A couple I know recently got engaged. The man labored for weeks beforehand to make sure everything was just right: beach at sunset (8:27 p.m.), soft pillows, flowers, candles, Pinterest-worthy signs—everything necessary to set the mood. Of course she said “yes!”
Scene-setting is powerful, not just for life’s biggest moments, but for the everyday ones too—including your daily workout. Trying to exercise in your family room with a pile of laundry to your left and the kids fighting in the kitchen will likely add to your stress, not reduce it, as a workout should. Or being a member of a gym that’s rundown or always crowded gives you just one more excuse not to go after a busy workday.
Instead, up your chances of fitness success by creating a workout environment you’re eager to be in rather than angling to avoid.
To do so, consider each of your five senses. Here’s how:
Sight. This is the alpha sense and, therefore, the first one you should consider. Start by clearing out distractions, clutter, anything that might zap your motivation—and adding things that will boost it: inspirational pictures or posters, a plant, maybe a written goal. If you prefer a gym, choose one that prioritizes an aesthetic you like.
Sound. As with the visual setting, begin by eliminating distracting sounds. Silence your phone; don’t run the washing machine; set your kid up in the next room with a book or movie. Then find a workout video with audio that doesn’t drive you nuts (not an easy task). Or spend time on a weekend putting together or finding playlists with fitting music for various types of workouts—say, hype-up tunes for HIIT and mellow for stretching. A recent Canadian study published in Psychology of Sport and Exercise found that novices enjoyed intense exercise more and performed better when they listened to up-tempo music. At a gym, seek out class instructors who share your taste in music or invest in wireless earbuds designed to be used during exercise.
Smell. Some people find the scent of peppermint energizing, although the research is inconclusive as to whether there’s any science behind it. To try it, place a few drops of peppermint essential oil into a diffuser and place it in a corner of the room. Gymgoers can opt to work out at less-crowded times to avoid being on a treadmill next to the guy who forgot his deodorant. (Friendly neighborhood tip: Don’t be that guy.)
Taste. Swap out plain water with flavored varieties, either bottled water or homemade infusions. Also, before you start exercising, prepare a healthy but tasty post-workout snack that you’ll look forward to indulging in when you’re done.
Touch. This comes down to investing in high-quality gear—a comfortable mat for hard surfaces, a fan for stuffy rooms, lifting gloves, weights with comfortable grips, right-fitting workout clothes made with performance fabrics, sweet shoes—whatever you need to eliminate excuses and keep yourself on the right fitness track.