MOTIVATION TO TRAIN
Motivation is an interesting concept – its simplest definition is a desire or a drive for some form of change within your life whether that be a change in thoughts, behaviours or your environment. Often, motivation is the burst of energy we all need to get something started. But let’s be real, motivation can be fleeting, and once that burst of energy has worn off where do you go from there? How strong is your desire for change? Are your reasons for wanting this change more than surface deep?
Training or exercising itself is quite a stressor on the body and sometimes it’s easy to quit when you are struggling to push past the feelings of discomfort. And if you think of when you have had the most motivation to exercise, it is usually associated with something fresh and shiny – a new program, a new goal, a new gym or style of training.
I’m sure you have heard some form of the phrase by Jim Ryun: “Motivation is what gets you started, habit is what keeps you going.” So yes motivation is a great kick up the butt to get you started at training, but the good news is you don’t have to (and shouldn’t) rely on it to keep you going, especially on those days when the last thing you want to do is struggle through a set of squats. The answer here is discipline to stay true to the reason you desired change in the first place, and putting in some measures to keep yourself accountable. I want to share a few tips to create long lasting habits so that you have the discipline to reach your goals and stay fit for life.
DEFINE YOUR WHY
This is possibly my number one tip – it forms the lifeblood of your actions and your reason to fall back to when the habit you have created begins to falter. Your WHY is what keeps you fulfilled, satisfied and cements the discipline to keep going once your initial motivation to exercise has faded.
Think long and hard about this one. Go deep. Exercise and training is MUCH more than gaining muscle or losing fat.
If you have no idea what I mean by this, I will list a bunch of examples, but in no way am I trying to influence YOUR definition of YOUR WHY, merely giving some food for thought.
- Stress or anxiety relief.
- Confidence and self-esteem.
- Sense of achievement in setting and reaching performance goals.
- Building mental resilience and strength.
- Learning to overcome or tolerate discomfort.
- Taking time to care for yourself.
- Managing or reducing risk of a health condition.
- Getting fit to keep up with your kids.
- Slowing down age related ailments.
BE REALISTIC AND START SMALL
All great things are built brick by brick and starting small will give you the best chance of sticking to your new plan. By now we know that the all-or-nothing approach often fails, so my advice would be to start small and gradually increase over time. If you haven’t trained for a long time, start with twice a week. Make sure this slots into your weekly schedule well until it has become a solid habit, then look at adding another day.
Same goes for any lifestyle changes. Don’t try to overhaul everything at once, there’s no need to add unnecessary stress to your life like that. Make a list in order of priority and slowly make your way down this list over time.
SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS
On the back of being realistic and starting small, set yourself up for success by considering what you know will work for you to give you the best of chance of cementing your discipline, but be open to experiment. If you’re too tired in the evenings, schedule morning sessions. Pack your gym bag the night before. Schedule appointments (or “meetings”) in your calendar. Set a double alarm. Share your goals to your network to keep you accountable. Create some killer playlists or save a few podcasts.
If you were a high-school teacher preparing your Year 12 for their HSC, you wouldn’t have them reading a Physics textbook for a Biology exam – you will set them up to succeed to the best of your ability as their teacher. You are the teacher, but you are also the student – so treat yourself as such.
MAKE YOURSELF ACCOUNTABLE
When the head-noise gets a little too loud and “showing up” starts to become an issue, find a way to make yourself keep these appointments. Hire a personal trainer – guaranteed accountability right there and a great way to set you up for the long-haul. Find yourself a workout buddy who will help keep you motivated and not add to the head-noise to cancel your gym session. Join a small group training gym that has a tight-knit community – one that will notice if you’ve had a number of sessions off, or one where your fellow class-buddies will notice your absence. Little disclaimer here though – remember to stick to your guns of what is achievable for you and do not succumb to peer-pressure to workout 5 days a week if that is not your aim. I know most small group gyms with highly experienced coaches already advocate this, but beware of an overly competitive overtraining-type culture which may derail your attempts at slowly and steadily building your lasting habits.
If training with others is not an option, follow a plan. Buy a workout program so that you know your mission every time you step into the gym. Sometimes it is easier to not rely on how you feel when you know there is program for the day waiting for you.
BE KIND TO YOURSELF – BUT DON’T JUSTIFY POOR BEHAVIOUR
We are all human and sometimes shit happens in the week that gets in the way of your scheduled gym sessions. If you can’t get to the gym but are keen to keep your promise to yourself, consider an alternative such as getting outdoors for a park workout. Or if you are absolutely unable to reschedule with yourself, let go, move on, and get right back on track – no need to beat yourself up.
While it is okay to recognise when you need a rest day, “not feeling like it” is not an excuse and not conducive to discipline and habit. Yes it might be a little hard-lined but I want you to feel empowered enough to expect a lot more from yourself and never justify poor behaviour. In these moments of head-noise, it is especially important to remember your WHY. The therapeutic benefits of getting your gym session done will begin to outweigh your protests.
CHOOSE A POSITIVE MINDSET
Once you have your solid long-term habits in place you will now see that it is no longer a big deal to get to the gym for your scheduled sessions. By now you are wondering why you made all the fuss at the beginning, but you recognise the work you have put in to create a long-lasting behaviour change. From here on out, continue to choose a positive and healthy mindset. Focus on the wins and learn from the learnings. Continue to give yourself new little bursts of motivation by selecting small goals to work on and tick them off one at a time. Aim for continual progress and not perfection. And above all, enjoy the journey!
Ellen Wong, ION Community Manager and Senior Performance Coach