I’ve read several posts recently from people that are new to diet and exercise and they all had the same question…how do you stay motivated to go to the gym and keep eating healthy? That’s a pretty tough question actually and the answer you’re going to get is going to be dependent on the person that you ask and how they live their life. Bob’s motivation might be because he’s trying to get off of his blood sugar medication, while Ann’s motivation could be to lose weight for a cruise in 4 months, and someone else might want to do a bodybuilding competition. We are all motivated by different things and we all have triggers that bring out certain feelings in us or cause us to work harder. And unfortunately, what motivates you today may no longer motivate you tomorrow.
I’ve given this some thought lately, and honestly, I’m not really sure what motivated me at the beginning of this journey. Of course I wanted to look fit and feel good and be strong and that’s still a pretty strong underlying motivation, but I think everyone feels that way even if they don’t express it out loud. But really I don’t think about all that when I’m driving to the gym each day. I first started working out over 30 years ago. I was young and didn’t need to “get in shape” necessarily. I started lifting because I got a job at the front desk of a gym and lifting just looked like fun, and it still is! Since that first workout it’s simply become a part of my existence. Have you ever been so deep in thought while driving that you get to your destination and you don’t remember driving there? Scary, I know. When that has happened to me, I ALWAYS end up at the gym, even if that wasn’t where I was planning to go! I’ve been doing this for so long that there would be an empty hole in my life if I didn’t workout.
But we still need daily triggers to get us moving. I love my gym and the people in it, so that’s always motivating, being able to see all my favorite gym people. Sometimes I’m motivated by a new exercise I want to try. Heck, I get a little excited to work out when I have on new workout clothes! I’ll actually feel myself slipping a bit, buy a new outfit and BAM, I’m back into the swing of things! And sometimes I’m simply motivated by my desire to get it over with that day so I can eat and then get a latte.
My point is that my DAILY motivation is always changing and sometimes intangible and we all still have to take it one day at a time. That big picture goal is not necessarily going to make you want to get off the couch today and sweat or make you show some restraint and put down the pizza. We all have the desire to be fit, it’s what you do with that desire every day that sets one person apart from another. But here’s the big difference between how I get myself to the gym each day and someone that struggles with it constantly. Most days I WANT to go to the gym. I’m ALWAYS happier when I’m in the gym. I could spend hours just hanging out and trying new things. But I realize that not everyone feels that way. A person that is struggling is constantly having to talk themselves into it. They’ve been told to say positive affirmations such as, “I’ll feel better when I’m done”, or “I’ll give myself 10 minutes and if I still don’t want to be there, I’ll leave” or “You’ve got this!!” I love that last one. I’m not sure if that actually works for ANYONE or if it’s even helpful but I see it posted all the time in response to someone struggling. If being told that motivates someone out there, let me know because I’d love to hear about it.
Positive affirmations may not be enough for some people. Or if they’re enough to get you to the gym today, will it still be enough next week or next year? Exercise, regardless of your immediate goal, is still a lifelong necessity. And that means you need to pull up a new motivation EVERY DAY. Heck, the fact that some people have been told they’re going to DIE if they don’t start exercising and stop overeating may not be enough to get them to the gym. And if that’s not the ultimate motivation I don’t know what is! You have to find that answer for yourself and for some people it’s quite a struggle. But asking the question is never a bad thing. Maybe what motivates someone else will strike a chord with you and finally be the factor that spurs you into action and hopefully keeps you going for years to come.
I’m going to tell you a few of the things that I’ve told numerous clients over the years in hopes that one of these things might turn on the motivation light bulb within you. When I’m training a client, my main focus is always to teach. I’m very aware that I won’t be your trainer forever so I need to pass along as much information as possible in the time that we spend together. You need to know why you’re exercising. You need to know what muscles you’re working. You need to know how to change things up on the fly depending on your circumstances. And you need to know how to keep that desire to be fit alive and burning inside of you. So, I randomly throw out bits wisdom or words of encouragement in the hopes that one day, one of them might light a spark.
One of the first things I tell every new client is that exercise and healthy eating are not optional. Period. You want to be fit and healthy, then you better get off your bum and do something about it because no one gets fit sitting around watching Oprah and eating donuts. NO ONE. And those electric ab stimulator things? Lies. They are crap and won’t give you 6-pack abs while sitting on your couch so stop being sucked in by ridiculous quick fix solutions. Getting fit is WORK and eating healthy takes THOUGHT and daily self-control. No pill or magical piece of equipment is going to change that and the sooner you stop shopping for a quick solution, the sooner you’ll get on the road to better health.
The next thing I’m going to emphasize is that because exercise is not optional, then that means you need to do it regardless of what mood you’re in that day or what stresses and distractions come your way. You don’t have to love it, heck, you don’t even have to like it. (Although finding joy in it makes it way easier!). And just because you WISH that you had the metabolism of a 16-year boy, doesn’t mean if you mope about it long enough it might happen. Stop whining about how you drew the short straw and start using what you DO have.
And then we come to my BIGGEST piece of advice. This motivation came to me as I matured and hit a few speed bumps in life. But it’s by far the one thing that underlies all other motivations. At some point in our early days of training, when I feel you’re going to take this advice to heart and give it the respect it deserves, I’ll lay it on you. Are you ready? Be THANKFUL, always in all things be truly THANKFUL. Do you have the ability to exercise? Because there are a LOT of people out there that would LOVE to be able to walk into a gym and do those lunges for you, but they can’t. They may be too sick, or their bodies don’t work the way they would love for them to. But if you CAN exercise, then always remember that you are blessed. You have been given the beautiful gift of a functioning body and that is nothing to squander. Next time you don’t feel like working out, remember that and then walk into that gym appreciative and humbled by the fact that being healthy and fit is within your grasp.
So, until you find that one ‘thing’ that keeps that fire within you lit, keep pushing yourself to exercise. Keep talking yourself out of eating the whole bag of potato chips, and don’t allow yourself to get pulled into the quicksand of lame excuses. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll wake up and, lo and behold, you’ll realize that your personal motivation snuck up on you when you weren’t looking. You’ll be amazed that the pursuit of fitness actually makes you a better person and that you can’t imagine your life without it. And that all that time you spent struggling to find a reason to exercise was totally and completely worth it. No one ever regrets getting healthier! And now it’s your turn to be a fitness ambassador and help others who may be struggling.
My last piece of advice? Don’t ever sugar coat what it takes to get and stay healthy. Don’t tell someone new that it’s going get easy or that there won’t be days when you have to pull every daily motivation you’ve ever heard out of your hat to get yourself to the gym. But do tell them that we’ve all struggled and if you want to turn something intangible into something real and lasting and beautiful, then it’s going to take desire, dedication, consistency, and hard work. Just as I’ve always done, keep it real, don’t ever promise a quick fix, and when it comes to what you’ve learned in your journey to fitness, always pay it forward…