How to Utilize Your Brain’s Natural Chemicals as Motivation to Workout
Written by Lalo Torres
You know that feel-good feeling you get after a sweaty workout? The one that leaves you wondering why the frick you are torturing yourself and why you can’t wait to do it again? Or, do you have trouble motivating yourself to workout?
You can thank these chemicals and your brain for that.
Tells a region deep in the brain, “Hey you, super star. Yeah you, I like this. Let’s do that again.” The cool thing is that all of you are already one step ahead of the game because dopamine levels go up when you exercise. So congrats on being #Elite over the normal population.
Helps us feel pleasure and control impulses, but also affects memory, sleep, and other functions. Elevated levels of this induce a feeling of well-being, we become better at controlling nonadaptive impulses. Low levels are associated with anxiety, depression, and impulsivity.
Natural opioids that help us tolerate the discomfort of the exertion. The opioids allow us to go for a long hike or run without noticing our muscles are sore and that our feet have blisters. Although their effects can last for hours, endorphins aren’t produced until after twenty or more minutes of intense, vigorous activity, making them more rewarding for people who are already fit enough to workout that hard.
What causes the ‘runner’s high’ and despite causing the pleasurable high, this system has little relevance for most people exercising because it usually takes several hours of vigorous physical activity before the brain releases these mood and sensory-enhancing drugs.
“Cool Cool Cool…Why should I care?”
While these and other chemicals released by exercise help motivate us to exercise, they have some drawbacks being that they mostly function through virtuous cycles. When we do something like walk or run six miles, we produce dopamine, serotonin, and other chemicals that make us feel good, and make us more likely to do it again. BUT, when we are stationary, for example, binge-watching Netflix, a vicious cycle develops. As we become more out of shape, our brains are less able to reward us for exercising.
So what should we as a society, and you and I as individuals do? How can we make exercise more fun and rewarding especially if we are out of shape? Figure out how to distract your mind while you exercise with other things you find fun. Such diversions will help make workouts less disagreeable.
Here are some easy peasy recommendations on how to get you hyped to workout!
Be social: Workout with friends, a group, or a good qualified AF coach.
Entertain Yourself: Listen to good-ass music, podcasts, or books, or watch a movie while on the C2Bike.
Exercise Outside (in a beautiful environment): Get jacked, get tanned. Win-win.
Dance or play sports and games.
Because variety is enjoyable, experiment and mix things up. Doing the same thing every day is boring AF. Don’t be boring. K thanks.
Reward yourself for exercising. You know those sick new workout shoes you’ve had your eye on? The ones that you probably shouldn’t buy buttttttt…They would look so goooood. You know what I say to that? Treat yo’ self.
In summation, to use these chemicals to help motivate yourself to workout and train…you have to work out and train.
“But, Lalo… how am I going to motivate myself to train so that I can motivate myself to train…”
- Sounds like an excuse
- I don’t care about your excuse.
- While we have a supply of motivation, this is a perfect example of why we can’t rely only on this natural supply. This is when discipline may override motivation.
Are you committed and disciplined enough to take the first step, to always show up? To be honest, I am more interested in your level of discipline than your level of motivation. It’s like this. Even the most “naturally” gifted athletes cannot rely on their talent alone.
Motivation + Discipline = Success
Let’s find that sweet spot. Because somewhere between motivation and discipline, that’s where the magic happens.