Or – how to keep working out – long after the thrill of working out is gone
This one’s going to be short. And unoriginal. Because a) it’s pretty simple and b) I’m not the only one saying it. And I’ve said it before – with more style.
But it bears repeating – motivation is …well meh. So, I have a little beef with “motivational” culture in fitness. You know what I mean. The whole “GET GOING! DO IT! YOU GOT THIS! NO PAIN NO GAIN!” thing. KILL YOURSELF FOR FITNESS!
Don’t get me wrong – a little “you can do this!” is super helpful at times!
But at the end of the day too much ra ra ra ra isn’t all that sustainable, and when you’re looking to achieve a fitness goal, consistency over time is really what you’re looking for. In fact, a lot of big time yelly motivation can sometimes get in the way by causing burnout.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you had some techniques for keeping yourself going that weren’t all about super psych up time?
Sometimes it just doesn’t work to “motivate”, and it can be really helpful to just let yourself be in whatever headspace you’re in – and do the work anyway.
Tired of it all? Squats. Bothered about work? Burpees. Your exercise routine can become a kind of oasis, your zen me time. Over time, that consistent showing up day in day out is really what makes lasting change happen.
Same thing with nutrition. Yes, you can force yourself to eat avocados and poached rhino 24/7 – for about 4 days. That may even kick start some progress, but in the long run, you’ll find more success making consistent, reasonable, healthy choices.
So that’s it. That’s all there is to say about that. Boom. End of article.
Tips for keeping yourself going
Ok ok, that’s not the end. Since it’s not going to work to psych up every time, here are some sustainable things that people do to keep themselves doing the work consistently (culled from various sources as well as my own life):
Sometimes it’s hard to train for the nebulous reason of staying healthy. If you sign up for a competition or a challenge or set some particular goal you’d like to achieve, that can give you the “why” that’ll bring you to the gym every day.
Do it first
I’ve been an athlete and a martial artist since I was five. I have health issues that are non-issues if I work out. And I’m a professional in the fitness field. You’d think I’ll workout no matter what. Nope. If I don’t do it in the morning it doesn’t happen. Some people prefer lunch or night workouts, and getting up at 4 in the morning to workout before early work can be a drag (and not necessarily helpful) – but if you’re having trouble with things getting in the way, try putting your workout first on the list.
Maybe you need some squats and burpees here and there, but it doesn’t all have to be drudgery. You can join a recreational sport or go to fitness classes or get some cardio by running around and jumping and singing along to Meaghan Trainor songs at volume 12 while the cat screetches around…. *ahem um…nothing…*
Make it social
A workout partner or a class with your friends is a super good way to keep showing up. Used to be I’d show up to Kung Fu simply because all my friends were there.
Instead of “getting around” to your workout (which let’s face it – won’t happen) – put it in your calendar. Keep that appointment. Combine this with “make it social” for extra power.
Attach exercise to other things
I NEED stretching, but I never used to do it. Until I realized I was watching movies for 2 hours every night. Now TV time is stretching time. Problem solved.
It’s not cheating to build in a little extrinsic motivation for yourself. You can get yourself a new pair of shoes as a reward for logging a certain number of miles or go out to a special dinner after every week of complete training. Pro tip: relish the post-exercise endorphin rush for a little built-in reward in every workout.
My biggest problem with hard core fit freak “motivation” culture? It makes you feel bad for taking a break. First of all, your body adapts during recovery – not the workout – so you have to rest. Second, you’re going to have days when you’re actually physically not up to it. Give yourself a break! If you build breaks in proactively, you don’t have to get injured or sick, and you’ll maintain a better steady motivation. And you won’t actually missed scheduled workouts and feel bad.
Change it up
Sometimes you have to change things up or build variety into your program. This isn’t to say you should do random stuff with no plan and no progression, but some variety in how you go about things can keep things fresh.
It helps me a LOT to write out workouts ahead of time. Usually, I write my training a week ahead. That way when I show up to workout, I’m just working, not trying to figure out what to do – and not copping out on myself by making decisions when I’m tired.
Get a coach
Hire a personal trainer! Boy life gets easy when you just show up and do what an expert tells you to! Not only that, coaches also see from a different perspective, don’t fall for your tired excuses, and provide outside motivation that can be incredibly valuable. Plus, you learn, which is fun! Even coaches get coaches to help. I tapped my colleague Oliver to help me design my Transplant Games of America sprint training program.
There you go! There’s some “motivational” tips to keep you going, help you be consistent, and not necessarily have to psych yourself up every time you need to do a push up or two.
If that doesn’t work, you can send me some video of your pre-flossing motivational speech. GO!! FLOSS!!! THOSE TOOTH NOTCHES AREN’T GOING TO CLEAN THEMSELVES, SOLDIER! FLOSS IT!! FLOSS IT!!!! YOU GOT THIS!!!! GOOOOO!!!!
Time for my stretching session.