Let’s talk about motivation

I follow a program which has given me both a habit, accountability and use of my inner drill sergent

In my last column I talked about ways to stay fit and stay sane during level 5 lockdown. While there are things on the horizon that look promising – vaccines and warmer days – I think a little ‘pick me up’ is due for February. So I wrote a little ode to motivation.

‘The biggest step to getting fit is getting out of bed or off the sofa’: Does this sound familiar? This especially applies now when group exercising and gyms are not an option. And even when all the gyms and classes are open, motivation can be a fleeting emotion. One moment it’s there – when you’re lying in bed Sunday evening thinking ‘Tomorrow morning I’m going to start my diet and exercise and lose the extra 5kg’ – and the next moment it’s gone. You guessed it; Monday morning comes around and you wake up and can either snooze 30 minutes longer under your warm duvet, or get up in the cold darkness and do your exercises and cook a healthy breakfast. Which do you choose? 

It could also be a case of having an excellent first week of dieting and exercising, but Sunday evening you fall into the rabbit hole of Netflix, crisps, drinks and chocolate and when Monday morning arrives, your motivation is gone; because why should you, when you just destroyed everything the night before?

So how do we break the cycle? Or get started in the first place? Or pick up training after a break? 

It’s probably the biggest question people in the fitness and weight-loss industry have to tackle. It’s easy to coach people who are motivated. It’s easy to train people who show up; even now during the pandemic, personal trainers are doing online sessions, fitness group trainers are setting up Zoom classes and, as long as the clients are logging in, that’s half the job done. 

But what to do when the client doesn’t log in? When the motivation is lost? 

A good trainer finds the right trigger to keep the client motivated. Some like being told they’re doing great, others that they are improving. Some need the carrot, others need the stick. The essential in this scenario is that it’s a two-way street. It’s happening in the collaboration between client and trainer.

It’s much harder to stay motivated if you’re on your own, which unfortunately a lot more people are now than before Covid-19. So this is my February column – to give ideas and inspiration on how to stay motivated, or rather committed, if you’re on your own. And this is not only for getting or staying fit. These tools can be applied to a variety of goals besides physical activity. If you want to learn to cook, draw, paint, or write a book, you might need that extra push some days where the energy feels low and inspiration is at a zero.  

Here are three different methods to keep you going: 

PS: Don’t despair if you don’t find success with the first method you try, it might not be the right one, or perhaps you need to mix and match? Keep an eye on your end goal: To stay consistent and motivated towards your goal, regardless of the mood you wake up in. 

The Accountable

For some people the answer is being held accountable – either by a personal trainer, a friend, a diary or by posting to their social media account (and getting followers and likes). The way this method works is that the daily or every-other-day call to trainer/friend or post to Social Media or diary is your way of being held accountable. It’s also easy to track your progress this way by putting down the numbers (how long you train for, what you can lift/how long you run; and if you’re doing a weight-loss journey, it’s an easy way to keep track of your weight as well). 

If you set up a social media account, you can connect with others on the same path as you, and interact if you like. Most likely you will also get more followers and likes, as you post more; this in itself is also a motivation for lots of people. Instead of having your trainer telling you ‘good job’, you’ll have likes and comments supporting you.

If you look at the blogsphere or Instagram, there are loads of weight-loss and transformation accounts to follow and get inspired from. Or you could start your own if this medium to self-motivation appeals to you. I follow a few accounts myself and it’s always amazing to follow people on their road towards a goal (If you set up an account shoot me a message and I’ll be happy to follow you).

The Disciplined

Another way to combat lack of motivation, which appeals to some people, is through self- discipline. When motivation is lacking, it’s time to find the self-discipline. Sort of a ‘kick yourself in the butt and get it done’ talk. Personally I found this can work and it’s possible to give yourself the big ‘go do it’ talk and get it done. This method is driven mostly by the self-talk and ‘the stick’ (rather than the carrot), and it works great if you’re good at ‘not letting yourself off the hook’. So when you wake up Monday morning to the 30-minute earlier rise, your inner drill sergeant is shouting at you to get out of bed and do it; and you don’t let yourself roll over and let your inner sleepyhead mumble ‘tomorrow’ before hitting snooze and closing your eyes. 

Self-discipline can also really boost your confidence when you’ve applied it successfully, because you can rightly feel that this is all your doing. Not your trainer, not your partner or a stranger’s like to your post (not that there is anything wrong with either). And that self-confidence boost can in turn help you keep this inner monologue going and getting stronger. 

You often hear about career military personnel who, after they quit the military, still carry a lot of the discipline from their military life. These inner monologues about getting things done, get things done, and they also put things into order and can help in a time like this, when our world in many ways is being turned upside down.

The Habitual

Order and rules brings me to the last method:  Habits! Create an environment where habits can be formed and kept easily. Now that your Monday spin class is cancelled, make it a habit to go for a bike ride on that day. If you can link the bike ride to another activity, it could be even easier to get it done. Perhaps you can shorten your lunch break and go for a 15-minute bike ride? Have your bike, shoes and coat ready and go at the same time every Monday. 

If you work from home and don’t wish to go out, then clear a space on the floor, set your alarm for 11am and take a 10 minute break to stretch, bend and push – or more. 

If you use any equipment or have to dress for your activity, make sure you are dressed in advance or have your stuff ready at hand. Make it a habit to dress for your bike or run at a certain time and go out and do it.

Habits take a while to form before they become second nature, so give yourself everything from three weeks to three months to let the habit take root and become an automatic part of your life. 

The great thing about this is you won’t have all these conversations with yourself, on whether or not you should do the training/painting/studying – you will simply do it because it’s a habit (and a goal).

Most of all, don’t give up on yourself if you find your motivation lacking or sliding, but stay true to your goal and look for new ways to go on your journey. With Covid-19 still setting the agenda and another cold month ahead, do these things for you and keep your mind and spirit lifted. 

I hope these three methods have inspired you to tackle any motivational lack you might experience, and remember of course, always tell yourself why you’re doing something: Because it makes you feel good, makes you smarter, stronger, faster, better. These are powerful, positive affirmations that will help you reach your goal too. 

As always comments and questions are welcome to taniaskitchenfitness@gmail.com or via www.instagram.com/trainwithadane 

Tania Presutti

Tania Presutti is a Danish freelance journalist and fitness professional who now resides in Clonakilty.

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