Why is rewarding yourself for working out so important? The most successful exercise programs are built on creating a habit of working out. Working out becomes second nature, a thing you are more likely to do than skip.
Like any good habit, work out habits rely on reinforcement (more on that here). If you want to become more motivated to complete your workouts and to stick to your workout plan, creating a reward system is important, especially at the beginning. So how do you use a reward system to keep your workout motivation high?
Build immediate rewards into your workout.
Any effective reward system needs to be integrated into your workout routine. Your rewards can be immediate rewards built into the workouts themselves. They can also be a system that allows you to bank for rewards in the long term. Either system works well, as long as you use it.
Immediate reward systems help to make your workout a more gratifying experience, similar to getting a massage as a way of self-care. Try bundling your workout with something really enjoyable. Taking advantage of longer daylight hours means you can combine workouts with short trips to beautiful locations, such as a trail run, working out at a local park, or biking to a nearby farmer’s market.
Current technology makes building immediate gratification into your home workouts a possibility too. Having trouble sticking to your exercise regime, but couldn’t stop yourself from binge-watching Breaking Bad last year? Make your binge watch a reward for working out. Consoles available on Matrix’s line of cardio equipment will easily stream through NetFlix and Hulu. The trick is to pick a series you love and get hooked on an episode or two.
Once you know you love it, only let yourself watch it during your workouts. The one-hour duration of these programs is perfect for a solid workout. Choose one of the pre-designed workout programs (I recommend using intervals or Sprint 8 two to three times per week with an aerobic workout 1-2 days per week for active recovery), cue up, and enjoy the mood-elevating endorphins that come from linking your workout and the reward.
Create a post-workout reward.
Find a way to make your post workout routine a little out of the ordinary. As a reward for working out, light a candle you particularly enjoy, jazz up your post-workout shower with a special shower gel, or designate a special set of post-workout loungewear.
The trick to these routines is that they continue the positive association of your workout as you continue to see and smell the candle, feel the shower gel on your skin, or enjoy your extra soft and comfy clothes. These cues will reinforce your success in sticking to your workout.
Use accountability to create long-term rewards.
As part of your post-workout reward routine, create a system of accountability that lets you bank towards a larger reward. Sticking to your workout program is a big job, worthy of your long-term investment. Whether you check it off in your bullet journal, log it into your ViaFit account (which you can seamlessly integrate with many JohnsonFit home products), or just stick some money in a jar, designate a long-term goal and time frame for achieving it.
I love to reinvest in working out, such as treating myself to a new pair of cycling shoes or heart rate monitor for completing a training program. You can also choose shorter term rewards, such as downloading songs for your workout playlists, upgrading your Spotify membership, or scheduling a night out with friends. The Passport Player, with Virtual Active, is another gratifying long-term reward that can upgrade your home workouts. It introduces an interactive streaming landscape that mimics working out in beautiful environments (a great add-on next fall!).
Creating rewards for working out is a powerful tool in creating internal motivation for working out. Want more ideas? Sparkpeople provides a list of 50 potential workout rewards. Rewards are individual and help you to transition to new challenges and routines. Choose the reward that is meaningful to you and integrate it into every workout for the best success in sticking to your powerful new habits!
About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Joli.