Sports: How to outsmart your weaker self

How did you outsmart your inner bastard?

A sports psychologist about the power of habit and the right way to handle excuses.

4 min

There he lurks again, the inner bastard.

Carry the water box to the third floor – without gasping for air. A slimmer body, less pain: Most of us are aware that it is good to exercise regularly.

Unfortunately, that does not automatically mean we are ready to slip into our sports gear and actually get started. The one who all too often keeps us on short leash is the weaker me. He is adept at coming up with 20 reasons why the sofa is a better choice than the sports unit. How did you outsmart him?

According to sports psychologist Thomas Ritthaler from Munich, if we have difficulty picking up the scoop, there is usually a reason behind: We have not yet established training as a habit in everyday life. Such habits have a great advantage because we follow them without much consideration. “In the evening we brush our teeth – without having to negotiate with each other for long,” says Ritthaler.

You can not do it without self-discipline

So the good news is: once the sport is firmly entrenched in everyday life, our weaker selves will no longer throw so many sporting excuses at our feet. The bad news: The road to habit requires perseverance and a good dose of self-discipline.

If we are still at the beginning of the sport, according to Ritthaler, we look primarily at the costs and less at the benefits. Because we need to free up a time window for sports in our busy everyday lives. And of course, the first pilates unit or jogging session is especially demanding for those who are new to sports. Sometimes it’s even frustrating because you’re not in good shape and everyone else is passing you by.

Then it is all the more important to bring joy on board. “We find the strongest motivation when we really want to play a sport,” says Ritthaler. “If it’s not primarily about wanting to lose weight, but about having fun.” In psychology, this is called intrinsic motivation. It is the drive that does not come from the hoped-for recognition from outside, but from within ourselves.

How do you get into a habit?

“In the beginning, you should set yourself specific goals – for example, with the question: What do I want to achieve?” says sports researcher Laura Blanz from the German University of Prevention and Health Management (DHfPG).

The next step is to derive a concrete plan based on the goals. According to Blanz, “I’m going to start jogging next week” is too vague. On the other hand, if we say “I’m going for a run on Thursday after work at 5pm”, we’re more likely to go through our plan. Especially when we have a plan B ready for bad weather: the hooded sports jacket or the treadmill in the gym.

The bigger the better? This does not apply to goals in sports – in the beginning. “Even though it may feel ridiculous: Set yourself very small goals,” advises sports psychologist Ritthaler. For even a minute of sport is more than not a minute of sport.

If the sports psychologist has his will, it can actually be a goal to train ten minutes a day. The argument “No time!” popular with the bastard. runs so empty. If you train ten minutes in six days, you have practiced an hour at the end of the week – not so little.

The “Five Minute Deal” trick

Sports dates with others can also have a motivating effect. According to sports researcher Blanz, the obstacle to not doing this is significantly higher. Finally, fitness bracelets and apps can also promote training because they make progress visible. “But don’t let it put you under pressure,” Ritthaler says.

Sometimes the bastard can be persuaded by what Thomas Ritthaler calls a “five-minute deal.” You plan to train for five minutes. Then you can stop with a clear conscience. Once you are in your running clothes or standing on the sports mat, five minutes often turns into ten or fifteen minutes. The inner bastard has become silent.

Sometimes the body also reports that it does not feel like exercising today due to sore muscles or weakness. “You should not ignore these body signals,” Blanz says. So instead of jogging, a walk might do you good. Or instead of the sweaty spinning device in the studio, a gentler workout at home. (dpa)

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