Strategies to Hack Your Willpower for Fitness
  • August 27, 2014
  • Do you work at one of those offices where there’s one guy who always reminds you what day of the week it is? How exactly do you continue a conversation that starts with, “Monday, am I right?” That constant reminder of exactly where you are in that 5-day workweek and everything that your workday consists of can drain your discipline and motivation.  Your willpower is just like a muscle, and after being worked all day to meet deadlines, answer emails and keep yourself from telling your client exactly what you think that of 5:30 pm “urgent” request, your willpower muscle gets worn down.

    According to Nathan DeWall, a psychology professor at the University of Kentucky quoted by Entreprenuer Magazine, “Our amount of self-control finite; our reserve depletes over the course of the day, replenishing over night.” Translation: you’ve only got so much willpower each day and when it’s gone, it’s gone.

    So how do you harness the willpower you do have and turn that into motivation to meet your goals? Try these three strategies to muster the willpower you need to meet your fitness goals:

    Change your schedule to fit workouts into your morning routine

    When you wake up with a fresh supply of willpower, its a good time to forego the snooze button, drink a cup of coffee, slap on some spandex (or a nice lycra blend, gents) and hit the gym. A morning workout is also a great time to start to organize your thoughts for the day and set your day off on the right track with mood-enhancing brain chemicals.

    There is so much that can happen throughout the day to throw your workout off track. By getting it out of the way before any emergency or ASAP request slides across your inbox, you’re eliminating the potential that you’ll have to push “gym” to the bottom of your to-do list.

    Make not working out really really difficult

    It’s one thing to set an alarm, but it’s an entirely different thing to get after it when that alarm goes off. Do absolutely everything to prevent yourself from falling off track in the morning – anything to eliminate your need to use any willpower at all. Layout your clothes, pack your lunch, make coffee before bed and the morning becomes so automatic that not getting out of bed is silly.

    By making the act of getting out the door easy, you’re not using much of your willpower reserve to make that choice. So when when you ask yourself the question, “Should I eat the donuts that day-of-the-week guy brought to work? You can say, “I don’t have to. I already packed a delicious, healthy breakfast and yes, it’s hump-day, day-of-the-week guy. It’s totally hump-day.”

    Get an accountability buddy

    I endorse #sweatworking in all forms. Whether that’s a more coordinated effort, like what we do every month, or just two friends catching up at the gym. On top of the social and emotional benefits of working out with someone, your accountability to the person that you’re meeting at the gym will help you to have boosted willpower and follow through. When I have someone waiting for me at the gym, whether that’s a trainer or a friend, I am more worried about letting them down than I am about missing my own workout.  My mom, for example would never TRY to make me feel badly about standing her up at the gym, but I would NEVER want to do that.

    asweatlife willpower motivation

    Willpower is as important a muscle to strengthen as any other and as you work towards building your ability to make the tough choices that may delay gratification for a greater purpose. Read: passing on eating too much ice cream or drinking too much beer now to ensure that you’re keeping your body healthy for your whole life and your whole health later.

    How do you keep yourself accountable?

    About Jeana Anderson Cohen

    Jeana Anderson Cohen is the founder and CEO of aSweatLife.com a destination for living your best life, with fitness as the catalyst. She's also the co-founder and head of strategy of the SweatWorking App. But before starting health-focused companies Jeana earned a degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. For the first decade of her career, she created and executed social media strategies for brands. aSweatLife fuses her experience and her passion for wellness and SweatWorking was the natural evolution of that experience. You can find Jeana leading the team at aSweatLife, hosting aSweatLife’s monthly #Sweatworking events, and - on the rare evening off - you may find her using her Personal Training certification to coach group fitness classes across Chicago.