By Soji James, CPT, CSCS
Lose 30 pounds in 30 days! Get rock-hard abs without breaking a sweat! This product makes losing fat easy! Sure, these headlines are sexy and attention-grabbing. This messaging may even inspire you, at least for a short time. You might leave your couch and begin a lifestyle overhaul in pursuit of 6-pack abs, thicker biceps, or bigger glutes. But, I hate to be the bearer of bad news. Getting motivated to work out in this way doesn’t actually last for long. If you adopt this short term mindset, then you’ll truly believe that change of this magnitude comes quickly. However, you will end up extremely disappointed and potentially in a worse place. These alluring titles sell magazines and boost the readership of articles. So, they should come with an asterisk because the truth is there is nothing easy about getting the body that you want. Whether you are trying to lose weight, burn fat, or build muscle, the health journey that you embark on will be filled with hard work and will take time. So, how do you stay motivated to work out?
You may start filled with energy and enthusiasm about your fitness journey. Thus, there will be some rough patches and trying moments when you will consider throwing in the towel. To stick around long enough to see results you need to start looking at your wellness journey a bit differently. Besides finding other ways to measure progress outside of a number on a scale, do three things: dig deep to find your pain, understand that physical fitness exists on a continuum, and then tweak your mindset to win in the long term.
Motivation comes and goes in waves. At some points, you will be overflowing with it. However, at other moments, it may feel impossible to shut off Netflix to get in a workout. New Year’s resolutions are the ultimate example. Every time the first of January rolls around, gyms across the country are packed. Millions of well-meaning people decide that it’s the perfect time for change. This enthusiasm for a healthier lifestyle is very short-lived; U.S News & World Report estimates that around 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail each year, with most coming to an end by mid-February.
Looking great in your birthday suit is nice. For many people, the prospects of a physique that turns heads won’t overcome the harsh realities that present themselves on a fitness journey. This superficial motivation won’t consistently win out when you experience delayed results. Consequently, you’ll drive to a conveniently located Chik-fil-A, or simply feel “too tired” to work out. To acquire a push that will last, you must dig deeper.
Instead of starting with a health and fitness cliche, dig beneath it all to discover your true motivations. Finding your pain and discovering why you want to change will give you resolve that lasts. Sometimes it can be obvious: a health scare, a rough breakup, or the loss of someone close. Other times, you may have to look at past snubs or current things you are avoiding to isolate your fuel. When you find this true “why”, you will discover a source of motivation that is almost infinite. After you find this, do two things: turn that pain into action, and share your story. By taking action you will begin to build the habits that bring you closer to your goals—and by sharing your pain, you will acquire the support necessary to keep you going even in the hardest of times.
While the journey won’t be easy, the beautiful thing about transforming your body is that you don’t need to be perfect to win. Understanding that fitness exists on a continuum can make things much more enjoyable. Situations won’t always be optimal; you won’t always have access to the best food, your energy level won’t always be at 100%, you will miss workouts, etc. But as long as you are trying to continuously get a little bit better, then you will get long term results and eventually reach your training goal.
An “all or nothing” mindset can hurt your results—because perfection is unattainable. Perfectionism is self-destructive and sets you up to experience feelings of shame, guilt, and self-judgment. Changing from a mindset of perfectionism to a mindset of “always something” keeps you in motion. It prepares you to deal with life no matter what “season” you are in, as opposed to simply quitting when things aren’t perfect.
When it comes to losing weight, consistency and time are two of the most important variables to remember. Change requires patience, and you will have much more composure if you keep your eyes on the road in front of you.
Whether we like to admit it or not, we all have suffered the effects of comparing ourselves to others at one point or another. Comparison is the thief of joy, especially when it comes to your health. It’s easy to compare the first chapter of your story with the end of someone else’s. But, all that achieves is discouraging you and undermining all of your progress. When things aren’t happening as fast as you would like, or when you just feel like you aren’t stacking up to your peers, you just may question whether all the hard work is worth it.
To prevent yourself from getting caught up in the comparison game focus on actions instead of outcomes. You will never have complete control of your results. But, you have 100% control of the actions you can take to bring about change. Also, focusing on gratitude can be a mindset shift that keeps you motivated for the long haul. Instead of nit-picking at all of the things that you want to change about yourself, focus on all of the amazing things that your body can do. Keeping a fitness journal can be a great way to put things in perspective daily. This will leave you in a better place mentally as you focus on the things that truly matter. This will take you from a state of comparison to a state of appreciation, giving you just the right kind of energy you need to keep your fitness journey going strong.