Fitness Motivation. We are all motivated to train, eat right, and put in the work, but not all the time.
You know the feeling… It’s time to get into shape and this time it’s gonna be different. But before you get started, a quick google search for fitness motivation is in order.
How do we get ourselves motivated? How do we make sure that we keep going when the process gets hard, our muscles are sore, and exercise feels like a chore?
Traditional advice would say “you just need to get motivated,” however that’s supposed to happen. And then some people might suggest that if you cannot get motivated, then you’re just making excuses.
The problem with typical motivation tactics is they’re all superficial. Hell, just go to the #FitnessMotivation stream on Instagram for a quick example. You get a bunch of this stuff:
Oh looky here, loads of worthless platitudes meant to make you feel good, but don’t do jack squat for your motivation to actually do anything.
Things like “if you’re tired of starting over, then stop giving up” and “yesterday you said tomorrow” all roll off the tongue quite nicely, but they’re not doing you any good.
Instead of hyping you up with a bunch of feel-good nonsense, today I’m going to help you see the truth of what’s in store if you make a commitment to yourself and ditch the old maxims of so-called fitspo.
True motivation comes from the process of building momentum. In order to build momentum, you need the following things:
- A plan
Below are some ideas followed by action steps at the end for each one. If you will commit to building momentum instead of seeking more motivation, your chances of succeeding will grow exponentially.
Pick A Plan And Stick To It
It’s easy to say ‘I’m going to get into better shape this year’ and then go straight to the gym. But what do you do when you get there? Most people wander around aimlessly working out for an hour and building up a good sweat.
It’s easy to get caught up in the feel-good moment of going to the gym. Taking action is awesome, but without a plan, you’re going to fizzle out.
Because there are literally thousands of workout plans on the internet, it may seem that having a plan is the easy part. And it is in the beginning, but our familiar friend we call shiny-object-syndrome is a reality for most.
But even the best plan ever created (hint: one doesn’t exist) will never work for you if you cannot stick to it. We only make progress when we commit to a training plan long enough for it to work.
See what Simone has done with my HOTBOD program.
And then we have Salim and Stephanie below, who were some of my personal coaching clients.
Keep A Daily Journal (AKA Track Your Progress)
This might sound tedious, but if you keep track of your progress, you will always have the data to look back on. I’ve kept a journal in some form since my teens. I’ve had periods of time where I journaled a lot and journaled very little.
I only regret the times I journaled very little.
But I’ve always kept track of something, whether it be my training, diet, goal setting, or just jotting down my daily thoughts. In fact, when I look back at my writing, I’m always so glad I wrote down my thoughts because they help me remember the frame of mind I was in when I was writing, and it helps me track my progress, not just with my training, but my life in general.
When I was in athletics during high school, our strength coaches made us keep a training log and he would check them every Friday. If they weren’t filled out, we got punished with tire flips, burpees, or endless sprint sessions.
While I didn’t realize how powerful this disciplinary practice would be at the time, it’s proven to be priceless in my life up until now.
The old cliché goes something like this: What gets measured, gets managed.
And it’s so true, too. How are you supposed to tell if you’re progressing with your training program if you don’t write down what you did? How will you remember if a weight felt too heavy, or too light?
Keeping records is important because it helps you make decisions based on feedback. Want to lose weight? Keep a nutrition journal and pay attention to how much you’re eating. If you’re not losing weight and reducing body fat, you’re probably eating too much.
From looking at the data, you have two choices:
- You could reduce your caloric intake by a few hundred calories each day.
- You could increase your training and activity.
Either way, you’ll be taking a positive step in the direction you wish to go.
Avoid Overcommitting In The Beginning
When you want to lose body fat or build some muscle, it’s easy to bite off more than you can chew. When we decide to make a change, it’s easy to get excited about all the new stuff you’re gonna do.
But we often underestimate how much we can actually change in the beginning… so start small. When you are creating health habits, changing no more than one or two things at once is super important.
When we overcommit, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. And with the overwhelm comes stress and anxiety. Training and eating better should be fun. It shouldn’t feel like a chore. When you try to do 10 things at once, you’ll probably quit all of them.
A quick example is a person who wants to change everything at once. They go from inconsistent training to a 6-day training program. They do well the first week or so when motivation is high, but 6 days per week is hard for anyone to follow. Miss a few days here and there and it’s easy to go from feeling confident and in control to like a failure because you couldn’t keep up the commitment.
Start with something small at first – even if it means training only 1-3 days. Once you get into the routine and a better habit of hitting the gym, increase your training days when it makes sense.
Start small. Create some small wins, and then build on those over time.
Don’t Compare Yourself To Others
Stop looking at all the perfect angles of the so-called perfect physiques of Instagram. It may serve as inspiration, but many times it can serve as a means to only feel bad about yourself.
Disclaimer: I know not everyone feels the same… So, if you get motivation from the mirror selfies and training shots on Instagram, great. Keep looking at them. If it only makes you feel inferior, or bad about yourself, then stop.
But know this… no one got in great shape looking at photos of other people all day. They got in shape by setting a goal to exercise more, eat better, and put in the work consistently over time.
As humans, we’re all prone to the promise of a shortcut. The pull of instant gratification is rampant. Just look at all the ads promising you six-pack abs in as little as 30 days. Or look at all the 7-Day Diet Detoxes promising you fat loss, muscle gain, and mental clarity.
We live in the age of Instagram (or SnapChat or whatever your favorite addictive, attention-hoarding social media platform is) and getting information as rapidly as we get it now has never been so easy. Remember that all of your favorite physiques weren’t built overnight.
It’s a long, slow, and steady process.
If you’re always comparing yourself to others and only focusing on your perceived flaws, you’re bound to be miserable all the time. And if you’re miserable all the time, you probably won’t be willing to stick with training hard and eating right for long enough to actually realize your fitness goals.
Don’t Let Your Emotions Rule Your Actions
Look, we’ve all made decisions in the heat of the moment. And when we look back at those decisions, they’re almost always clouded by emotions. Emotions are strong.
Feelings can have a huge impact on your ability to think objectively, especially when you’re wrapped up in the process of feeling a particular emotion.
I’ve made some very bad decisions when my emotions were involved. In fact, looking back over my life, I’ve thrown away lots of money and time due to my emotions rather than my intellect, rationale, and ability to think logically.
But guess what? It’s going to happen because I’m human. And as humans have proven over and over and over again, we’re quick to act irrationally when our emotions are involved.
Just because you don’t feel like training doesn’t mean you shouldn’t, especially if your end goal requires a certain level of consistency with working out.
So the next time you think about giving in to emotions or feelings that steer you away from your fitness goals, remember that you have a choice in how you act. And you can, in fact, act differently if you choose to.
The next time you feel like sleeping in when you should be getting up for that early morning session, you have a choice. The next time you feel like eating that pint of ice cream because you had a stressful day at work, you have the option of acknowledging how you feel and making a choice about eating it or not.
Always ask yourself these questions:
- Am I serving myself now or later by making this decision [whatever you want in the moment]?
- Will I look back tomorrow and be happy or upset with my decision?
If you want to be happy in the long run, the way you answer those questions will steer your ship.
I’m not saying this is easy. But understanding you have a choice in whether or not you give in to your emotions or feelings is a big first step in the right direction.
Understand Your Excuses
Let me first say this. I hate condescending question many so-called ‘fitspirational’ people love to throw around. “What’s your excuse” is a quick opener for a barrage of text meant not to inspire, but ridicule you and make you feel bad for not having enough time, or willpower to get yourself into the best shape of your life.
You might see the photo of a lean, fit person smiling with the ‘what’s your excuse’ mantra overlaying the image.
But who is this really helping? No one. It just serves the ego and self-righteousness of those who like to belittle others.
Instead, it’s better to ask yourself some questions to get a better understanding of why you’re not feeling motivated to keep doing all the things that equate to being in good health and great shape.
Are you struggling with making time to train or eat right? Figure out why and get to the root of it.
Do you miss your gym sessions? Is it because the gym is really far away? Is it because you lack the equipment at home? Maybe joining a gym would help you stick to your training?
When we make excuses, it’s often because change is hard, and getting ourselves to do what we want to is not easy – especially if we’re trying to change too much at once. So you can either power through with willpower (which rarely works), or you can…
Establish Forms Of Constraint And Accountability
When you embark on a new training program or a new diet, you’re creating constraints for yourself. When a coach sends you a macronutrient plan (check out my how to count macros guide), this is a form of constraint to keep you within a certain caloric range.
When you are scheduled to train upper body twice and lower body twice in a week, this is a constraint formed to keep you from training less or more. These are guides that serve as some structure to help you progress.
When you have a coach or a training partner, you’re getting accountability to do what you said you would.
It’s easy to say you’re going to train 4 days per week and stop eating junk food, but when you only answer to yourself, it’s easy to let yourself slide into the old habits of training sporadically and giving into the junk food cravings.
Change is hard for everyone. So don’t go it alone, and don’t rely on your own willpower to get you there because it’s that statistics don’t lie. The most popular New Year’s Resolution is always weight loss, but less than 2-3% ever follow through.
So what’s the solution?
Don’t Rely On Motivation To Keep Going
Motivation is fleeting. A common concern I get every single day in email has to do with the process of feeling motivated enough to do something they should be doing.
Most people say they want to:
- Work out regularly
- Eat better
- Get up early
- Go to bed before midnight
- [whatever it takes to reach a fitness goal]
And the common assumption is that we must feel motivated in order to something done. It’s like we must feel that fleeting emotion (motivation is pretty much just a feeling or emotion) in order to go to the gym or cook a healthy meal.
But the problem with this is motivation doesn’t come too often. We might experience a motivational thought to work out or eat our veggies about twice per month if that.
Most of the other time, we’re not feeling the motivation because working out can be hard. Eating healthy is not always easy, or as fun as eating Chinese takeout.
However, even the most accomplished people in the world don’t feel motivated all the time. So that’s good news, right?
But if you’re asking how they get anything done, know this one thing. They get things done because they have a big enough reason ‘why’ they do what they do. They’re consistent, regardless of how they feel.
They’re consistent, regardless of how they feel.
Every day they work toward their goal regardless of whether or not they feel motivated.
So my recipe for this issue of motivation is to act anyway. Do the thing regardless of how you feel. Instead of waiting for motivation, build momentum instead.
Choose Momentum Over Motivation
Here are my thoughts on why we shouldn’t rely on motivation, but instead, choose momentum:
Reaching your fitness goals, losing fat, building muscle isn’t going to be easy, but it’ll be worth it.