At times I feel as if I cannot walk another step. My walking slows to a crawl. Or worse, I stop, too “tired” to go on. However, usually “tiredness” is really just code for “lazy” or mental exhaustion. In these moments, my body is not giving out on me; my mind is.
When mental fatigue or laziness strikes, you can conquer them by having some walking motivation ammunition in your arsenal.
Some people think walking regularly is simply walking to and from their car at the grocery store. True, this walking DOES count, but I am talking today about walking motivation to walk daily—briskly—for exercise, health and ultimately, so we may have more days to be on the planet. We need to commit to a period (or periods) of sustained, brisk walking each day. This is hard to do.
In simple terms walking is simply putting one foot in front of the other. So why is so hard to do some days?
We Get Busy
It could be that we just got busy and the day got “away” from us. This is the result of a failure on our part to firmly plan to walk.
We may say, “today I need to walk” but that is not enough. We must make our walk a habit; done at the same time each day. Or we must have a set time we are going to walk. Think of it as an important appointment (which it is). Write it down on your schedule. Or pick an event in your day that will be your “time to walk trigger”. For example, decide you will walk the moment you get home from work or right after the kids leave for school.
Most days, I walk when I awaken. Waking up is my trigger to walk. I get up, down a cup of coffee and walk. It is a habit for me. My mind and body have come to expect it.
If you find a little voice in your head saying, “I should be walking now,” you should LISTEN TO IT! Stop what you are doing and go walk. When you delay your walk you risk becoming lazy and losing your walking motivation… you risk not walking at all.
Some days we do start walking but in a short time may find ourselves slowing to a snail’s pace or even a complete stop. Stopping is fine, ONCE we have met our goal. But I am talking about stopping our walk long before we know we should. These are the days that we are probably not truly tired, but we may FEEL tired. Mental fatigue or laziness or both are the beasts that are truly at work.
A runner would call these types of walks a “bad” run, but I don’t want to call these bad walks because all walking is good. However, we need some mental walking ammunition to help ensure we get the most from every walk we take.
It’s Almost All About What is Between Our Ears
First, let’s look at the factors that come into play when you have a great, exhilarating walk. These are the walks where you walk farther and longer than you had planned, where your arms are swinging, you’re breathing deeply, and the endorphins are buzzing around your head.
The main 3 factors that help us have a great walk are:
1. Getting enough sleep
2. Eating well
3. The right mental state
Notice this list does not say anything about how fit (or unfit) we are. When it comes to having a great walk, what kind of shape you are in at this moment does not matter. A good walk is a good walk. For me, a good walk is moving briskly for 60 minutes. For other people, it might 20 minutes or even 10 minutes. The main thing is to do what is good for you. Ideally, you have pushed yourself a little or even better, a lot! (For a simple way to know if you are walking briskly click here.)
Our State of Mind…
Even when we lack sleep or ate poorly recently, we can still control our mental state. In fact:
In seconds you can adjust your “walking” mindset to give yourself the best possible walking motivation.
Some people who want to walk overlook focusing on their mind–their walking motivation. Instead, they expend energy on such things as which shoes to buy, what pedometer to us, and what outfit to wear. These things pale in comparison to what your motivation for walking.
Ninety percent of our walking success (and for that matter success in life) depends on our thoughts. Our thoughts determine our walking motivation (or lack of motivation) and keeping our walking motivation up–before and during our walk–is essential for our walking success.
Do You Believe You Will Have a Great, Brisk Walk Every Day? YOU MUST!
Before I discuss the top walking motivation strategies that have worked for me, I want to mention how important it is to BELIEVE in yourself. You must suppress any doubts you may have and believe you WILL have a great walking workout every single day.
Believe in the deepest reaches of your mind that you have the ability to have a great walk every day and your body will follow.
Research shows that walking benefits our brain (click here), but walking regularly also helps our psyche. Every time you walk a certain distance you are conditioning your mind as to what is possible. If you believe you can walk two miles today, you will probably be able to do it. However, if you have never walked more than a mile, then even if you are in adequate physical shape to walk two miles or even more, you will probably not succeed. It is like the old adage: Whether you believe you can or you can’t, you are right.
Some athletes will hold their breath until it causes them pain to teach their mind not to panic if their body was not getting adequate oxygen. (As an aside, when I have walked vigorously and pushed myself to go fast, I have had moments where my breathing becomes labored and I feel as if I may throw up. I may not go into a complete panic, but I am very concerned and I immediately stop walking.)
By walking more and pushing yourself to go further and longer (and even faster) you are training your mind to recognize what you can achieve. Do it enough and your mind will EXPECT you to walk a certain distance.
Do you need to expand your mind about just how much we can walk in a day? If so read about the “Michael Jordan” of walking who walked 115 miles in a single day! Click Here.
Walking Motivation Strategy #1: Clear Your Mind of Clutter
One of the main reasons for stopping our walk short (or slowing down to less than a brisk pace) is true tiredness. This is a reasonable reason to slow down or stop, but as I mentioned often we stop from mental exhaustion or pure laziness.
Mental exhaustion is often the result of having too much on our mind. You may need to force your mind clear of the stress, aggravation and the “to do” list that is weighing you down.
For me, I have actually turned this problem into one of the reasons I enjoy my time to walk each day: it is a mental break from all the stuff in my head. By not thinking about the stuff I need to do when I am done walking, I not only have a better, less exhausting walk, but I also feel more refreshed and energetic.
The more my mind is tight with worries and problems, the more I look forward to walking as my time to have a “mental break.” A good, brisk walk untangles my brain and gives me the mental strength to tackle whatever life is throwing at me (or on me!).
Walking Motivation Strategy #2: Is Walking Important Enough?
Some days I have stopped walking because I simply did not—ahead of time—remind myself a good enough reason to walk that day. You must recognize why every walk and even every step matters. Each mile, each half-mile, each quarter mile, every yard walked must have personal meaning to you. Scientists have proven EVERY STEP COUNTS, but what about for you? Does every step count? It MUST!
If you are walking because the doctor says you need to exercise, this probably will not be enough to excel. You may do the minimum, but once you have lost a bit of weight, you won’t have the drive to ramp things up – to walk farther and faster. Basically, “doctor ordered” walking gets most people to walk as little as they can get away with.
When I tell my patients who are overweight that they should consider walking for health, their reply often is, “How much should I walk?” These people are never going to have a great mind-blowing, sweat inducing, “happy-chemical” brain expanding walk. They will walk the distance I suggest AT BEST and not a step more.
You need to be walking for YOU; not because your doctor told you to. This is not to say you cannot walk so you become/stay healthy. In fact, your reason for walking may be to STAY AWAY from the doctor (or doctors!). This is a great reason and walking regularly will help get you there.
The main thing is that you need have a strong reason to want to walk. Your reason has to be so strong that it will get you out of the chair, sofa or bed, even when it is cold or hot or raining or snowing; even when you did not get enough sleep, or got yelled at by your boss or spouse, or you have a cold or a corn on your toe. You must have a reason that has so much meaning that you will push through the little potholes of your day and walk.
Walk to Thrive
Perhaps, you cherish the feeling of your heart pumping and muscles tensing, as you speed forward, while savoring the feel of the breeze against your cheek and taking in the scent of a nearby freshly cut lawn. Along these lines, one man told me he walks to thrive. When he does not walk he said he feels dead. We have all seen those people who are just moving through life. Technically, they are alive, but they are not TRULY, DEEPLY, PASSIONATELY ALIVE. For many people, myself included, walking helps make me feel alive.
Walk to Help Others
Other people walk for a cause. They walk every day so they will be in good enough condition to go to charity walks.
Walk to Enjoy the Scenery
For many, walking is the chance to enjoy the sights of a new area or walk with a partner or friends. If this is you, check out this site’s Walking Clubs Database to find walkers to walk with near you.
Walk to Save Lives (your own included)
A woman told me jokingly that she walks to save lives. She explained she isn’t talking about her life, but those of her co-workers. When she walks regularly it eases her frustration (and anger) with them just enough that she no longer feels like killing them! The mental stress-relieving benefits of walking ARE huge and this is a great reason to walk each day.
Walk for Rover
Many walkers do it for their dog. Without Rover they would likely not walk, but by having him, they know they should walk him. It is the guilt of not taking Rover on his favorite thing in the world that gets them out. In the end, they are helping each other.
Make Walking Your Mocha Frappuccino
One woman said she walks to “wake up” her body in the morning. Walking is her morning cup of Java! (How I wish I had started walking in the morning instead of downing the thick, black sludge I am hooked on.)
Walk For Chocolate-Chip Cookie-Dough Ice Cream
Several people have told me they walk because they love to eat. I know this sounds a bit contradictory. If you are walking, why would you give up all those lost calories with a scoop of ice cream. But, many people say they actually think about rewarding themselves with their favorite junk food and not feeling guilty because they know they are walking it off.
Walk to Challenge Yourself
Maybe you simply look forward to challenging yourself to walk more each day. The more obsessed with walking you can become the better. You need to get yourself to the point where you hate it when you miss a day!
Does the idea of walking a marathon swell a desire in you? Does the thought of pushing yourself to walk further than yesterday make you feel good about yourself? Does the idea of one day taking a walking vacation get you excited? You must want these kinds of motivating benefits to experience the true joy of walking… to call yourself a walker. (Please take a moment to help other readers motivate themselves to walk by leaving a comment below on why you walk. Thanks!)
Now that you have your reason(s) for walking, you will need to remind yourself of them at times. When I feel my passion waning I will take a few minutes to think about all the reasons I must walk.
I urge you to write down your reasons for walking and read them every day. Post the list on the bathroom mirror or next to your TV or computer, or even all three. You want to see this list often, so it reminds you to get up off your butt and walk!
The more reasons you have for walking the better. Again, it is key that these reasons have meaning for YOU; not your doctor, spouse, children or personal trainer–but YOU! Your reasons may be the same as theirs, but they must resonate LOUDLY for YOU!
Perhaps, you love the feeling you have after a long, brisk walk. Maybe, you walk in nature and adore the trees, plants and wildlife. As I mentioned earlier, for me walking is my time to log off, shut down and unplug from the world. It is my “Zen time,” when I can un-knot my mind from its preoccupation with my many warring responsibilities.
Walking Motivation Strategy #3: Visualize Success
Another strategy I use is to visualize myself walking before my walk. Research has proven that visualization works and nearly all professional athletes use this powerful technique at some point.
For me, if I am planning to go for a walk after dinner, as I am driving home from work I will picture myself walking. I call this visualizing my mental walking rehearsal and when doing it, I will fill in as many details as possible, imagining myself moving along a certain route. If my goal is to walk faster than my prior walk, I will picture the stopwatch on my smart phone showing the time I want to beat, and I will imagine myself having an amazing, joyful victory as I beat that time.
Most important, as I do these walking rehearsals I will think about all MY reasons for walking. Imbed these reasons into your visualizations. For example, I will see myself walking briskly, smelling the trees, feeling the sun on my face, and I will imagine my body becoming lean and fit. The more you can “go through” your walk ahead of the actual walk, the more likely you will be to complete it.
Walking Motivation Strategy #4: Use A Mantra
When your mind wants you to slow your walking pace or stop, you must find a good way to fight these feelings and push onward. Let’s face it, if you could walk two miles yesterday and the day before, you should be able to walk two miles today—at least. The reality is if you have been walking two miles every day, you can probably walk even farther today.
A good tool I often use in these moments is a mantra. A walking mantra is a great tool to help spur you on when your motivation is sagging and can help you reach new goals. I will say these walking mantras silently as well as aloud. You may even see me yelling them. Yes, I may look funny, but so what? I would rather look funny briefly and succeed than not look funny and fail. Plus, nowadays with cellphones and ear-buds, most people will think I am just talking on the phone.
A key part of saying a walking mantra is to vary it by putting the emphasis at times on different words. For example, a common mantra for me is “Just a few more steps…” I will hit “Just” and “few” with more conviction/strength.
Other walking mantras I use are:
“I can do this.”
“I will do this.“
“I don’t stop because I’m tired. I stop when I’m done.”
“With every step I am getting stronger, better, leaner.”
“I can do this.“
“I am a walker.“
“I am not tired.“
“I can do ten more minutes.”
“I will finish.”
Walking Motivation Strategy #5: Get Started
You may be starting walking for the first time in years or even your life, or just planning to go on today’s walk. Regardless, every time you walk you must start. This is by far the hardest part of walking: the start, taking that first step out the door (or onto the treadmill).
Often I hear people say that they are going to start walking next month, next week, January 1st and so on. Don’t WAIT to walk!
Walking takes action, and some days that action will feel overshadowed by a mountainous beast. This beast could a lack of sleep the night before, the million things on your mind that you need to do, or the fact that it’s cold and raining outside. You may have a headache, a corn on your toe, or need a new pair of walking shoes. This list could go on. Regardless of the beast fighting you, you MUST conquer it!
You may at times when stuck at your computer or in front of the TV know you should get up and walk but may not have the motivation to pull yourself out of your chair. In these moments, keep in mind that the longer you sit the more likely you are to stay sitting (recall Newton’s First Law of Physics: An object at rest stays at rest).
On those days or moments where I feel sluggish, I find sometimes find it is better to tell myself I am only going to walk half or a third as much as I usually do. By doing this, it makes the walk ahead of me seem easier, less intimidating. You may also want to give yourself permission to walk a little slower (not go briskly). In fact, say to yourself whatever you have to–as long as it gets you walking.
Once I actually start walking an odd thing often happens: I find the energy to walk more than I thought I would. Sometimes I get a “second wind” and walk longer and faster than I had ever thought possible.
My best walks are when I forget I am walking. During these walks I am huffing along, often lost in thought, taking in bits and pieces of the sights, sounds and smells.
If you want to help yourself to walk regularly, successfully, where you grow—mentally, physically—use these five walking motivation tips (or strategies). Consider these walking motivation tips a starting point. If you are just beginning to walk regularly for health and fitness, you will need to learn even more motivation tricks to keep you walking. (If you have been walking for a while, help others by sharing your motivation tips by commenting below.)
The most important point is this: You must also begin to think of yourself as a WALKER. When your friends say they’re runners, bodybuilders, tennis players… Tell them proudly: YOU ARE A WALKER.
If anyone thinks walking regularly, briskly, rain or shine, is easy, tell them politely that they don’t what they’re talking about. You can also tell them about the Michael Jordan of walking. Or best yet, you can say nothing and walk away, far away.
P.S. If you know anyone who walks, should walk, or is thinking about walking, please use the share buttons below to share this article with them. Please comment below on your walking motivation tips and strategies, and your walking mantras, or your personal reasons for walking. Lastly, if you liked this article please subscribe to our newsletter. You can cancel any time and we never will give out your email address. Thank you.
Photo Credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hdz/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/50826080@N00/