Finding your motivation

Easily get more exercise and stick with it. Trying to make some healthy lifestyle changes, but can’t seem to stay motivated? You’re not alone. Health coach Nick Galli was recently on “The Scope Radio” discussing strategies to get you motivated to be healthier and stay that way.

Interview transcript

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Finding the motivation to change is hard

You’re in a situation where you know that there are some health changes you want to make, whether it’s your diet or your activity level, drinking, smoking, something like that, but you just can’t quite seem to make those changes and it can be hard.

Nick Galli’s turning point—the athlete with bad cholesterol

Nick Galli is a health coach and assistant professor of health, kinesiology and recreation in the Department of Health at the University of Utah. He also works with high-level athletes. Galli had always considered himself a healthy person. He prioritized physical fitness, his diet seemed alright, he was a club athlete all through college. But in his 20s he went in for his physical. The results surprised him.

“I got the blood draw and my readings came back everything was way high. My cholesterol, my triglycerides, a lot of the bad stuff,” Galli explains. “I think I went through a little bit of a denial at first. I thought, ‘No way.’ Because, you know, I’d always considered myself a pretty healthy, prioritized physical fitness. My diet wasn’t great, but it was okay. So that would have been my turning point.”

Galli first tried making some changes to his diet but saw very little change in his blood work after six months. He worked with his doctor to find a solution.

“So then it was going on a small dose of a statin, which was really weird because I think I was still in my 20s. I’m like, ‘Well, this is crazy.’ Ten milligrams or something, which I still take. And it’s only been in the last few years where I feel like I’ve really gotten a handle on the dietary part of things and my numbers, the last two times that I’ve had them checked have both been both times been in the normal range.”

Sometimes improving your health isn’t just lifestyle choices. Galli had always considered himself “the healthy one” but due to his genetics, diet and exercise weren’t enough. Sometimes, genetics can keep you from being at that optimal level.

Troy agrees, “I think that’s the point. We can do everything we can, but genetics are a huge factor in so many of these things and sometimes you need to accept that and address it. And I think we all kind of have these wake-up calls. But like you said, it’s a process and addressing it and reevaluating and reassessing.”

Motivation is different for everyone

When Galli works with a client, he has a few strategies to help them become motivated, and stay motivated to improve their health.

“I think the first thing that’s important to do is get a sense for what their life context is because it’s not a one-size-fits-all,” says Galli. “Different approaches will work with different people or resonate with different people, depending on, for example, their living situation. Are they single? Are they in a relationship? Do they have children? Are they surrounded, as you mentioned by, you know, social support?”

“I also get a sense of how ready they are. And then figure out because for most people, making a big change immediately isn’t going to work. They might make that change and then we get a short-term result, but it’s not for the long haul. We’ve got to think about little things that maybe that person can be doing that don’t feel like a lot of work but that can over time make a big difference.”

How to easily get more exercise and stick with it

One of the most impactful things a person can do to improve their health is to be more active. But finding the motivation to exercise can be difficult. Galli explains why.

“Exercise is a good one because I think people have this picture, especially if they haven’t done much of it, of exercise, is very rigid. I’ve got to go to the health club. I’ve got to go there for three or five days a week and spend an hour there.”

According to Galli, one of the best strategies is to change the perception of “exercise.” Reframe exercise as “physical activity.” Simple changes can lead to real results. Park further away so you walk farther in the parking lot. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Go outside and work in the garden or play with your kids.

One size does not fit all when it comes to changing habits. When working with clients Galli works to help them find a personal strategy you can do on your own.

“I’ll always say, you know, before the next time we meet, ‘Give this a shot.’ Or I’ll ask them before we leave, ‘OK, what’s one thing you’re going to try to do differently and pay attention to how that makes you feel?’ We all hope that they make the change and they feel great. But also sort of warning them, ‘This might feel this might not feel good at first because it’s out of your comfort zone and that’s OK.'”

Give change an honest chance

Changing your lifestyle habits can be hard. It brings you out of your comfort zone. You may slip up now and then. What’s important is to commit to making the change and giving it an honest effort. One “Scope” interviewer shares what he’s heard:

“One thing I’ve heard that seems to work is just to try it for 30 days. It may be uncomfortable but it seems that that 30-day period is often the key to really try something, see if it’s going to work to change the habit and then reassess at that point. Do you have a time frame where you tell people, ‘Hey, do it for this period of time, give it a chance, it may not be comfortable at first, but let’s give it some time?'”

“I definitely use that concept,” says Galli. “I don’t know that I’ve ever specifically used, you know, 30 days as a benchmark. That makes sense in a lot of ways. I’ll often say for physical activity, “Even if you don’t feel like doing it, commit to 10 minutes.” Because we know that in as little as 10 minutes, you can get benefits. “If after 10 minutes you don’t want to do it anymore, go home and sit on your couch.” And usually, you know, people will. So I think it’s kind of a momentum principle. It puts a finish line on it, and it’s also very reinforcing when the person makes it to 30 days.”

If it doesn’t work for you after an honest effort, it’s time to try something else. Giving yourself an out is important to stay motivated, but it’s crucial you really try a strategy before moving on to the next. Another “Scope” interviewer shares his own unique approach to getting to the gym:

“I used to do that to the gym. I still do. Like, ‘I don’t feel like going to the gym. All right, you just got to drive there. You got to go inside, you got to swipe your card and you got to do one exercise. And if you decide you want to go home at that point, go home.’ I’ve never once gone home at that point.”

Basic tips to help stick with your goals

Galli shares a few key tips you can try in your own life. Whether it be exercising more, drinking less, quitting smoking, improving your diet; the strategy is the same:

  • Don’t make sudden or huge changes. Stick to small, easily attainable changes. The will add up.
  • Look at where you are, and go from there. Don’t assume that you can go from being a couch potato to running a marathon. Take stock of your situation and make gradual improvements.
  • Get started today. Don’t put off your lifestyle changes indefinitely. Commit to changing one small, easy thing this week.