If there is one issue that most lifters and gym-goers consistently and deeply struggle with it is maintaining the motivation necessary to go to the gym regularly.
It comes in a variety of forms, but the sentiment is largely the same…
How do I plow through those days when I don’t feel like training? How do I get motivated to push myself to make it to the gym after a long day at the office? How do I motivate myself to get out of bed an hour early to go for a run?
And while the individual circumstances vary, the problem is largely the same:
How to push through the dips and valleys in motivation in order to get ourselves to the gym and perform a worthy workout.
The big bad secret isn’t that some people have superhuman levels of workout motivation.
It’s that they create the habits and an environment that supports their goals in the gym. When you have those two things in order, motivation becomes a moot point.
Sure, there’ll be days where you feel like going to the gym more than others, but when making it to the gym is habitual not being motivated won’t stop you from going to the gym.
Here are a few different ways to make this kind of scenario happen for yourself:
1. Set a routine.
Having to get yourself motivated to go to the gym every day is mentally exhausting.
If you need to fully get yourself in the mood where you “feel like it”, where there is nothing else you would rather do, than you will be waiting around for a while for that fickle hit of inspiration to strike.
Remove the need for “inspiration” by carving out non-negotiable workout routine for yourself.
Yes, this will mean going to the gym on days when you don’t feel like it, but don’t worry, those feelings pass quickly once you get your workout underway.
2. Have a pre-workout routine.
Pre-workout supplements largely take the cake for this step. The GATs, 1MR’s, and others are designed primarily to get your mind focused and your body primed to kick ass in the gym.
If you are the type that prefers to workout without a heavy shot of caffeine and other “proprietary ingredients” than putting yourself together a little launch list before you hit the gym can help instill habitual behavior.
The list of things can be exceptionally simple: A favorite song. Drinking a glass of water. Putting on your gym gear. Driving/walking to the gym.
The point of the list isn’t for it to be difficult—it’s to establish a connection between your mind and body that signals “Alright, it’s go time” the moment you start.
3. Exercise at the same time each day.
Making it up as you go along is fun, for a while.
You go to the gym when you feel like it, and as a result, you have mostly productive workouts.
But if you want to get next-level results it’s imperative that you start carving out specific portions of your day that are dedicated specifically towards working out.
The best part about committing to a specific schedule is that your body—being the smarty pants that it is—will begin to anticipate and prepare for those windows of time where you are to work out, making it easier to get up and at it.
4. Schedule your workout.
The problem I have with people when they say that they will work out when they “feel like it” is that they will almost never feel like it.
Sure, there will be the occasional day where you are fully rested, you just watched a couple motivational videos on YouTube, and you are consumed with a fiery rage to pick weights up and put them down repeatedly. But they are far and few between.
Think of having a workout schedule as the anti-motivational motivation– it doesn’t matter how you’re feeling, how inspired you are are, or what else is going on in the rest of your life, there is a small part of your day that is exclusive to working out and nothing else.
5. Start with the 2-3 things that matter and forget everything else.
Every so often a friend who has been out of the gym will contact me in order to get some advice in regards to starting back up in the gym. Recently one such friend wrote me on Facebook asking what supplements I was taking, what type of protein he should get, and asked my opinion on two different fish oils.
I liked that his head was generally in the right place, but he was focusing on the wrong stuff. Instead of focusing on the things that make 1-2% difference, he should have been focusing on things that really make a difference.
Like designing an environment that made it as easy as possible for him to make it to the gym every day. Getting a good night’s sleep. And eating well (but not perfectly) over the course of the day.
The things that drive an overwhelming majority of your performance.
Supplements are nice, but they are the last thing you should be worried about. Having all of these things to juggle and remember and stress out about (am I really taking the absolute best protein there is?) makes things a whole lot more complicated than they need to be.
6. Set daily and weekly goals and objectives in the gym.
For me, the moment I don’t have a clear objective in the gym I tend to lose focus really quickly.
When I go to the gym I am on a mission—either to lift more weight than I ever have before, do a recovery session so that my next session is massive, murder it with the skipping rope—whatever the goal is, it keeps me focused and keeps me hungry.
Perpetually pushing the envelope with your training is a sure fire way to keep you engaged and motivated. Have realistic targets and goals that you want to hit each week with your performance in the gym and you will find that those valleys are a little bit less valleyish next time around.
7. Make the gym the easiest part of your day.
A funny thing happens when you make your gym time a priority—the rest of your world begins to bend around it in order to fit in.
Most often it’s not that our goals are too difficult—it’s that the environment that we surround them with is unsuitable to seeing them through.
- If you’re staying up late on nights where you plan to go to the gym the next morning.
- Eating crap food all day so that by the time it comes to workout you’ve already sugar crashed and burned.
So many gym-goers seem convinced that working out means that it has to be hard. Yes, results are difficult–but the process of getting there doesn’t need to be needlessly challenging.
Here are a few ideas for making the gym the easiest part of your day:
Work out when you are most mentally and physically fresh. For many, this is the first thing in the morning. Not a morning person? (Me neither.) Work out mid-day. Or first thing after work. Or late at night. It doesn’t matter–seriously–as long as you are getting to the gym.
Make better food choices. Seems like an obvious suggestion, but diet is one of those foundational habits that feeds into the rest of our day. When we eat well and with performance in mind we not only feel better, but that sense of well-being can’t help but nudge us towards being more physically active.
Be serious about your schedule. As mentioned previously, it’s critical to schedule your workouts. It eliminates the “I don’t have time to workout” crutch that every second person on this Earth seems committed to unleashing whenever they talk about the things they could do in the gym…if only they had the time.
There are two realities about getting motivated to workout that you either already know (even if it is only intuitively at this point)–
- Motivation to workout comes from action. The cruel irony is that the really good stuff, the level 10, nuclear grade motivation comes from action. It comes from doing. It comes from showing up, from dragging your ass into the gym and working out. It does not come from sitting around, wishing you were more motivated, from reading articles like this. It comes from action. So close this right now and get your butt to the gym immediately.
- Motivation needs to take a backseat to habits. Don’t wait for the motivation bug to bite you. Don’t wait to be inspired. If you are serious about making great things happen in the gym and in the mirror you should be working non-stop on creating workout and diet habits that support your goal.
Use the above suggestions to get yourself in a state of action and hitting the gym regularly. Once that happens, I guarantee you will have more motivation than you will know what to do with.
Here’s Why You Won’t Keep Your New Years Resolutions This Year. Applicable all year round to those looking to achieve worthwhile things in the gym (and outside of it), here are 5 reaons you are struggling to make your goals and habits stick.