Walking 1200km in a year is a daunting goal, so how can you stay motivated to stay on track for 365 days?
University of Otago senior PE lecturer Elaine Hargreaves researches what motivates people to exercise. She says the first and most important step for motivation for a long-term exercise goal like Walk1200km is ensuring that you really believe in the goal and are doing it for the right reasons.
“It’s important to have a good reason why you want to walk 1200km – what do you want to get out of it and why?” Dr Hargreaves says. “The way that we create good forms of motivation is for us to know the value to us in order to prioritise it.”
Fortunately, there are plenty of great reasons to commit to walking 1200km – for your mental and physical well being, to lose weight, to get fit, to be happier, to see more of your local area or the country overall, and so many more.
However, once people commit, Dr Hargreaves says the short-term reasons for walking become more important to ensure you keep heading out day after day.
“Most people think of the longer-term health benefits that can be achieved from being active. But those are not great from a motivational perspective on a day-to-day basis. On a daily basis, we want people to be thinking about the immediate benefits they felt while out on the walk. Was it enjoyable? Am I sleeping better because I’m getting regular physical activity? Do I feel less stressed? Those immediate benefits are what will motivate them to want to do it tomorrow.”
Then it’s important to focus on the practicalities of the task: how will you fit that walk in each day and how will you ensure you meet your weekly goals.
“If you don’t make it a priority in your day or week, then that time can get usurped by other things. Exercise is often the first to fall off the priority list. So it’s important to look at how you’ll fit the physical activity in: when, where and for how long.”
Dr Hargreaves also recommends starting off slowly, with a daily or weekly goal that you can comfortably achieve, and increase your target each week.
“If it is hard, you’re not enjoying it and you’re not going to do it again. It needs to be a positive experience.”
Endurance athlete and running coach Lisa Tamati recommends having tasks to achieve along the way to stay focused. That could be working towards doing an overnight hike at the end of the first month, a multi-day hike at the end of the third month and a week-long hike after 10 months.
“Having that big goal to work towards, and taking time to recover afterwards is important,” Tamati says. “Our bodies are made to be cyclic in the training. If we are doing the same old same old every day you won’t get the same results.”
She also recommends putting on your walking clothes as soon as you get home or when you get up in the morning, especially on days you don’t feel like walking.
“That changes your mindset, and you’ll think ‘well I’ve got my gear on already, I might as well go’. That works nine times out of 10 to get you out the door.”
But most importantly, she says don’t beat yourself up if you don’t reach your goal.
“Having 1200km a year is an awesome goal, but it’s the journey and the changes to your body and mind, that’s the real goal. So even if you get to the end of the year and you’ve only done 900km, that’s a win.”
Tips to stay motivated
- Commit for the right reasons. Understand why you want to walk 1200km.
- Make it enjoyable and focus on the short-term benefits you get each day.
- Make a plan to achieve weekly and monthly goals.
- Start slow and increase your distances incrementally.
- Track your progress and stay accountable.
- Have larger hiking goals to work towards each month.