Sometimes it’s difficult to begin something new, but what’s difficult for me is sticking with something once I start it. Because I am a bit distractible (like a highly caffeinated squirrel), once the novelty of the new wears off I lose my desire to continue. I’m not unlike the stubborn mule that either needs a dangling carrot or the threat of a stick to motivate me. So, years ago I decided to set short and mid-term goals with the promise of a payout if I adhere to my plan. Delayed gratification is quite difficult for me. When I want something, I want it yesterday. But, I found that I am usually willing to work for something if there is a juicy carrot dangling just in front of me.

I hate that I have to use these mental games to keep up my motivation but, sadly, it seems to be the only method that works for me. I know you are familiar with it. We use it on our kids all the time. It’s basically bribery (or a carrot). If I do a good job, follow my training, and achieve my goal, I get something. This is vastly preferable to the other parental tactic which, of course, is blackmail (aka, the stick). And, blackmail is a game that generally requires two players.

My juicy carrot of choice is usually athletic gear because, quite honestly, I am vain and I like to have new toys. I figure that even if I am a sweaty mess maybe others will look past that disgusting fact because they are mesmerized by my super cute top. And snowshoeing is fun, but snowshoeing in a photo-op worthy outfit is better. Aside from that, there have been all these performance advances in exercise gear. When Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first men to summit Mt. Everest, they had to wear layers of itchy wool and probably smelled like wet sheep. Now we are fortunate enough to have all these incredible, performance-enhanced fabrics. For the longest time I wore cotton t-shirts to the gym, but cotton gets soaked and stays that way. And, while this is advantageous in a wet t-shirt contest, it’s reasonably foul at the gym.

When I am having a hard time getting motivated to work out, I check out some web sites that sell women-focused athletic clothing and gear. Then, I buy myself a small trinket that will make going to the gym, getting on my bike, or stepping on a yoga mat more attractive. I also look for one “eye-on-the-prize” item, something that I covet that is out of my price range, and set a bigger goal for myself to earn that item. One of my favorite sites for mental shopping is Athleta (www.athleta.com). I am also partial to Title Nine (www.titlenine.com) and a local Denver/Boulder store called Outdoor Divas, which also has an online store (www.outdoordivas.com). And, if you’re looking to save money, there are great deals to be had at Steep and Cheap (www.steepandcheap.com), although you have to buy quickly with this site because they sell one deeply discounted item at a time and then list another in its place. I got awesome Zeal Optics ski goggles a couple years ago from them for 60% off. Best. Goggles. Ever.

I know that the carrot method works for others too. Last week I was at Bunco and one of the gals had lost a noticeable amount of weight despite the holidays. She was wearing a darling, fitted, athletic jacket. She told me that she loves that jacket so much she feels compelled to put it on, get out, and hike. She also mentioned that it’s been great to notice that jacket getting looser the more she wears it on her winter hikes. That jacket was her carrot. How can you pass up that kind of success?

Maybe clothing isn’t your carrot of choice? I have a friend who entered into a diet contest with mutual friends. Her husband told her that if she won that Biggest Loser contest, he would take her on a cruise. Guess what? She won. She lost a bunch of weight and she got her vacation. Figure out what your carrot is and use it to your advantage. There’s a reason we use bribery with our kids. It works on stubborn children as well as stubborn mule adults.

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