Why does fitness motivation have to be so elusive?

On Monday, you spent the entire day fantasizing about your 6pm hot-yoga class. Then Tuesday rolls around and going to the gym feels more difficult than getting out of bed on a Monday in January.  By Wednesday you’re back cozy sweatpants, the couch, and an extra serving of guilt.

Yep.  We’ve all been there!  So it got me wondering…

Could we stick to our gym routine and eating plans if we understood motivation better?

Could you motivate yourself on those hot-mess kinda days if you had the right motivational skills?

Are these rhetorical questions?

Yes, to all three.

And while there are more examples and psychology at play than we can share today (I’ll share those in future articles), here are some key principles of motivation that will give you the skills to stick with your fitness goals.

Motivation Keeps You Going

Motivation is not exclusively reserved for monumental achievements like climbing Mount Everest. Though one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met, Alison Levine, used it to do just that…twice.

The real power of motivation is to repeatedly do small things. Psychologists also have a term for this: “Grit”.


A truly motivational athlete, coach, and speaker — Alison Levine (Image via Alison Levine)


Even Alison shared the same sentiments as she worked through the ‘Death Zone’ of the summit. It’s 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.

Her approach to staying focused and motivated in this extreme environment?

“Just get to the next rock.”

Take a few steps at a time, accomplish that little goal, then use the satisfaction to do it again. In Alison’s case, that can last up to 16 hours.

Now that’s real grit!


Mountaineering — not your typical day in the gym (Image via Wikipedia)

Why does that work? Because little changes add up to big things over time. It’s no different on Everest than it is for your weight loss goals.

When it comes to exercising, starting small pays off (see 2-minute rule by James Clear). It may only take a quick reminder of your ‘Why’ – such as, “I want to be a role model for my kids” –  to get you to jog around the block. However, you might need to spend a few months increasing your confidence before you consider going to your first CrossFit class.

Some social media influencers like to claim “motivation gets you started,” but that’s only partially true.   The real power of motivation is to help us do small things on a regular basis.  It keeps you going.

How You Stay Motivated is Unique

It’s not unique until someone sends you an emoji 😉

I love Albert Einstein. Brilliant, daring, humble, and an all-time top 10 mustache (just edging out Nick Offerman). However, when I was trying to get mentally motivated to compete against an Olympic silver medalist, 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.


Because motivation is unique. It’s based on your personal experiences, traits, and a lot of psychology. What works for you may seem cheesy to half your friends. What inspires your brother may not even garner a second glance in your Facebook feed. (I know this is the case when some GOtivation Instagram Posts get a whopping 2 ½ likes).

In fact, one of our surveys found that 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?

In this outstanding article by Preston Ni (Psychology Today), there are a number of ways to discover what motivates you. One of my personal favorites of his is “Read or Watch Biographies of Inspiring, Creative People”.  If you’re more the podcast type, you could even listen to my nerdy chat about what motivates you on the Alpha Hippie Podcast.

Another way? In our training course Motivated in a Month, we worked tirelessly with psychologists and personal trainers to create your Motivational Personality.  It’s a helpful personality survey that identifies what does (and does not) motivate you.

Remember, if motivation is not personal, it won’t help you stick to a diet or go to the gym. That’s why finding what motivates you is one of the most important first steps you should take.

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! Just need someone to motivate me!’ So, what happens when that spark runs out? We become one of 67% of people that never use their gym membership. We throw in the towel on our fad ‘detox’ diets and go back to the comfortable confines of the couch.

This may be the most important part of motivation: We need to practice it regularly. Let me explain it another way:

Motivation is not a bolt of lightning – it’s a battery

When you’re fully charged, you can feel it!

What do you do when your phone battery at 3%?

Do you just toss the $900 iPhone in the trash and give up?

Uh.  No.

You recharge it and get going again.

It’s the same when you find yourself running low on energy and motivation.  Which happens to be totally normal when you’re balancing a job, family, kids, and a dozen other responsibilities.

However, instead of finding the nearest USB plug, here’s what you can do to strengthen your motivation:

  • Learn what motivates you.  Not sure how? Take a short course like Motivated in a Month to discover what works best for you.
  • Practice your motivational skills.  Find yourself canceling gym plans at the last minute?  Practice what you’ll say (or do) next time it’s about to happen.
  • Try out your new skills.  Reading a self-help book is great.  But to truly stay recharged, 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 your motivation battery regularly charged!

Wrap Up

If we start to think about motivation in a slightly different light, I believe we all can stay motived to get fit and stay healthier.

Three things to remember:

  1. Motivation + small, repeated change = powerful
  2. We’re all motivated in a unique way
  3. Learn how to recharge your motivational battery regularly


Written by: Dennis Timpanaro

Dennis radiates motivation. An entrepreneur & world-ranked athlete, he founded GOtivation to help busy adults stay motivated and fit for a lifetime.

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