The biggest number of messages I receive from people deal with motivation, or the lack of it. Everyone understands that the calories you expend must be greater than the calories you eat. People, for the most part, also understand the difference between the quality of calories: 100 calories of a Three Musketeers bar will be different than 100 calories of raw apples. Not as many people understand that diet has a larger impact on weight than exercise, but I’m doing my best to change that, and it’s not what we’re talking about this time. Right now, we are talking about motivation.
People ask me, “How do you stay so motivated?” The truth is that it’s not so much that I’m always motivated; sometimes, it’s more that I set a goal and I don’t want to fail. I tell a lot of people my goals, and that puts pressure on me to not let anyone down. Some people would feel that telling others would add too much anxiety; I get it. We’re all different. Other times, I do rely on my own motivation and my own desire to reach a goal, whether it’s a weight goal or a time on a run or a road march. Either way, that’s what I do.
But what do I do on the days when the motivation tank is empty? Well, it’s at those low points that I rely on dedication to get the work done. There are plenty of times when I don’t feel like exercising, or I just want to relax. What I do, however, is I make exercise compulsory to my daily routine and I make it a priority. I do not accept skipping a workout for any reason except for injury. Muscle pain from the last workout? Too bad; suck it up and get out there. Feeling tired? Oh well; you should have gotten more sleep, E.J. It’s too hot out? Oh well; you’re going to sweat.
In the past four years since I started exercising, the only times I have not exercised were when I had an injury or when I was on a vacation and it wasn’t practical. Otherwise, I’ve been running and/or weightlifting the entire time.
But I know that it’s hard to get to the point I’m at now. It was hard for me, too. But the burning desire in me to make progress, to get fit, and to get back into the military fueled my drive to consistent fitness. Not everyone has that. So, here are some things I suggest:
- Have a workout partner. Exercising with someone else makes it more difficult to skip a workout. If you don’t have someone local to you, there are plenty of virtual apps or even Facebook or Facetime to keep you accountable.
- Make a realistic plan and make it your priority. Do not allow yourself to skip for any reason. If something comes up, make plans around your workout (and your recovery/shower/etc). I’ve never had an issue with planning around my workouts. Ever.
- Set realistic goals. Losing 10 lbs/month is not realistic. Even when I was losing 10-12 lbs/month for a year, I never set that as a goal. My goal was to eat right. Period. The weight loss was bonus. It’s easier to accomplish goals when they are realistic which in turn motivates you to keep going.
- Don’t overdo it. Working out 5-6 times a week, especially for someone not used to it, will cause a lot of pain and possible injury. The more discomfort you feel, the less likely you are to keep with it.
- Be honest with yourself and make health and fitness your priority. When you do this, motivation comes more easily. But, if you see it as an evil or something you don’t like or want to do but must do it, your chances of success are decreased.
- Commit to the lifestyle change forever, not temporarily. Embrace the foods you can eat and stay healthy and avoid those that, while delicious, are killing you. If you decide to make a permanent lifestyle change, it makes it easier to stick with it rather than thinking, “Only two more months or 30 more lbs until I can eat cheesecake again!”
It’s not always easy, but nothing worthwhile is. If losing weight and getting fit were easy, everyone would do it. The fact that being fit is not common says a lot to the difficulty level it has for people in modern society. We have so many distractions, responsibilities, and things pulling us in all directions that make it difficult for us to focus and stay motivated. You need to do what works for you to keep you motivated and on-track. I’m fortunate in that I’ve found what motivates me, and what keeps me going when I’m not motivated. Find what works for you and stick to it with all your ability.