Motivation As A Muscle

Writing a blog post has never been so relevant. As I sit here, my laptop resting on my thighs, I’m reflecting on the last few weeks and where my motivation has been. It certainly has been there, in part and like a dim bulb, but not as consistently as I’d like. It seems to have taken a backseat. If my health and fitness was comparable to a limo ride, my motivation is the pissed-up executive at the back of the limousine whilst the rest of me is in the driver’s seat trying to keep everything on the road. Motivation, in short, can be an absolute bitch.

It’s great to have the knowledge of what you should be doing, obviously that helps. It’s also great to know that when you are having a good month on your programme, it really works. Plans are fantastic when they work, but they only work if we are motivated to do them.

Motivation is everything. Without it most of us would just lay around all down eating cheesy Doritos and binge watching our favourite streaming platforms. I would anyway. It’s motivation that gets us out of bed, to take a shower and tackle whatever the day has to throw at us, let alone get down to the gym for a gruelling training session. It doesn’t matter whether you are stepping through the gym door for the first time or going several times a week and taking personal training sessions with a variety of clients. Any level, any ability, any goal; it all relies on the motivation we cultivate to get it done.

Sure, I’m used to training a lot, still taking classes with enthusiasm, making big gains with all my clients and really enjoying what I do. Even so, sometimes motivation is still a bitch. Personal trainers and fitness professionals still struggle with this, no matter how long they’ve been at it.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had another local personal trainer tell a client of mine that they are beyond help, pretending to be myself, sending abusive texts under my name. The remnants of this and the issues it has created, though resolved for the better, are still ongoing. I have gone through genuine exhaustion, perhaps from working long hours and still not changing my own fitness programme accordingly. As a result, I took a whole week off exercise and just rested. At home I have had an ill 12-month-old and a wife with covid. With the rising energy prices, or as a matter of fact, prices in general, purse strings need to be tightened and luxury of life questioned and brought back down to earth. If my nutrition was Van Gogh’s pallet, then I’ve gone from lovely tones of green, orange, yellow, red and blue to more sombre hues of brown, brown and more brown. Though testing negative for covid, I have a tight chest, breathing is a little laboured and my body feels as if it’s just been fully choke slammed by Stone Cold Steve Austin. In short, my training and nutrition is fucked. shit happens right…

This isn’t me saying, ‘look, I’ve got it bad’, not by any means at all. This is me saying, ‘look, I’m a fitness professional, but I’m not a super hero. None of us are. We are regular people just like you with lives outside of the gym’. It’s when we hit times like these that motivation is key. It is the motivation to say, ‘fuck it, so what’ and carry on that keeps our health and fitness, both mentally and physically, in a good place. I know what I need to do. I have a programme to follow I know works. It’s just getting the strength to nudge that snowball again.

The beauty of going through something like this; you can always 100% get back on track. I heard this saying many moons ago, but it’s one I always tell my clients, ‘It’s not how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many times you get back up that counts’.

Motivation isn’t just something you’ll wake up with one day. Like anything else in life we do, it takes nurturing, developing and cultivating. Developing motivation takes patience and time. It’s like training a muscle or developing the skills needed to take part in a specific sport. It certainly doesn’t happen overnight. It also doesn’t matter what methods you have in place to keep you going, or what experiences you have gone through that motivates you in the first place; everyone, yes everyone eventually finds it hard or falls off the wagon.

We’re human, not robots. Never forget that. The wagon is still there. You might feel broken and bruised, but you can still climb back up into that seat, chuck the pissed executive out the back of the limo, and carry on riding off into the hypothetical sunset that is your goals. If you stay on the floor, then it won’t happen. If you get back up again it will, it just might take several trips from the floor to the wagon, but with everyone we learn something new.

When we lose motivation, don’t think of it as a negative. Turn it into a positive experience. It doesn’t matter how shit something is in life; we can learn from it. Most importantly we learn something about ourselves, about our characters and who we really are. It is this kind of development that helps us nurture our motivation and turn it into a tool that we can use.

If you are down, haven’t visited the gym in a few weeks, feeling out of sorts or any of the above, there are a few tricks that have helped me to slowly pull myself up and get back on that wagon again. Try them, just for one week, and see how it affects your own motivation.

Try these simple steps:

1. At the end of each day, either write down or say to yourself, even just think to yourself, 3 things you are grateful for. They don’t have to be extravagant or extraordinary. No matter how big or small they might seem to anyone else, it only matters that they are relevant to you.

2. Imagine observing your life from the outside from someone else’s shoes. At any point in your life, there are likely over 1 billion other people in the world in a tougher situation than you. Imagine you were struggling with political oppression, dealing with a terminal illness or protecting your children from the horrors of war. Then, from this outside perspective looking at yourself, imagine what these people would give to be dealing with your problems. Whilst our problems are only subjective to ourselves, this can be a great exercise in gratitude and perspective. 9 times out of 10, this might help us to think, ‘okay, so what excuse do I actually have for not getting back on the wagon, I’m actually quite free to do so’.

3. Don’t beat yourself up. Come to peace with the fact you’re only human. It’s quite humbling to remember that actually, we are all the same with the same fate, heading towards the same end game. Everyone you interact with has their own story, life and list of problems they value just as important as yours. When we come to terms with the fact that we are never going to be perfect, then it’s much easier to deal with stuff when it goes wrong. As long as we strive to do our best, then mishaps are exactly that. We are essentially just glorified apes, hurtling through a huge cosmic void we can’t even begin to understand, clinging to a large rock. Perspective is everything, and when we understand that shit goes wrong and it’s cool for it to happen, then health and fitness becomes a lot easier.

Deep? Yes maybe. But that’s how we develop our motivation. When we learn that it’s like anything else, something to be learned and cultivated, it becomes easier to manage. As it grows, as we grow, it is a tool that becomes sharpened as helps us to develop greater things and achieve more goals. Just remember, you won’t ever come across a single soul who doesn’t have a back story and scars from the countless times they’ve fallen off the wagon.

Get up. Get back on. Try again. You still have the reigns in your hand. Never be foolish enough to let go of them completely.

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