Carrot or the Stick



Just kidding! Make it a carrot or stick - not a carrot on a stick.

Instead of resolutions, I made goals for 2011. Even though they are SMART I sometimes lack motivation to work on them, especially my fitness goals. I know why exercise is important, and why I need to be fit; doing so reduces my risk for heart disease, diabetes and cancer which run in my family. Also I want to feel good, look healthy and fit into my current wardrobe.

Sadly, if good health and ego was the only thing needed to motivate people, then we wouldn’t have an obesity problem in the United States.

I need a “carrot,” not a “stick”.

What does this mean?

Stick = beating me, berating me, yelling at me, making me feel guilty (even if it is the voices in my head) about the negative consequences of not exercising or eating healthy, and maintaining a healthy body weight and body fat percentage; worrying about risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity and a slow, miserable, untimely death. It’s not a stick, but a whip I’m trying to duck.

Carrot (or carrot cake?) = encouraging me, coaxing me, moving me forward to the reward of when I exercise and eat healthy how much better I feel. Maintaining a weight and body fat percentage just happens as part of the process. While I still have risk factors for cancer, diabetes, heart disease and weight gain because of my family history, they are now lower. The reward is a healthier life that I enjoy to nearly the end.

What is my carrot?

Unfortunately I need lots of carrot, or rewards. As a morning exerciser, I get up at 5 am. I would love to sleep or stay in bed until 9 am. (Reminder: buy lottery ticket.) Personally, if I did that, would never fit in exercise, or I would fit it in a lot less than I do now (that’s me).

I reward myself for the baby steps. I don’t do daily or weekly rewards; that reward is the personal satisfaction and feeling good about the accomplishments. I do have monthly rewards. At the end of each month, I get a mini-reward for completing 85% of my planned workouts. In case you are wondering, that allows one skipped day per week on my schedule.

Mini rewards include buying that “thing” I have wanted, but don’t need; a soak in the hot tub at Betty’s Bath; a planned personal day off just for me; a new fitness gadget; a cupcake… Generally, nonfood rewards, but once in a while for a special occasion I say go for it, as long as it doesn’t sabotage your goal.

Large rewards mostly include a one hour massage or other spa treatment or a celebratory dinner. Large rewards are usually following a race or event that I successfully completed or three months of doing 85% of my workouts.

Not everyone needs a bunch of carrots like me (incremental, multiple rewards); a single carrot is just fine. But I have noticed that if I don’t plan those rewards, the snooze button wears out and I skip workouts.

What are your carrots? How do you motivate yourself?


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