Conditioning…and Incentives

A number of years ago, I decided that I wanted to be more knowledgeable and well read. So, I challenged myself to read one book a month over the course of the next year. Once I got started, I flew! I read 18 books that year and my reading habit’s still going strong. And last Fall, I set another goal. I decided that I wanted to be more knowledgeable on world politics and current events. I subscribed to the Economist and now read it religiously and have a better handle on what’s going on in the world.

A few weeks ago, I set another goal. I want to be in the best physical condition possible (for my age, etc) in two years time. Clearly, this is a subjective goal. But by “best”, I really mean that I would like to be able to climb a smallish mountain without angst, have clearly defined muscle groups and that my % body fat be reduced by ~8%. All realistic goals, I think.
The weather in London’s rubbish so I can’t count on outdoor activities to keep me slim and trim. So, I joined a gym a few weeks ago. It’s near our house (~.5 mile walk), smallish (not overwhelmed by muscle men putting the pegs in weights I can’t move, thank gosh!) and seldom used by its members (many of whom are bankers and City workers who work long hours and are never around). When I go, I almost have the place to myself. Quite nice, really.

I’m not overweight, I just want to tone. But, unfortunately, my trainer has advised that tone’s a tough goal. I need to work out ~3-5 times a week (for ~1 hour each) to see results in 6-8 weeks–once I do, I can move to free weights. This said, I’ve been down this road before and the picture wasn’t so rosy–there were months that I wouldn’t step into the gym. And when I did, I went for my favorites…I worked my legs and abs and avoided arm and back exercises. I avoided the hard stuff that I needed the most and, hence, could barely open the heavy door to leave 🙂

So, this time around, I want to learn from my past mistakes. While I’d love to be the type of person who “works out because I owe it to myself”, that’s not me. After 3 months of working out 3-5 times per week, I’ll be hooked. But, for now I need artificial incentives to see me through. I need to find something so grand (yet affordable?) that I will abandon our cuddly warm bed at 6AM to subject myself to the dark, wet, gray .5 mile walk to the gym and the challenging workout regime. That’s a tall order. But, provided that I get the incentivization scheme right, I know I’ll stick to the plan.

So, now I’m left questioning how the incentive plan should be structured. My current thinking is that there should be 3 incentives. One lower cost, yet attractive option for achieving a 3-time per week average over the course of the next 3 months. Another that’s slightly more upscale for a 4-time average per week. And a third for a 5-time average per week over the course of the period. The incentives need to be different enough in value to encourage me to increase the frequency of my gym visits, but still keep within budget.

While some could use travel as an incentive, G and I have prioritized our lives around travel–we have our annual travel plan booked. Some could motivate themselves with massages or spa treatments, but that’s just not me. And, of course, our finances aren’t such that I could realistically treat myself to crazy jewels for such a task…So, any ideas? What would get you out of bed in the morning on a rainy, cold day?

Gosh…this was much easier as a kid when parents held the purse strings and the keys to cars and puppies. Incentivization becomes way more difficult when it’s your own money and you can technically (though not perhaps wisely) buy whatever you want.

[PS. I considered the work out buddy approach, but unfortunately a program of that sort isn’t offered at the gym. I’d have to organize it on my own–and to do so, I’d have to go often enough to see the same people a few times over. Hard to do considering most people who actually go to the gym are yummy mummies who go mid-day, very few working people actually go to the gym though many are members]

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