We all struggle with the motivation to work out and keep active at times, heck - even us personal trainers do. So how do you find fitness motivation, incorporate it into your life, and hang on to it in the long run?
People start working out for a wide variety of different reasons. The most common ones are of course because they want to lose body fat, or gain muscle and size. But then a lot of people do it for general health reasons, just as much physical as psychological. When I first started working out and going to the gym properly over 5 years ago, my main reason for going was purely an aesthetic motivation; I wanted to look better. But with that also came feeling better overall mentally and improved confidence, not just with my body but also with my mind.
Nowadays, I work out for the sake of my general health, body and mind, but mainly because it makes me feel good. Sure, it doesn’t always feel great during a session, but I can safely say that 90% of the time I feel better after a session compared to before it. And I don’t think I have ever regretted a workout. So when I feel demotivated, I always remind myself that I will most likely feel better for going and doing something, as opposed to doing nothing at all.
Step 1: Find your main goal
Your main fitness goal needs to be personal to you, and important to you. The more specific it is, the easier it is to measure, but that doesn’t mean it has to be incredibly detailed. But it needs to be something you can come back to every time you need some motivation that will help push you along. If it’s not important enough to you and you don’t care enough about it, you will easily start making excuses for not sticking to it. If you can’t find the motivation within yourself, try looking to the people close to you. Maybe you staying healthy would be important to your children, partner, parents or siblings? It’s worth digging deep for this one.
Step 2: If needed, break your main goal down into smaller goals
Say your goal is to lose 10 kg, ideally within 6 months. You can break this goal down into smaller, achievable monthly and weekly goals, and measuring whether you are on track to reach your main goal. Remember that you are always allowed to make provisions and push back any timelines you have set out for yourself if you have to, if this helps you sticking to your main goal in the long run. The long term should always be the main focus!
Step 3: Remember that something is better than nothing
We all have off days, days where we’re tired and lacking in energy and struggle to push ourselves along. On days like these it’s important to remember that doing something is always better than doing nothing at all. You don’t have to go to the gym and aim for a new personal best on everything you do, every single time. Drop the weights down if you need to, cut out a few sets or reps, replace an exercise with another alternative if you can’t bear the thought of doing it, or skip the gym and go for a run instead if that feels better to you. You’re only human, and you need to give yourself some occasional leeway in order to push yourself along to where you want to be. Don’t think of it as taking steps backwards, because in the long run it’s all helping push you forward! It’s much better to then go tougher on yourself on the days where you’re up to it. And you never know, you might take yourself by surprise and perform much better than expected too!
Step 4: Be kind to yourself
Think of yourself as your own best friend. A lot of us treat our best friends better than we treat ourselves! Just as we would celebrate a friend’s victories, we should celebrate our own victories (maybe not always with cake), however big or small. Give yourself a pat on the back when needed and allow yourself to feel good about your achievements. Call yourself out on your own nonsense, just as you would call out your best friend on it with brutal honesty. Allow yourself to be human (see the above step), and push yourself along when needed. And as an aside: Splash out on some fancy new workout gear if it helps motivate you! That’s always a better option than wasting your money on useless supplements.
Step 5: Find motivation in others
Workout buddies are golden! Finding someone to work out with can really help motivate you, and even better is making a pact with this person in that you’ll help push each other forward. When you’re skipping a workout and suddenly not just letting yourself down, but your training buddy as well, chances are you will be less inclined to keep bunking off.
You can also find motivation in people that inspire you. Take a look at your social media, and whether the people you are following genuinely inspire you or just make you feel down. You're allowed to create your own motivational safe-space, filled with the right type of people to help push you onwards.
Step 6: Stay patient
Those old clichéd sayings about how it’s a marathon, not a race, or how slow and steady wins the race? They’re brought up so much because they generally ring true. It’s always best to be focused on the long-term, and making stable changes that you’re able to stick to as opposed to any temporary habits you’ll drop as soon as you hit your goal. You’re not gonna lose 5% body fat overnight, just as you’re not gonna gain 5kgs of muscle in just a week. But stick with it and remember that not only is it helping your body, but also your mind. And always keep your goal in mind to help you stay patient.