How to find the motivation for working out
Posted 14-12-2020 | Updated
How do you find motivation for working out?
This is such a common question. For someone like myself it always feels like the answer is easy. Just do the damn workout! But that’s because exercise is a big part of my life, being fit and healthy is an important part of my identity. That’s important and it’s something that a lot of people at the start of a health journey don’t understand. Let me expand.
What you need to understand is that, right now, it’s likely that your personal identity is of the person who isn’t fit, who doesn’t contemplate the nutritional quality or calorie content of their food. You might think that health and fitness is for other people. It might be that you simply don’t believe you are capable of changing the lifestyle that has gotten you out of shape to begin with. But, more malignantly, it might be that you don’t believe that you DESERVE it.
It’s a difficult realisation to make, but the reason you aren’t currently fit and healthy is because of the choices you have made in life. No one made those choices for you. Sure, there are likely to be a number of complicated factors that have contributed to the decisions you have made thus far, but the responsibility lies with the decision maker. You.
Let me break down a few key things to help you to turn around your mindset and start changing things for the better.
Raise your standards
This is a thought experiment. Stop what you are doing right now. Put down your phone or tablet, or whatever you’re reading this on. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and then ask yourself where your standards are right now....
Do you set the same high standards and expectation of yourself that you expect to see in others?
Are you the kind of person who thinks it’s acceptable to spend four hours per evening sat in front of the TV instead of exercising?
Do you think that it’s acceptable to eat fast foods and take-aways rather than preparing healthy meals?
Is there always something else to do rather than exercise?
If you answer yes to any of these, but if you truly want positive healthy change in your life then you are setting your standards too low.
To be a fit and healthy person, you must lead the life of a fit and healthy person. Look at the way your favourite athletes live. They look and perform the way they do because tracking Calories and macros and training for hours per week (maybe 20+ hours) are priorities to them. Anything less than that is below their defined standards.
No, I’m not saying you need to live your life like a pro athlete, that’s just an example. But once you have made the decision to raise your standards and live your life to a higher level of self-expectation what’s next?
Find your ‘WHY’
Your why is your internal locus of control. Why do you want to be fitter or healthier? What does this look like? What does it feel like? Who else stands to benefit from this? What do you need to do to make it happen? These are the sorts of questions to ask yourself.
Not, ‘I want to lose weight.’ Or ‘I want to build muscle.’ That’s the outcome but the ‘why’ is the emotional feeling attached to that goal.
I can’t tell you what your why is, only you can answer that, and it might take you a long time to find yours. It might be harder for young people to have this level of understanding of their intrinsic motivators because they simply don’t have enough life experience yet.
So, if you can’t find you why, maybe your why is to learn more about yourself and, getting fitter or stronger is part of that journey… It might just be that you want to be a positive role model to your children, Awesome. perhaps your why is that you want to be a strong, confident sassy woman to attract a new partner and progress as you’ve always wanted to in your career, equally as Awesome.
Be honest with yourself and let what comes out be your why. Everyone is different, so take your time to ask yourself some uncomfortable questions and write down your findings.
Set measurable performance goals
Whatever you do, don’t exercise to lose fat or burn calories. That’s not a compelling enough goal to feel motivating. Besides, it’s really hard to burn as many calories as you need over a week to burn just a single pound of fat from exercise alone.
Set yourself an interesting and motivating exercise goal. To run 5k, to do a full pull up, to do 20 full body press ups with good form, to deadlift 3x your bodyweight (OK that last one might have to come a few years down the line but hopefully you can see my point). Your exercise goals shouldn’t be about weighing a certain number, losing a certain number of centimetres, burning a set number of calories, etc. Your exercise goals should be about exercise. That’s a novel concept, right?
Psychologically it feels more enjoyable and motivating to set incremental progressive goals that you can tick off regularly. So, if you currently can’t do a single full body press up, don’t set 20 as your goal. Set one as your goal, then two and so on. This way you get to congratulate yourself and get a sense of reward often. That alone will drive you to be more consistent with your training.
Ignore societal expectations
Do more of what you enjoy. It’s often implied that women shouldn’t get bulky because that’s un-lady-like, but some of the most inspiring transformations I have seen in female clients have been from women who have suddenly realised how much they enjoy being strong and how good it makes them feel. It’s freeing when your motivation comes from celebrating what your body is capable of achieving, rather than how depleted you can make yourself feel, just to get a few likes on social media because you are able to fit into a size 3 bikini.
Likewise, men don’t have to be big and strong. It’s entirely acceptable for a man to choose to be a really good dancer or gymnast, rather than a hench bodybuilder. Besides, there’s more to strength than lifting heavy things. I recently tried doing a sit up challenge and was almost in tears by the end, whilst one of my female staff did the same challenge and found it easy.
So set your ego aside. Do what feels right to you, for the reasons that feel motivating to you. Not what you think society expects from you.
Have a plan.
Basically, don’t workout, TRAIN. There’s a difference. A workout implies that it’s a random compilation of exercises thrown together in a non-specific way. Non-specific goals get non-specific results. So, after you have gone through all of the above steps. Create a plan. Or hire a coach to create one for you.
A plan should incorporate specificity (specific to goals), progression, volume, intensity and frequency. No, you don’t have to train every day, but you need to have a plan of action that is realistic, measurable and achievable and then you need to complete each phase of the plan consistently in order to achieve your goal. Then, once you have met your goal. You go through the whole process again and come up with a new goal and a new plan. It never gets easy, you just get fitter, stronger, faster and so on.
Hopefully that’s answered the question. Me and Tom Bainbridge have talked about these concepts on Ben Coomber Radio a lot. If you have any questions about this send me an email and if we haven’t already answered it on a previous podcast, or it’s been asked enough time to revisit, we’ll discuss it on one of our Q&A podcasts.
Let’s summarise the above points.
- Raise your standards – demand better from yourself
- Define your ‘why’ – find your internal locus of control
- Set measurable and realistic goals – goals that feel compelling and motivating
- Ignore societal expectation – you do you
- Have a plan – effective planning gives you a clear view of what you need to do and when to do it
Like I said, if this blog has brought up any questions do feel free to email me with your question. If you like the idea of getting stronger then my ebook A Beginners Guide to Lifting Weights is a good starting point
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