When all you feel like doing is riding the couch, try this no-fail tricks to jumpstart your workout mojo
By Liz Plosser, Women’s Health
Women are 30 percent less active at this time of year than when the days are long and the temps are balmy, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. But new research on the psychology of motivation suggests that when your drive to sweat is at an all-time low, the fix may be as simple as changing up your approach. “We’re talking about easy but incredibly effective ways to achieve goals,” says Ian Ayres, Ph.D., an economist and a professor at Yale Law School, who examines successful motivation techniques in his recent book Carrots and Sticks: Unlock the Power of Incentives to Get Things Done.
Make a Commitment Contract
In a perfect world, you work out regularly because you actually like all the heart-pumping, endorphin boosting, waist-slimming benefits that come with it. Researchers call that intrinsic motivation, and it’s a critical factor for staying with a long term routine. But when your inner drive is thwarted, external incentives can give you the boost you need, says Ayres. It’s an idea grounded in behavioral economics, a tool used by many corporations to motivate their employees and improve their bottom lines.
Incentives work like a charm for some (a 30-minute jog each day for a month = a new Marc Jacobs tote), but behavioral economists such as Ayres say that the flip side—penalties for missing a sweat session—are even more effective… especially when they involve your hard-earned cash.
“People will work twice as hard when money is at stake compared with relying only on their willpower,” he says. Try it: Register your goal and credit-card info at stickk.com. If you don’t do a predetermined number of workouts, the charity of your choice gets a payday, courtesy of you. “This is even more effective if you give money to something you don’t like,” adds Ayres. Diehard liberal? Set up your account to donate to a conservative group, and watch your sweat fly.
Or make a friendly wager among coworkers or friends: Everyone ponies up $10 and whoever logs the most workout sessions over three months wins the pot. This is an ideal commitment device because you have a financial prize and punishment in place simultaneously. “Just make sure the group is large enough,” warns Ayres. “If you have fewer than three people, you give each other room to slack off.”
In behavioral economics, these tactics are called commitment contracts; they work by removing and reducing choices. And you don’t have to dole out dollars to feel the pressure, adds Ayres. Let’s say you register for a walkathon. You’re signing your name to that goal. Elevate that sense of duty by sharing the plan with friends or walk for a cause that requires you to raise funds. You’re far less likely to bail if you’ve already hit up friends and coworkers for donations.