Relying on inner motivation to stick to an exercise habit doesn’t work. It’s just not realistic. We all need a back-up plan, and mine involves using chocolate as motivation to exercise.
Motivation alone isn’t enough
Why? Because even when we have discovered the deepest, most meaningful, most honest WHY behind our desire to improve our health and fitness, our motivation can still dip. And then we can turn in on ourselves and beat ourselves up about it. When actually it’s just a fact of life that everyone’s motivation ebbs and flows. What really helps when this happens is if we have already created ways to make the whole ‘exercise experience’ more enjoyable.
You could make it social and buddy up with a friend. I love this option, but scheduling it can be tricky when you have just half an hour to squeeze in a quick workout between closing the laptop and picking up the kids.
My next tried and tested method is to use chocolate as motivation to exercise. Let me explain.
Chocolate as motivation to exercise
When I’m feeling a bit MEH, I usually either:
A/ reach for the chocolate
B/ get my body moving
C/ do both A and B
I often want A strongly, even though I know B works better for me…so in the end I usually make a deal with myself and choose C.
C means I use chocolate as my reward to enjoy after exercise. (Take a look at my IG reel on this very subject).
Cue…Shock! Horror!! I know, I know. This may not be what you expect to hear from a Personal Trainer, but I’m offering full disclosure here! I’m a big fan of being honest and realistic. I find it gets better results for me and my clients, you see.
Rewarding yourself will increase your motivation to exercise
However, to those who might object to eating chocolate straight after a workout, because: “I don’t want to ruin all the hard work!”. I say, let go of the calorie counting and celebrate the fact that you just did all that hard work! Reward yourself immediately.
Sure, it would be better if your post-workout reward were, say, a healthy bowl of porridge. But, let’s be honest here, that just won’t cut it! It’s just not a juicy enough reward, for me at least.
As long as you don’t go crazy with mountains of chocolate, it’s fine to treat yourself! In fact, it works in your favour. Because when you reward yourself immediately, you make the whole exercise experience more enjoyable.
I’m pleased to say that my method of using chocolate as motivation to exercise brings to life two of habit-change expert, James Clear’s, laws of how to create a good habit:
- make it attractive
- make it satisfying
- pairing an action you want to do (eat chocolate) with and action you need to do (exercise)
- giving yourself an immediate reward when you complete your habit.
Read more in his brilliant book Atomic Habits
So, as your brain starts to equate exercise with enjoyment – rather than punishment/restriction/not fun – you’ll find that you are more likely to pull the Lycra on again, and sooner. This in turn means you’ll start to create a more consistent exercise habit, with all the mental and physical benefits that brings.
Then, once you really start to feel the deeper benefits – feeling good in your own skin, self-confident, strong – they nourish your motivation loop. It becomes easier to get moving again, and again.
You might even reach a point where you just do the exercise for the post-workout feels. One day, you might not need the chocolate reward anymore. Or you might always rely on it, and that’s ok too. Just remember, if you’re moving regularly, you’re doing great things for your mind and body.
If using chocolate as a “carrot” motivates you to get moving (as I think I’ve made clear, it does for me!) then go for it…who cares what anyone else thinks!
p.s. find out more about my habit-change coaching here