There are three things you need to do if you want to develop life-long “motivation” to workout. Ignore them at your own peril.
It happened, yet again.
With the best of intentions, gym clothes on, bag packed, I sat on the couch, watching the minutes dwindle away on the cable box until presto…
Too late to go to the gym.
This not-so-subtle act of self-sabotage wasn’t the first time. And it wouldn’t be the last.
Things changed when I realized that the very concept of motivation was draining my desire to go to the gym. I was under the mistaken impression that I had to feel motivated to go to the gym. And if I wasn’t, then obviously I didn’t want it that badly (and therefore didn’t deserve the results), making me feel even worse.
Learning to let go of the need to be motivated every day to workout was tough, but once unshackled things got way easier.
Sure, there will be days when you need that second cup of coffee and an extra loud helping of Eminem’s “Till I Collapse” but the goal is to get your workouts and training to the point where it is simply part of your day.
The goal, essentially, is to not need motivation at all.
To be able to get your workouts in as though it was the most basic of tasks, just another little check-mark on your list of things to do.
Here are three ways to start ditching the need for constant motivation, and instead build something far more habitual and powerful.
1. Start a training journal.
We always direct our focus on the things we measure.
If it gets measured, it gets focused on. And when we start journaling out our workouts, we start paying attention to the details. We stop cutting corners. And we find ourselves with a little roadmap towards bigger gains and faster results.
Keeping a workout log does a few powerful things:
- Keeps you focused. When you have the workout ahead written out in front of you it makes it just a little bit harder to veer off plan. Your logbook is home-base for your training goals.
- Keeps you consistent. Often times the thing that keeps a so-so workout from plummeting into a no-no workout is remembering that I am going to have to write out this performance later on in my logbook. This is usually gives me enough of a jolt to get my butt in gear.
- Keeps you motivated. The easiest way to keep yourself on an IV-drip of motivation is to monitor your progression in the gym. When you can see on paper how you are improving you are going to stay committed to the program. Simple as that.
You don’t need to keep a wildly detailed play-by-play of every one of your workouts. Write the sets, reps, weights involved, and how much you slept the night before. (Sleep is a mitigating factor in your performance in the gym. True story.)
Get into the habit of writing out your workouts and reap the motivational rewards.
Speaking of habits…
2. Get serious about making working out a habit.
We love the idea of good habits.
The idea that we can put our workout routine on automatic.
After all, if we have good habits we don’t really need motivation, right? If we can lock down our workout routine into something that resembles auto-pilot then we can give up the agonizing back-and-forth we experience each time a tough workout is on the menu.
Here are a few ways to help kick-start the workout habit:
- Be patient. Habits are tough. How tough? Like they take an insane amount of time tough. Forget the 21 day rule you might have heard from a personal development “guru.” Depending on the difficulty of the habit it could take you longer then 6 months to hit full blown automaticity.
- Start small. If you are having a hard time making your workout habits stick, it’s time to start over, and time to start over smaller. The temptation is always to swing for the fences. To make complete and utter lifestyle changes that will rapidly make up for our months of apathy and laziness. But this never lasts. Start as small as you need to in order to make it stick.
- Couple the workout habit. Find something that you do daily—drive home from work, wake-up, eat dinner—and pair it with your workout. “When I wake up, I will go for a run. When I turn on the TV after work, I will do 50 crunches.” Slide the new habit into your current life and couple it to something you are already doing.
3. Forget motivation altogether.
Motivation, that fickle thing that it is, is flakier than that buddy you have who always bails two minutes on the plans that he made. Some days it will be there, wanting to hang out all day long, and then the next it will disappear for two weeks.
Sitting around waiting for the proper motivation to hit you to go to the gym and do heavy legs is a fool’s errand. It’s impossible to discern how motivated you will be from day to day.
Action comes from action. You never feel like doing the thing before you do it. But once you start, and the “hey, this isn’t so bad” thought flashes through your mind, then it is game on.
On days where you are struggling, simply commit to walking through the door. Or doing the first few warm-up sets.
Once you get going it will be almost impossible for you to bail out.
Putting it all together
Working out consistently isn’t a mystery once you take motivation out of the equation.
All it really boils down to is measuring and tracking your progress, making it as routine and habitual as possible, and each day waking up and making the commitment to simply start.
So tell motivation to take a hike, and get your butt in the gym.