Ignarro-dogs-300x225Staying healthy takes hard work, discipline and drive. For most, it involves a determined shift in lifestyle encompassing diet, activity, stress and sleep. And long-lasting change—the kind with the power to extend and enhance your older years—requires sustaining that high level of motivation over time. For many, regular exercise is the most challenging aspect of a healthy lifestyle.

When I first started my health transformation, my motivation grew from a deep dissatisfaction with how I’d been living for many years, especially when compared to the healthier habits of my youth. I was disappointed in my lifestyle and how I felt physically. I missed eating well and exercising. I really missed playing baseball and running. I was totally out of shape, and the vision of who I used to be—and, more importantly, who I could be again—motivated me to change.

It’s now been over 10 years since I made that total transformation. A big part of helping maintain my motivation to live an active lifestyle has been my workout partner and wife, Sharon. Not only do I do most of my workouts with her, but she also pushes me to push myself. We prepare and eat healthy meals together and like the same good foods. We enjoy being active: cycling, taking our dogs for walks and working movement into our days as much as possible.

Some mornings, when my alarm goes off well before the sun rises, I turn it off with the intention of going back to sleep. In those moments, more rest seems better than getting up to exercise, even though I’ve already gotten a full eight hours of sleep. Yet two motivators usually break through my reluctance to get out of bed: Sharon and our dogs. Sharon, because she’s nudging me to get up and get the day started, and the dogs, because they bound into our room, ready to eat. When the dogs are ready to eat, there is nothing I can do to calm them down but feed them.

Once I’m up for the day, something else motivates me to get out the door and on my bike: I like to do it. My healthy lifestyle is fun. I get so much more enjoyment out of watching the scenery as I pedal along than I ever could sitting on my couch watching TV.

There are other factors that motivate me to move, too. Cycling and being active connect me to my body and keep me feeling young, even as I age. I’m 72 years old, but I feel like I’m 42. This is a delightful feeling, believe me. I want to live past 100 years old and do so living fully, with my independence. Keeping fit and eating well help ensure that I won’t have to rely on others as I age.

What keeps you motivated to be active? Is it a workout partner, such as a spouse, friend, pet or someone at your gym? Is it the memory of what life was like before getting healthy? Is it wanting to be around to see your kids or grandkids grow?

Whatever it is, keep your source of motivation front and center in your mind each and every day. Keep focused, keep disciplined and keep moving. And maybe even get a dog.


What is your source of motivation?