Some people just naturally love to exercise, and that is great. I am one of those lucky ones who feels this way. But I know that there are many people out there who see exercise as a chore and absolutely hate working out. Because of this, it is difficult for them to get into a regular exercise routine, and it sometimes becomes an obstacle in allowing them to reach their goals. I do believe that everyone can learn to at least enjoy exercise a little bit if they do it right, but sometimes you need a little external motivation. It would be great if you could get to a point in your life where you see the benefits of a healthy lifestyle as all the motivation you need to exercise, but some people, especially in the beginning of their journey, need a little extra boost. That’s where an exercise reward system can come into place.
Before you set up an exercise reward system, I strongly suggest you first set exercise goals. You can read some tips about exercise goal setting here. Then it’s a good idea to start some sort of exercise planning. Look for some ideas here. Once you have those pieces in place, it’s time to get working out. Now you can create some incentives for yourself to stick with it and accomplish those goals.
Just like with exercise planning, an exercise reward system is going to look different for everyone. There is no one right way to do this. You have to make it work for your goals and your lifestyle. So use whatever suggestions you think will help you, and ignore the ones that you know will just not work. There are going to be some questions you need to ask yourself and some things you need to decide about how your system will work.
#1 How often?
There is no correct answer for how often you should reward yourself. It’s all going to depend on how motivated you are, and how much extra incentive you need. I wouldn’t recommend a reward for every time you exercise, however. I think weekly and/or monthly rewards are realistic. You can set up smaller weekly rewards, a slightly bigger monthly reward, and then a big reward for when you finally reach your exercise goal.
#2 What rewards?
Again, the rewards you select need to be motivating to you, and only you. I would definitely eliminate the idea of using any sort of food as a reward. You shouldn’t be making any food “off-limits” anyway, so don’t connect food as a prize to your exercise habits. Working out is not an excuse to pig out! Your rewards are also going to depend on your budget. Some rewards don’t have to cost anything. Below are some of my suggestions for rewards at each phase.
Small weekly rewards:
- $5 in a jar (to be used for a bigger reward down the road)
- new song download
- workout DVD
- go see a movie
- take a long bath
Medium monthly rewards:
- new pair of sneakers
- new workout outfit
- healthy cookbook
- new set of dumbbells or other exercise equipment
- healthy magazine subscription
Big rewards for reaching your goal:
- weekend getaway
- new ipod
- gym membership
- high-end kitchen gadget (maybe keep an amazon wish list just for rewards)
- new treadmill or other cardio machine
You should definitely have specific rewards selected ahead of time so that you know what you are working towards. Post pictures of your prizes on your fridge near your exercise goal and your exercise plan. This helps you visualize your rewards and makes them seem more real and attainable. As you become more of a regular exerciser, hopefully you will not need as much extrinsic motivation, so you can scale this system down later. But you don’t have to ever give up rewards entirely. Even though I love to exercise and don’t need the motivation of a reward, I still treat myself to new sneakers, songs, and workout clothes. Having these new items that are specifically geared towards continued regular exercise makes it more fun and exciting to work out, even though I already love it.
The last point I want to make is that you should never feel guilty about the time and/or money you spend on exercising. I know that we all tend to put our family’s needs above our own, but just remember that without you being healthy, you are no good to your family. You deserve to feel good inside and out. You deserve to be healthy and fit. And you deserve to reward yourself for it!
Do you use an exercise rewards system? Does it work for you?