And what to do about it.
Why does fitness motivation have to be so elusive?
On Monday, you felt confident and excited about your hot yoga class. Then Tuesday rolls around and your enthusiasm for a sweat-sesh is on par with a dentist appointment. By Wednesday, you’re in your cozy sweater, sprawled on the couch, promising you’ll get back at it when you feel more motivated.
Turns out, we’ve all been there.
So it got me wondering…
Could we stick to our gym routine and fitness plans if we understood motivation better?
Could you motivate yourself on those hot-mess sorta days if you had the right motivational skills?
Are these rhetorical questions?
(Yes, to all three)
And while there are more examples and behavioral psychology at play than we can cover today, here are some key principles of motivation that will give you the skills to stick with your fitness plans.
Motivation Keeps You Going
Motivation is not exclusively reserved for monumental achievements like climbing Mount Everest.
Instead, the real power of motivation is to repeatedly do small things. Psychologists also have a term for this: “Grit”.
Ironically though, the always inspiring Alison Levine used her grit to climb Everest…twice.
Alison shared the same sentiments as she worked through the ‘Death Zone’ of the summit. You see, the Death Zone is not just a clever name. This final 3,000-foot ascent on Everest is where your body starts shutting down and death is certain within just two days.
So what was Alison’s approach to keeping herself and her team motivated in this extreme environment?
“Just get to the next rock,” she kept telling herself.
For those of us less inclined to freeze on a mountain, our approach can be similar. Set a small goal, take a few steps, reach that first goal, and then use the subsequent motivation to keep going. For example, you could first commit to completing a 10-minute streaming workout. Then shoot for two workouts in one week. Finally, build up to a gym appearance.
Why does it work?
Because any amount of progress boosts your confidence. And confidence strengthens your motivation. They’re correlated. It’s just as effective on Mount Everest as it is for your strength, weight, or other health goals.
So remember, while your friends and social influencers may claim “motivation gets you started,” that’s only partially true. The real power of motivation is to help us accomplish small feats regularly. It keeps you going.
How You Stay Motivated is Unique
I’m a big fan of Albert Einstein. Brilliant, daring, humble, and an all-time top 10 mustaches (just edging out Nick Offerman). However, when I was trying to get motivated to compete against an Olympic silver medalist back in 2015, quotable old Albert wasn’t working for me. I needed something relatable to my situation – Darrell Pace, Michael Phelps, Serena Williams, Usain Bolt, Aly Raisman, Billy Mills. Courageous, inspiring, Olympic athletes.
This is because motivation is unique. It’s based on your personal experiences, traits, and behavioral psychology. What works for me may seem cheesy to you (just try not to laugh out loud), and what drives you may never make sense to me.
In fact, one of our surveys found that over 40% of respondents feel motivation is “too general”, “cheesy”, or “hard to find what’s relevant”.
So how do you get better at figuring out how what motivates you?
For starters, you can reflect on activities you love. What is it about them that keeps you coming back? If you had to give it up, how would you feel?
Another angle, suggested Preston Ni, is to “read or watch biographies of inspiring, creative people”. Finally, a guilt-free reason to binge watch that new series on Netflix! (no, not the one with the tiger guy)
If you’re more the podcast type, you could steal some ideas by listening to my nerdy chat about what motivates you on the Alpha Hippie Podcast.
And if you want to go all-in, Level 2 of Gotivation specifically uncovers your Motivational Personality. A deep dive into what does (and does not) motivate you.
However, you decide to learn more about yourself, remember this. If motivation is impersonal, it can’t help you create healthy eating habits or get back to the studio. That’s why finding what motivates you is the most important first step before you start a health goal.
Staying Motivated Takes Practice (and recharging)
“A mighty flame followeth a tiny spark” ~Dante Alighieri
“That’s great, as long as you don’t mind burning down when it’s over” ~me
We’ve all heard it: ‘A spark of imagination! Motivation lights a fire! I just need someone to motivate me!’
So, what happens when that spark runs out?
Simple. We become one of 67% of people that never use their gym membership. We throw in the towel on our fad ‘detox’ (BS, cough cough…) diets and go back to the comfortable confines of the couch.
This leads us to the most misunderstood part of motivation. It’s a skill that we can and should practice regularly.
Let me explain it another way: Motivation is not a bolt of lightning – it’s a battery.
Take a peek at your phone battery right now. Is it at 90%, 61%, 32%? No big deal. You’ve got plenty of charge to get you through this article.
But what do you do when your battery drops to 3%?
Do you just toss the $900 iPhone in the trash and stop reading?
You recharge it and finish reading this amateurish (at best) blog post.
Turns out, we can take a similar approach when we find ourselves running low on motivation because of our jobs, family, kids, or a dozen other responsibilities.
However, instead of finding the nearest USB plug, you can recharge your motivation by:
- Remembering why you want this. Reflect on your ‘why’ – the real reason you started taking care of yourself.
- Learning where you get stuck. Find yourself canceling gym plans at the last minute? Rehearse what you’ll say (or do) next time it is about to happen.
- Trying out your new skills. Reading a self-help book is great. But to truly stay motivated, you’ll need to be brave and use those skills in real life.
Those are just a few ideas. Whatever you decide to do, keep practicing your motivation!
If we start to think about motivation in a different way, I believe each of us can harness the motivation needed to reach our health goals. The keys are finding what motivates you, taking little steps, and learning how to recharge when you’re running low. You got this!