TF Confidential: Motivation (Where to get it, How to keep it)

As a personal trainer, I help my clients by providing encouragement and accountability.  Some might think I provide motivation, but I don’t agree – motivation come from inside you.  I can lead you to water, and I can make you lift it overhead 100 times in 5 minutes, but I can’t make you enjoy it, care about it, or want to keep doing it.

So where does motivation come from?

At some point, we outgrow our situation and realize that we need to change.  That realization is the seed of your motivation, and you should store it somewhere safe.  Never forget why or when you realized you needed to make a change in your life.

Sometimes this seed comes in the form of a medical wakeup call; sometimes it’s a photograph that doesn’t look how we thought it should, or sometimes it’s just a desire to do something different or take back part of your life.  There are lots of seeds – yours might not be on this list, but grab on to it when you catch a glimpse of it.

Like all seeds, if you nurture your motivation seed just a little bit, it will sprout.  This is the hard part, because it leads to the slog.

The first few weeks are always fun.

It’s easy to ride the high of a new change.  I’m working out!  I’m eating lettuce!  I am a being of pure light!

And then it’s cold, or it’s dark, or you’re tired, or it’s Wednesday, or you have to put on shoes, and suddenly your lettuce and workouts have lost their shine.  This is when you need to water that seed and let your motivation grow.

Encourage your motivation to blossom.

Some ways to cultivate that seed and help it bloom:

  • Make a list of positive things about your change – like how much better you feel after you’ve worked out, or how much energy you have after a healthy meal – but only list things that you really and honestly feel and believe.
  • Make an inspiration board to visually remind you of your goals…but it can’t just be pictures of photoshopped abs.  Find something even more important than your superficial goals.  (Superficial goals are fine, but they aren’t enough to keep you going for the long haul.)
  • Set a mini-goal.  Reach it.  Set a new one.  Reach it.  Repeat.
  • Find a buddy who will cheer you on, even if they only exist on Facebook or Instagram.
  • Stop getting on the scale more often than once every two weeks.
  • Stop putting yourself down and focusing on the negative, or focusing on how far you have to go.  The fact is that you have no idea how long your journey will take or what its shape will be, but it’s worth taking anyway.

Invest in yourself.

No, it’s not a pitch for personal training.  (Although….)  Show yourself that you mean business about your goals by putting your time and money where your mouth is.

  • Buy the right clothes and shoes for your workout – you don’t need a whole wardrobe, just an outfit or two that support your goals.
  • Buy healthy food that fuels your lifestyle, even though it can cost a little more than lower-nutrition options.
  • Keep a workout journal.  Not a list of measurements and goals, but some notes on what you did and how it felt.  What you learned.  What changes you’re noticing in your performance.
  • Visualize your goals for a few minutes every day, with or without the help of your vision board.

Treat yourself like you’re important.  Because you are.

It’s ok to take yourself a little seriously.  It’s ok to believe that you will succeed.

My personal strategies for keeping my motivation:

Want to know what I personally do to keep my laser-focus on my goals?

  1. I take a rest day (day-ish…currently only 17 hours) and do things completely unrelated to my fitness goals to avoid burnout and let my creativity recharge.
  2. I read articles and peruse social media about things that are only tangentially related to my training business and personal goals – like cool vegan recipes, personal development ideas, and insane endurance/adventure athletes.
  3. I have several vision boards, one for each of my main goals, that I look at daily and update weekly.  Not because they’re magic, but because I have a regular human brain that is forgetful and full of blind spots and I, too, need reminders of where I’m going.
  4. I keep track of my progress visually (like a gold start chart from elementary school) but also in a journal so that I can appreciate the qualitative changes in addition to the quantitative ones.  For example, I might not remember how hard it was to do a yoga pose that I now take for granted, but my journal helps me appreciate my progress and see that change is, in fact, happening.
  5. I keep my food and workouts simple and plan them ahead just one week at a time.  I tend to eat the same menu 6 days a week (sometimes all 7), but I change it from week to week.  Same with my workout – I might hit the same group of moves, sets, and reps 3 times in one week, then make a logical progression in the next week.
  6. I let go of what doesn’t serve me. Whether it’s a piece of workout gear that was on sale but I now think is ugly, a goal that seemed like a good idea at the time but turned out to be a futile pursuit, a harmful habit like endless Netflixing when I should be sleeping, or a belief about myself that isn’t useful, I send it packing.  No need to haul around mental (or physical) clutter.
  7. I work hard when I’m working and stop when I’m done.  I do my workout and then go on to my next task.  If I miss a workout, oh well, life moves on, and I just pick back up at my next scheduled session rather than trying to squeeze in all-the-workouts or mentally badgering myself about it.

Feel free to steal any or all of my tips.

No matter how far you are from your goal, you deserve to feel great today.

Your motivational strategies should help you feel positive and excited about your journey, so always aim for positive statements.  For example…

Instead of working out because you “don’t want to be sick”, try working out because you “want to be healthy.”

Instead of skipping the brownies because they are “bad foods”, try enjoying your food because it is nourishing and health-enhancing and you want your body to feel great inside and out.

Instead of doing endless lunges because you “hate your legs”, try lunging because you “want to be your best.”

It’s fabulous to want to improve, but you won’t get to where you want to go unless you can accept and appreciate where you are right now*.

The end.  Embrace.  Enjoy.  And re-read as often as needed when you’re not sure that you can do “it”, whatever “it” is, because you can.

*unless you have a time machine that can take you somewhere else instantly, in which case please call me because I’d love to have a rendez-vous with the dinosaurs.

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