Social Motivation

Never mind the haters and shamers—social media can be a creative weapon in your pursuit of a fit and healthy lifestyle.

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing—that’s why we recommend it daily.” —Zig Ziglar, author and motivational speaker

As a coach and teacher working with individuals and groups, both in person and online, I am always amazed to witness so many of us treating motivation like some outside force or mystery we have yet to solve. We wait to have its power bestowed upon us, like a child waiting for Santa to deliver his gifts.

Motivation is not easy, but it is also not elusive or a mystery.

Motivation is simply whatever drives you to get up off your butt and go after something. Motivation in and of itself does not achieve results; what gets results is the commitment to keep getting up and going after it. But what people often overlook is that motivation changes constantly. Factors ranging from your unique preferences to the time of day will affect motivation. And while social media has turned social interaction as we had known it on its head, it presents us with an entirely new universe in which to find motivation.

Choose your circle

We went through a period when social media generally seemed to spark a negative connotation when brought up in social settings, immediately calling to mind narcissism, cyberbullying, inappropriate photos and unfortunately, the eye-roll-provoking term “millennials.”

It doesn’t help that news outlets focus on all the negative aspects of social media.

However, technological advances that have enabled the advent of social media are now an integral part of our lives. So it’s time to take the reins and learn how we can leverage social media, using it to our advantage to live healthier, fitter, happier lives.

Think about it this way: You are the product of the people you surround yourself with. If the friends in your inner circle are always telling you to skip the after-work workout in favor of happy hour, you’re much more likely to do exactly that. Or maybe you have a spouse or partner who is constantly cooking up incredibly tempting comfort meals and making you feel bad about having just a salad for lunch. The influence of the people in your daily life, both on- and offline, is one of the most powerful determinants of your decisions and behaviors.

You absolutely do not have to cut people out of your life, but finding people who share your goals and provide positive support and motivation is a huge factor in your success. In fact, a study conducted by professor Damon Centola at the Annenberg School for Communications and the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Pennsylvania proved that assigning “buddies” through a social media network proved to be a highly effective way to motivate people to exercise.

In other words, simply knowing that someone around you is working out is enough of a motivator to give you the kick in the butt you need to get up and out the door to get that workout in. With the entire world at your fingertips through social media, you can easily find support, no matter how specialized or niche your interests. I know this firsthand, because if I wake up and see a friend’s post about his morning boot camp, it propels me to get moving, even if I was about to skip the prework sweat session.

Get started

Not sure where to begin? Here are some ideas. Whether you’re already doing some of these or you need to find some ideas to get started, keep this great list handy and pull it out any time you need to get creative about getting motivated.

1. Get inspired

Perhaps the most obvious place to start: You can search and follow people who share positive, daily inspiration. Sometimes simply seeing a positive quote pop up can put things in perspective or give you that extra little push you need.

Not sure who to follow or where to start? A quick keyword search will provide you with thousands of pages and lists to choose from. Start with something simple like, “Most inspiring fitness Instagram accounts to follow.” Or you can get more specific and include your favorite type of fitness activity in your search.

Also, I recommend sharing posts that inspire you. The positive feedback you may receive can help reinforce a positive cycle and build your network. How nice is it when you post an inspiration and someone responds, “Thanks, I really needed that today.” You never know who you will touch and, in turn, who will touch you.

2. Post your goals

The importance of writing down your goals cannot be overstated, yet it’s incredible how many of us don’t do it. Writing down your goals makes your commitment real for you. Now take that up a notch, get out of your comfort zone and post your goals on a social platform. Scary, right? That’s because actually posting your goals on a social platform makes them official. With that announcement, you feel much more accountable, and the good news is that you’re more likely to stick with it and follow through. It’s easy to give up if no one knows your goals, and much harder to quit in public.

3. Crowdsource insights

Perhaps my favorite aspect of social media crowdsourcing. You can post a question and request answers on your own social media platforms, or you can send a message to experts on their platforms and get real and personalized responses. Chances are you’ll find you’re not the only one out there with your question, and there’s value in finding out you’re not alone with a challenge.

Alternatively, you can join like-minded groups on platforms like Facebook or Instagram. You can use any of the social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, etc.) to search on a question topic, or use a hashtag to listen in and find out what people are saying about, say, the keto diet, high-intensity interval training, tendonitis, or fun runs and marathons. Crowdsourcing your question can give you insights, allow you to meet new motivators and find and even offer another perspective. (Naturally, you’ll want to check out any recommendations or advice with your own health care provider or someone you trust, before making a change to your diet or fitness regimen.)

4. Online workout plans (including apps)

Whether it’s working with a virtual private coach or taking advantage of curated workouts and fitness programs online, you can find options for structuring your training regimen—and you don’t have to spend a lot of money to do it. No matter what your personal goal, level or preference, you can find thousands of online programs of every type with a quick search. For example, do you prefer your workout plan to include online videos, or do you like a written plan? How about the time period? Are you looking for an intense, 30-day plan, or do you prefer a lifestyle program? No matter what you want, you can find it online.

5. Competitions and challenges

Motivation is personal, and for many, a little healthy competition can really light a fire. You can join a competition or find different types of fitness challenges of every imaginable style with like-minded people—without having to physically be in the same city or place. Some sites assign points for each workout activity you log, and then award badges and props for every milestone. You can also sign up for challenges with friends or join community chat groups with members across the network.

Other programs keep you motivated with personal, daily emails and access to private communities or Facebook groups for participants in the challenge. Those can be a source of support, advice and encouragement when the going gets tough. On the flip side, if you miss a workout, no one on the group page will hold you accountable, so sticking with the program is up to you.

6. Real-time, 24/7 access and affordability

Technology has made fitness accessible and affordable. Indeed, we live in a world of instants: instant messaging, Skyping, text messaging. We have the internet and access to all our digital platforms anywhere, all the time, which allows us to take immediate steps whenever the urge hits. People love immediate feedback, and seeing responses and progress builds confidence and provides ongoing motivation for the long term.

Posting about fitness on social media isn’t always vain; it can be an easy and accessible way to hold yourself accountable and give or get inspiration in real time, at any time. At the end of the day, it all comes down to what is going to motivate you. If following fitness posts causes you to make comparisons or to self-judge, then it’s time to find another form of motivation, or maybe just another platform. We have access to data, ideas and the latest workout trends with the click of a mouse—and we can find support, access coaches and get instant answers to our questions. There are infinite possibilities to find the right path for your journey in fitness and wellness, right here and right now.

Photo credits: SolisImages, Adobe Stock; Drobot Dean, Adobe Stock; Jacob Lund, AdobeStock