Motivation is Bananas & You’re Not Special – The Real Key to Fitness Success
√ On fire with motivation on Monday. Can’t get off the couch on Wednesday.
√ Planned to work out 3 times this week. Took a walk once.
√ Thought about doing some squats. Ate some trail mix and watched Netflix instead.
√ Pinned 527 fitness motivation memes to a Pinterest board titled “You Got This!!!” Attempted 527 versions of dessert featuring Reese’s Pieces.
If you answered yes to any of the above symptoms, or have experienced anything similar, there’s just one diagnosis –
In fact, dear precious unique snowflake, when it comes to taking the first or 500th step on the fitness journey, you are no different than anyone else.
No one is always motivated. The gals and guys featured in the “fitspo” videos on Instagram are not always motivated. The models in your fitness pins on Pinterest are not always motivated. Your personal trainer is not always motivated. Your best friend’s aunt who is 67 but looks 32 and has never missed a day at the gym is not always motivated. Jillian Michaels, Tony Robbins, and every single Beach Body coach ever are not always motivated.
If you rely on motivation to get your butt moving, you will fail. Motivation comes and goes. It’s notoriously unreliable and can even disappear for weeks, months and years at a time.
So if it’s not the sparkly fairy-dust of motivation, what ensures progress on the fitness journey? How do these people do it?
Boring, tedious, discipline. It lacks the joy of inspiration and the high of short-term gain, but discipline gets the job done. The famous “grind” which pops up in memes everywhere is about discipline. It’s doing something not because it’s enjoyable, not because it results in an immediate payoff, but because it’s the only means of investing in your long-term wellbeing.
Discipline is rooted in values. Integrity, responsibility, consistency and self-respect all contribute to rock solid discipline. Our actions are in line with our words and we respect ourselves enough to actively pursue that which benefits our health. Getting in a work-out reflects your responsibility to yourself, your follow-through on commitments, and the consistency you already know is necessary to make progress in any area of life.
Routine and specificity are essential ingredients in the development of discipline. Goals are meaningless without the actions that will lead us to where we want to be. These actions must be well-defined and intentionally structured into our lives. They must invite serious commitment and leave little room for procrastination, avoidance, and excuses.
Making the commitment to work out 3 times per week isn’t nearly as effective as committing to working out every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7:00 a.m. “Three times a week” gives us too much wiggle room to stay in bed, continually reschedule workouts and ultimately lose track of our original commitment. It’s much more difficult to talk ourselves out of “Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7:00 a.m.” When we’re not feeling motivated, such specificity encourages us to show up simply because we said we would.
Accountability strengthens discipline. Working out with a friend, hiring a personal trainer, or even posting a bi-weekly fitness selfie on social media can give us the extra nudge when all we really want to do is hide in a blanket fort and eat Oreos. If we commit to working out every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7:00am AND checking in with our besties after the sweat session, we’re closing the gap on the possibility of procrastination even more.
When you think about becoming a healthier person or increasing your level of fitness, develop actionable goals. “Lose weight” is vague. How much? Where did that number even come from? Why?
Dial down to the specifics. Emphasize skills. Climbing the stairs without losing your breath, or climbing a mountain, or performing a standard push-up are all concrete goals with inherent progressions and easily measured outcomes. These kinds of goals allow for much clearer and easier to identify action steps. It’s the action steps that warrant your eagle-eye focus and discipline.
If my goal is to perform a standard pushup, my action steps might look like this –
- 3 Strength Training Sessions per week – Monday, Wednesday, Friday @7AM
- Post my workouts on Instagram after every session
- Include push-up progressions and core exercises in every workout.
Instead of simply “working out a few times a week” with the goal of a standard push-up, I’ve given myself very specific items on which to focus and commit. This makes my life easier. It means I don’t have to rely on fickle motivation – the plan is already in place and there is no need to deviate from it. So that when I simply don’t feel like working out, or in a moment when I simply don’t care about push-ups, discipline will carry me.
“I just can’t get motivated,” is something I hear quite often as a personal trainer. The truth is, there’s no such thing as limitless motivation. None of us are juiced up with it 24/7.
What makes the difference is discipline. It’s not a popular hashtag. It’s not particularly sexy. It’s doesn’t always feel good. But it always gets the job done.
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