Use this Strategy to Stay Motivated in February (and beyond)
That burst of energy that drove you to your gym in January is probably gone by now. That excitement that you felt when you moved that first weight, ran that first mile, and lost that first pound is fading. Now, it is easier to find reasons to skip today's workout, to snack on that bagel, or to click play on that next episode on Netflix. Maybe your progress has begun slowing and you feel like you are just spinning your wheels.
But that doesn't mean you can't keep going. The thing is - that you have to keep going - it is the only way you are going to get anywhere in life. In fitness and in life, it is our consistency and commitment to persisting through the ugly stuff that makes it possible to enjoy the rewards.
But I get it...
It's hard to keep pushing through, to keep showing up, day-after-day, when you feel like you are getting nowhere. You need some juice in the tank. We all do. And I'm here to give it to you.
There is a secret to increasing your consistency with your workouts. In fact, this very secret can help you break through the staleness, the pain, and the reality that your work in the gym is not nearly as pleasant as Margaritas after midnight on the beaches of Mexico. And while your workout may never quite reach triple M status - it will be a much more tolerable and successful experience.
I've used this time and time again to motivate me to push through my own training plans. I've taught my clients how to do this. And now I want to teach you.
Do the Hardest Thing that Makes you Happy
Far too often we try to fit a square peg in a round hole long before we are ready for such geometry.
Far too often we let others tell us what we need to do in order to get into shape.
Far too often we completely eschew the enjoyment factor in favor of near-death experiences that we loathe.
And that is where we fail.
Now don't get this twisted, seriously. We don't adapt and improve and become our best self by taking the path of least resistance. You don't build muscle, burn fat, improve your strength, or cross the finish line of a marathon without putting in some serious work and making some sacrifices along the way.
So, if you are reading this and are hoping to find some shred of information that says "Stop doing hard stuff and just have fun" - sorry but you picked the wrong bar for that type of drink.
What I'm saying with this article is this:
When the going gets tough - return to the things that you enjoy most in your workouts. When your schedule gets busy and the kids need transporting and the job demands more hours - simplify the process and commit to doing exactly what you love in the gym and remove the extra work until time, energy, or your give-some-shits meter is ready.
Let me give you an example from my own life. It is said that we learn best from story-telling, so it is with hope that I write this excerpt from my life so that you can pick it clean for nuances and ensure that you can improve yourself from it.
My Loss of Motivation, Fitness, and Clarity
As a trainer, I've collected enough letters behind my name to play a game or twelve of Scrabble and about twenty thousand hours of coaching experiencing between my one-on-one clients, group fitness classes, and teaching lectures for other coaches. My life has been all about fitness for at least the last ten years. At one point in my life I was absolutely shredded.
At 25 - just before Men's Health Next Top Trainer
And I've skipped more than a few workouts over the years by simply choosing to walk home after some sessions and take a nap instead of digging deep and staying to do my own body some justice. Here and there does no harm, but in the long term that sort of behavior never gets us anywhere, and for me, it caused me to begin losing some of my own fitness.
I crashed this past summer. After I competed in 4 Spartan Races in three months, suffered injuries, and wrote my book - I started to abhor the idea of working out.
First, the races dramatically changed my relationship with exercise. To train up for the longer distances, such as the West Virginia Beast, I started skipped my weight-lifting workouts in favor of long runs (over 10 miles) throughout D.C. I got hurt in a few races and had to skip a lot of weeks in the gym. Soon enough, I was done the races, still banged up, and consuming way more calories than I should.
The beginning of my downfall
(Fun fact: I hate long distance running, although I gained an appreciation for its merits this summer and you can read that HERE.)
I was also in the midst of writing my first paperback book, Day by Day: The Personal Trainer's Blueprint to Achieving Ultimate Success, and designing the DailyTrainerOnline platform. Be sure to check out our free app for GOOGLE and APPLE and let me know what you think. These things required a lot of time - time that I used to use for workouts.
I stayed up later into the night and worked on the computer; often with a pour or two of bourbon.. Late night snacking habits from college began to re-emerge and while I didn't begin downing bags of chips and candies on a nightly basis, I certainly wasn't a stranger to shitty foods. I was still getting up at 5AM for training sessions too. So my diet sucked, my sleep sucked, and my exercise habits sucked.
As my body began falling a part (from injuries and lack of self care) I started to wonder if I wanted to do train others, or myself, anymore. I knew I cared about it all and had spent thousands of hours in the field, but my passion was leaving my body rapidly. I had to figure out how to restart the fire that once burned.
This guy was happy to have cooled off, but he had some weight on his body at this point
And so, I returned to where it all started for me - the bodybuilding workouts that helped me find myself in the gym in the first place. For a while I needed to leave behind the functional mobility, the unloaded non-linear work, and the max effort lifts. I needed to simplify my focus and enjoy the process again.
And so I focused on exercising the hardest way possible in a manner that I enjoyed most. For me, that meant all the bodybuilding moves of my younger years, training to muscular fatigue, and avoiding all of the things that involved a bit more "thinking". I simply lifted.
And it worked pretty darn well. By focusing on the basics of lifting I was able to improve my body composition enough to regain some confidence and swagger. I was able to rehab some injuries by avoiding high impact lifts and cardiovascular movements. I was able to simplify my workouts to fit my busier schedule. And, most importantly, I was able to enjoy my workouts enough to compel me to reinvest in them.
This is me just last week - getting back after the harder stuff
So what can you do?
I want to you to have an honest conversation with yourself about what you love and what you don't in regard to fitness. It is important for you to find that thing and make it your primary focus until you have the time or energy to invest more into your fitness plan.
It is important for you to be realistic with yourself and your capabilities and not assume that you are going to accomplish everything at once and conquer the universe as if you were the fitness version of Thanos.
You may have started out with running, or spin classes - OK keep the majority of your focus there until you find your second wind and feel capable of expanding. That's when you can add the lifting, or the yoga, or the whatever the hell else you want to chase.
You may be a weight-lifting, cardio-hating, no-way-in-hell-you'll-do-mobility person. OK, fine. Get into the gym and lift weights. Start with what you love and stop trying to force yourself into pathways that you don't want to go, yet.
But Let's Be Clear
You can't keep this mentality forever and expect exceptional results. You may be able to keep your weight low and maintain a mostly health body doing just the things you love (assuming your diet is appropriate). But you won't do amazing stuff until you expand yourself into the things that make you uncomfortable or force you to push through "less fun" workouts.
As David Goggins says multiple times in his best selling book You Can't Hurt Me - "Uncommon people need to put forth uncommon effort if they want to live an uncommon life".
So with that said, realize that this strategy is meant to get you back on your feet. It exists to help you with those times with the going is getting tougher and you just don't have the time or energy to go bigger. It works perfectly to push through the lulls that come up when your workouts are beginning to slip and you are about to give up on your goals, again.
But I Hate All Workouts
Oh, don't think I forgot about your crowd. In my time as a coach I've met plenty of people who don't like any of it. Sports sucked, weights suck, dancing sucks, cardio sucks....yadadada.
To you I say this: Find whatever sucks the least and push yourself through it. Find the thing that you are willing to tolerate and fight through it until you start getting results, start improving, and finally starting liking movement a little bit.
Because that's the thing - it is all about inertia. Any object at rest wants to stay at rest until you act upon it with a greater force. You have to act on your goals and move yourself. You have to quite literally pick your ass up and get it in gear if you are to make inertia work in your favor. Because here is thing:
Inertia, one of the laws of motion, also states that an object in motion will stay in motion unless it is acted upon by a greater force. That force could accelerate the inertia (results, social support, a new goal). It could also stop it (injuries, giving up, lack of support).
So - to my "I don't like to work out" folks - it is time to put inertia in your favor and find the thing that you can do.
To my Training Peers
Let's stop coaching perfection all the time. Let's move the needle just a little bit. Let's skip telling people to measure their vegetables and instead just celebrate the fact that they are eating vegetables instead of french fries.
Let's not worry about what their max deadlift is until they've demonstrated that they enjoy being in the gym and working hard and moving forward with you as their guide.
Let's talk with people - not at them
If you let this industry get under your skin you'll think that the only coaches that matter are the ones that have endless certifications, speak at conferences, write books, and run their mouth on social media. Sure - these people have earned some say.
But you are a bad ass too. People trust you to change their bodies, change their lives, and change their minds. You can't take your responsibility lightly and you shouldn't worry about what your peers think all the time. Do what is best your for your clients and move them, inch by inch, brick by brick, to their goals over time.
One of the things I learned in my journey back from losing my "drive" was that simplicity would rule everything. The simplest thing to do for me was to go back to the basics, which for me was bodybuilding style lifting, and restart my engines there. It took time, and even when I simplified I wasn't perfect, but I got the job done. I'm better off now and back at my full speed lifestyle. I've used this strategy for clients and friends too. Who says you need to do things perfect all the time? All that matters is that you keep moving forward, somehow, someway, so that you can overcome your sticking points, your boredom, your lack of drive and get to the part you really care about. The results.