Monday, August 20, 2012

Motivators that Work for Me: #3 Earn a Reward

This is Part 3 of an occasional series of blog posts in which I discuss things I do to stay motivated for workouts. The first were fairly unique to me, but this one could probably work for anyone. What's my secret?

Answer: I earn financial rewards to spend on fitness gear. This sounds amazing and who wouldn't want to do this? But there is a catch. You have to have the money to spend in the first place. I'm not winning money from someone else; I am simply giving myself permission to spend money. Here is how it works:

First, I save a little bit of money each month and I designate it for "workout rewards." This fund builds up until I have done something deserving enough to spend it. For example, on May 22, 2009, I set a personal best in the amount of weight I lifted during a workout at the gym. I "gave" myself $25 as a reward and set it aside. Just a few days later, I did more pull-ups than ever before. Great! Another $25 was put into my savings account. Then another few days later, I set a personal best in fastest running pace during an outdoor run. Yay! I gave myself another $25.

Prior to all this I came up with a list of things that would qualify for a $25 reward. These things generally included personal bests, as described above. The magic here is that just beating a previous time or a previous weight or a previous pace or previous calories burned--whatever your set of goals--is worth a reward. The reward is not something hard to obtain in the beginning; in fact, it's easy to beat your previous performances in the beginning of a workout program. And then it gets harder as you improve and time goes on. This is by design, because if you're like me, you are not made of money, so you can't sustain all these deductions from your paycheck or checking account for long. But as you improve, and earning a reward becomes harder, you won't need as much motivation to keep going.

Now the fun part. As I explained, I had about $75 saved up by the end of May 2009. Now I got to spend it. The rule I made up for this was that whatever I spent the money on would have to go toward a purchase related to my workouts. At the time, I was involved in a church softball league, I was lifting weights, I was cycling, and I was swimming. So in June 2009 I see in my records that I spent the $75 on additional weights to put on my barbell, some slider pants I could wear on the ball field, and swim goggles.

This system provided me with a lot of new clothes and toys through summer of 2010. The drawback of the system was that I had to keep records of all my workouts, how much I earned, and how much I spent on workout gear. Admittedly, I lost interest in this "Workout Rewards" motivator for about a year (but i hasten to point out that I was still working out a lot, so the system worked!). Then in early summer 2011, I splurged and bought a new road bicycle. I hadn't saved up enough to buy this bike; I just wanted it. I felt a little guilty for violating my system so I put it back in place in order to buy the necessary accessories that one usually needs for a new bicycle. For example, I wanted a cycling jersey, cycling shorts, cycling shoes, cycling gloves, water bottle cage...lots of things. But I didn't buy them right away. I had to earn them. How? By riding the bike, of course! For every mile that I rode, I set aside $2. Today, I am riding that bike at least 30 miles a week. But I'm not giving myself $60 to spend every week; now that riding the bike is part of my routine, I no longer need the extra motivation of the financial reward. So once again, I'm not really keeping track of personal bests for the purpose of financial award, and that's OK, because I'm still working out. My "Workout Rewards" program is something that definitely works for me when I'm trying to reach a goal or when I want a new fitness toy.

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