Missing in action: “Where is my Mojo?”

By Dr. Eleanor Quested (corresponding author) @el.quested, Elizabeth Murdoch (@liz_murds), Dr. Nikki Stamp (@drnikkistamp), Dr. Robin Lines (@DrRobinLines), Prof. Nikos Ntoumanis (@NikosNtoumanis) and Prof. Cecilie Thogersen-Ntoumani (@ecthogersen)

Tips to find motivation to be active during the pandemic, and beyond….

COVID-19 has turned our lives upside down, and changed our physical activity habits too. For some, motivation to exercise has diminished–another casualty of the current disruption. Indeed, global activity reports(1) have shown that as lockdowns have ramped up, daily step counts have declined. For others, more time has spurred them to pound the pavement, dust off their bikes, or pull out thier yoga mat. Restrictions on where we can be active has changed how we are active–both indoor and ‘virtual’ workouts increased rapidly when lockdowns took hold(2).

Creative ideas for physical activity during a pandemic are flooding social media, but without the right motivational skills or resources, those of us finding it hard to be motivated will probably remain on the sofa. Among those who have been motivated to be active, there remains a risk of becoming victim to a pandemic version of ‘the January effect’ in which ‘New Year, New Me’-style enthusiasm for a new activity or regime wanes as soon as the novelty dissipates.

How can we develop and strengthen our ‘motivational armour’ to keep our will and drive strong during these unprecedented times? Here are a few ideas pulling from contemporary theories of motivation and behaviour change, about where to look for your ‘missing mojo’.

  1. Find your ‘thing’ – Try to identify an activity (or two!) that you want to do, that you will enjoy, and in which you can feel a sense of satisfaction, achievement and genuine purpose. Consider not only what suits your current (lockdown) lifestyle, fitness level and available time, but also what captures your interest and excites you.
  2. Find your goal – Create ways to engage with those feelings of satisfaction and achievement by setting yourself meaningful, challenging, realistic but flexible goals. It might not be possible to enter a 10k walk just now, but you can still challenge yourself to complete that distance on a specific future date. Goals far on the horizon can be blurry, so think about building smaller goals along the way to keep your focus.
  3. Find your way – Make a step-by-step action plan of what you will do, when, and how you will deal with unexpected barriers. Life rarely goes to plan, so build in contingency to adjust your plans if and when things change. Monitor your progress, either using an app or an old-fashioned piece of paper on the fridge.
  4. Find your triggers – Consider which cues or situations ‘prompt’ you to be active without needing too much thought. These give rise to the development of habits which make it easier to sustain our efforts longer term. This might be a time of day, or a visual cue. For example, leave workout clothes out before bed, or schedule activities for set times of the day. Consider what has worked for you in the past and whether you can use or adapt those triggers for now.
  5. Find your tribe – There’s an African proverb: ‘if you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together’ Connection with others is critical to sustaining motivation. Why not ask friends or family to encourage you, or even to join you in your virtual challenge. You can share encouragement and selfies, or catch up for a virtual coffee after a training session! Check out social media groups, forums or sport/fitness clubs to connect online.
  6. Find your fun – We usually begin and continue doing things we enjoy. Keeping things fun can involve thinking outside the box. Perhaps that means building little challenges into each walk (e.g., take photos around a theme), or mixing up what you do (e.g., maybe Mondays are cycling days, and Wednesdays are for virtual aerobics?). Invest time to search for different options such as online gym classes, or check out Zwift or Peloton for a virtual cycle in the Pyrenees!

We hope these ideas motivate you to be active during these unprecedented times. These ideas draw from contemporary research on motivation and behaviour change, our own research, and our own experiences of managing wavering mojos, before or during the Covid-19 pandemic!

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Authors

Dr Eleanor Quested (corresponding author) @el.quested

Co-authors

Elizabeth Murdoch (@liz_murds)

Dr Nikki Stamp (@drnikkistamp)

Dr Robin Lines (@DrRobinLines)

Professor Nikos Ntoumanis (@NikosNtoumanis)

Professor Cecilie Thogersen-Ntoumani (@ecthogersen)

All authors are with the Physical Activity and Well-Being Research Group, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, www.pawresearchgroup.com, @PAW_RG

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