunch. They are discussing how much protein, carbs etc they are getting for lunch. Without doing anything other than being an example his children are emulating him. When you know that what you are doing will inspire and help someone else, be it your children or your neighbour you will motivate yourself.

These are just a few examples of how to stay motivated. Everyone is different and is motivated in a different way. Once you are exercising regularly then it becomes part of your routine and things will become easier.

Stay healthy! And please contact me if you have any questions. You can also Friend me on Facebook. I regularly post information that will help you stay motivated.

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