I think it’s a safe bet to say that we have all experienced a point when we felt extreme motivation. Mine came in 1976 while watching the first Rocky movie. If you haven’t seen the classic Stalone masterpiece, then you should. You will never skip a workout again.
I saw it first on the big screen because that was the only way to see a movie back then. It was epic, and I went home afterward too fired up to go to bed. I rummaged through my dresser drawers to find a tattered hoodie and sweatpants, then grabbed a towel to wrap around my neck. A black knitted cap finished the ensemble, and mine, was almost identical to the running getup that Rocky wore.
I headed for the door, bursting with emotion and steely-eyed resolve. The November evening air was crisp and I hopped from foot to foot to warm up just like Rocky had. And then I took flight, running as fast as my tattered Converse sneakers would take me. I dreamed of taking the pain, running like Rocky and vowed that like him, I would get in the best shape of my life. The motivation was palpable, and I ran like the wind. And I was convinced that nothing could stop me, no matter how hard it got.
I was able to sustain my newfound convictions for the better part of two blocks. That was when my lungs and legs started to burn. I had a crippling stitch in my side, and my calves were cramping. I slowed to a jog, then a walk, and finally I stopped. Bent over, I dizzily clutched my knees as every cell in my body screamed for oxygen. An eternity later, I straightened up. Looking purple-faced and disheveled, and gathering what shred remained of my dignity, I began limping home. My otherwise sedentary body, convinced I had lost my mind, had begged me to stop. And so I did. As the discomfort level rose, motivation left me like hot air escaping a rapidly wilting balloon.
But had motivation actually left me?
I have since learned that motivation isn’t ever lost, it just gets re-directed. And most times it is re-directed by discomfort. Something had motivated me to run, but the discomfort I felt had destroyed my desire to run. My desire changed and I wanted to go home and lay on the couch. Thinking about how good that would feel, I quickly became motivated to do just that. Motivation is always there but it can be redirected. Knowing this means we can also redirect it back to where we need it to be to reach our goals.
Here are ten tips to help you manage your motivation and accomplish your fitness goals.
Everything Starts With Prayer
Talk to God about your goals and plans and let the Holy Spirit guide you on what you should do, how much time you should commit and also for things like discipline, effort, work ethic, and drive. Ask for help on the days when you don’t feel motivated and want to quit. He is always there for us and if the Holy Spirit tells you to set fitness goals, the Holy Spirit will be there to help you reach them when the enemy wants to steal your joy, your accomplishment, and your goal of a healthy, fit body.
Set Realistic Goals
Living fit and healthy is a lifestyle, not a point in the future we aspire to reach. It’s something we choose to do every day of our lives, so your goals should reflect that. Goals are a tool we used to get past the hard parts so that we don’t quit, miss workouts, or put in half the effort we are capable of. Longer terms goals are simply milestones we set for ourselves and the daily short-term goals are a tool that collectively help us reach those milestones. When starting out a useful goal may be to get up a half-hour earlier each day to make time for a workout, or making meals the night before so you have good healthy food and don’t impulsively eat things that move you from your goals. When you set short term simple goals and accomplish them, you remain motivated to accomplish more goals.
Make Your Plan And Stick To It
Managing the new time commitments is a common struggle when starting a fitness plan is . Most people just consider the time to workout but to be successful with the whole lifestyle change it helps to prepare your food, get sufficient sleep, lay out your clothing for the next day, and be more organized so you have time to read, watch and listen to things that help focus your motivation where you need it to be. If you make a plan for what you need to accomplish each day, it will help you manage your time better, then all you need to do is stick with the plan. Some days you will feel tired or simply just not feel like doing what you know you need to do. Make the choice to be disciplined and do it. Most important, don’t allow yourself to negotiate, “It won’t hurt me to skip one workout” or “if I only eat one, it won’t matter”. Stick to the plan, as that is a success and success builds confidence and more success.
We gain nothing worth having without some level of discomfort. Birth itself is a painful and traumatic event for all concerned, but that process is key to living life. Workouts will be uncomfortable. You will breathe hard, sweat, strain and stretch. Expect a reasonable amount of discomfort, as it’s necessary for you to reach your goals. It should never be unbearable but once you have attained a baseline level of fitness, pushing beyond comfort causes your body to adapt to the stresses by getting more fit, stronger, etc.. Embrace a reasonable amount of discomfort as that means you are effectively moving toward your goals.
Saturate Your Mind With Things That Motivate You
When I want to get fired up for a workout, I have a list of movies and YouTube videos I like to watch. There are books I like to read and I have a few different music playlists that I listen to when I train. I have playlists for high-intensity cardio workouts, more playlists for boxing, others for weight training and so on. I also make it a point to set my phone on no do not disturb and I refuse to look at emails, texts or social media until the workout is done. Once I get my motivation directed, I avoid everything that might rob me of that time that I invest in my workouts and I fill my mind with things that will make that workout incredible.
Distraction is a huge motivation shifter. So is self-doubt, comparing ourselves with others, or speaking words into our lives filled with lack and shortcomings. I prevent that from happening through visualization and prayer before I workout by casting out any negative spirits and thoughts that may hinder me. Then, I visualize myself doing my workout, every repetition, and visualize succeeding and getting the result I want. I visualize in great detail and include the discomfort, shortage of breath and burning muscles, and I see myself accomplishing my workout goals despite those things. I visualize confidence, and I even visualise Jesus there watching me do my very best and overcoming whatever challenges I face in the workout. It makes me unstoppable in the gym and helps me maintain an intense level of motivation throughout the entire workout.
Prepare The Night Before
When I get up in the morning, I like to spend some time praying and reading the Bible before I get on with the day. Time is always tight, so I find it helps me a great deal when I lay out my clothing and gym clothes the night before. In the bathroom, my towel gets set out with the toiletries I will need to get ready for the day arranged on top. My meals get prepared and placed in containers so I can take them with me if I am going to be away from home. My water bottles get filled and set out on the counter to take with my meals. I even set out the pans I need to make breakfast and fill the coffeemaker with water. Mornings are smooth and I am never faced with a decision to skip something because I am rushed for time or find out something I wanted to wear wasn’t clean. My mornings are busy but never stressful and I feel good in the clothes I wear because I took time to choose them purposefully the night before. Before I walk out the door, I have some strong wins under my belt and, filled with confidence; I am ready for the day. That sense of accomplishment is a potent motivator to finish the day with the same success I enjoyed that morning. Success builds on success and that is a massive motivation focuser.
Keep A Training Journal
Recording the things you do that keep your motivation focussed on success will be invaluable when you struggle with staying focussed and on track. You can keep a record of exercises, sets, reps, weight, time etc., but I find the most valuable information is my notes on what was going on that day. I record things like how much sleep I got and how much food and water I took in. Recording influences, good or bad, how I processed them and the effect. By rating the impact all these things have on my workout on a scale of 1-5 gives me a clear picture of what I need to do to improve things. If I struggle, I can usually find out why with a quick glance at my notes. I can see patterns, negative and positive, and use that information to keep me moving on the right path.
End Your Workout On A High Note
When you make your last memories of any event a pleasant and positive one, it’s much easier to come back the next time. I like to spend the last few minutes of my workout stretching, listening to calming music (my preference is worship music), and going over the workout in my mind. I use that time to give thanks for the progress, for my health, for having the ability to train, for the energy and effort, and for the gym or place I am at to workout. When it’s time to leave, my mind and body feel good and I want to come back and train again.
Treat Yourself To Something New
My son Cole got some new sneakers recently, and he discovered that these new sneakers were much faster than the old ones. He insisted on showing me and while I got a good chuckle out of his demonstration; I think he was right. He was running faster in his new shoes. And isn’t that the case with most of us? A new pair of shoes, headphones, or new workout wear always makes us motivated to workout. You can set it up as a reward for staying on track and hitting a milestone, or some new fitness wear can simply be something that motivates you when you are not feeling on fire to reach your goals.
These are tried-and-true motivation directors that I use, and I am sure you can think of others that will work for you. Motivation doesn’t come and go by chance. It is yours to control and you have the power to direct it where you need it most.