How the Hell Do You Stay So Motivated??
It’s a simple question I’m asked frequently, with a simple answer: I take breaks. I know that’s a little simplistic and you’re rolling your eyes right now but it really is the reason I can bring excitement to each and every workout. Let me explain.
When I was dieting and working out to compete in figure competitions years ago, I was laser focused on my goal. I let no silly distraction, like my kids, veer me from my goal. I weighed every morsel of food that went in my mouth, I logged every burned calorie and rep of each weight lifted as assigned by my coach. I distracted myself from my constant hunger by drinking a gallon of water and buying gum in bulk.
I lost body fat, but I also lost my creativity, my energy, my good mood, my ability to think of anything but when I got to eat my next meal. If you asked me then how I stayed so motivated, I would have attempted to laugh in your face. Motivation? Motivation had left the train station so long ago I wondered if I ever really had any.
Fast forward a few years and you will see me smiling as I work out, with yes, a little more body fat than before. Pictures of my family and I on the beach living the good life. Websites and blogs built by my hand as I accept the challenge of new playgrounds for my creativity. Motivation is something I have on an almost constant basis now, without lengthy YouTube videos or fancy Instagram quotes to inspire me to action.
Here’s what I’ve learned: it’s in the breaks from your goals that you get the passion to actually return to your tasks day in and day out. I kid you not, I get 99% of my good ideas when I’m working out. The break from my business provides me with the inspiration to return to it with far better ideas than if I had tried to slog it out from behind my MacBook instead of sweating it out. It’s in the hours and days spent solely focused on my family that make me realize the importance of my workouts for extending my life and the quality of what I’m living right now.
If you’re white-knuckling your way through your workouts right now, here are four ways to utilize breaks to serve up motivation:
- Have you been doing the same workouts for, like, years now? It’s time to take a break from that upper/lower body split you could do in your sleep. Try a class. Try a new workout you found online. Try hiring a trainer who can teach you new exercises, rep schemes, periodization, new modalities. Let go of the old routine to allow room for exciting changes. Variety is the spice of life, no?
- If your friends would describe you as fanatical about your workouts, it’s time to take a week long break. Yes, that means no workouts for 7 straight days other than walking the dogs. If the idea of this makes you squirm and the first day’s attempt leaves you feeling restless, anxious, or downright pissed off, then this is a sign that you need to look deeper than your workouts. Are you using your workouts to hide from something? To distract you from something? Are you afraid if you don’t workout you’ll fall back into being a lazy loser? I mean this in all seriousness, as for a long time, my workout routine was my definition of success. By being dedicated, and also lean, I was proving to myself and the world that I wasn’t the fat kid anymore. This past blog post describes why this is a bad idea and won’t lead you to the success you’re looking for. Read it every day of your 7 day break to remind yourself why you’re doing this.
- How long have you been dieting? Do you log your food every day? Or stick to a strict diet plan most days (Saturday & Sunday don’t count, right)? Being in a calorie deficit for months (years?) on end is a sure-fire way to drain all motivation from your health efforts. I swear it’s like some crazy dark magic when you up your calories to a maintenance level. Your energy level skyrockets, which of course, leads to intense workouts where you’re lifting heavier and running faster than ever before. Bam! Motivation, baby.
- This last one is a hard sell but I’m gonna swing for it anyway. It’s time to take a break from some of your social media sources. If your workout routine is fueled by a desperate need to look a certain way to be acceptable, then a social media intervention is the break you need. Fear not, I’m not saying move to a remote jungle with no wifi. Simply take a magnifying glass to what sources you’re allowing in your newsfeed and therefore in your head. Are you a 40-something mom scrolling through a bunch of bikini clad 20-year olds while slipping further into that bottle of wine to soothe the sting of reality? Stop! Create some new boundaries on what you’ll allow in your head. Unlike, un-friend, un-follow. Start feeling good about yourself. Start wanting to take care of your kick-ass body. Hey, let’s go to the gym! See how that works?
It may seem so counter-intuitive to take a break to bring back the motivation, but that’s exactly what will do it! No one is motivated day-in and day-out, not even this personal trainer & nutritionist! But I do regularly rotate in all kinds of breaks to keep my motivation in gear for the long haul. So now you know my “secret”.