Need something to motivate you to exercise? Learn how to schedule rewards the right way and boost your gym mojo.

Reward yourself for exercise - image - Women's Health and Fitness magazine

What it does:

Rewarding yourself for a trip to the gym might sound indulgent, but having something to look forward to may help getting out the door (come rain or shine) that much easier.
“We call it pleasant event scheduling,” says sport and exercise psychology registrar Damien Stewart. “The aim of pleasant event scheduling is to increase motivation and decrease anxiety through pairing a reward with participation rather than basing a reward on success.

“For a lot of people, a trip to the gym becomes a chore due to mantras such as ‘no pain, no gain’ – for those of us with busy lives, participating in any level of exercise is an achievement in itself,” says Stewart.

Pleasant event scheduling is often used in the rehabilitation of substance abuse to increase the amount of enjoyment experienced in the rehabilitated person’s life and to distract them from using.

How to do it:

An effective reward system should a) align with, not contradict, your goals and b) avoid withholding rewards as punishment if goals are not met. “The problem with most sport and exercise rewards systems is that the rewards are based on performance outcomes; as a result, the threat of failure creates anxiety – so you need to commit to your scheduled event, as a reward for partcipation, whether you achieve your goal or not,” says Stewart.

Aim to reward yourself for small, short-term goals, and ensure that they don’t involve chowing down on foods that undo your hard work.

“Many people fall into the trap of what I call gym reward syndrome: ‘I can have muffin with my coffee because I worked out,'” says accredited practising dietitian and nutritionist Dr Joanna McMillan. “It takes roughly an hour to work off 2,000 kilojoules but you can eat that amount in only a couple of minutes.”

For health and fitness goals, it’s probably better to stick to non-food rewards like a hot bath, a trip to the movies or a manicure.