Give Me The Fish (GMTF): “Motivation” in the training world is a gimmick for the uninitiated. In real life, motivation is built block by block. A foundation built on habits that drive you into the gym every day, year after year. Your rock bottom moment may help along the way, but it’s your decision to train every day based on sheer willpower and habit-building techniques that will truly build into your motivation to train.
Table of Contents
Finding Motivation To Train
“Get moving, I don’t need your excuses. If you can’t get to a gym, the outdoors is your gym. It’s raining? Suck it up buttercup. Your tired, unmotivated, and don’t feel like it? Sucks to suck, you’re just being lazy.”
Ah, yes, the classic motivational coach. But, let’s be honest, it’s easier said than done, and not all of us have a coach around to kick our butt in gear.
Maybe you don’t have motivation because you think you’ll look like an idiot at the gym, maybe the warmth of the bed pulls you in so you don’t get up, or maybe you just don’t feel like it. And, honestly, I get it.
Not having the motivation to get up and train is one of the hardest hurdles to overcome.
But, why is that?
Is it because people have something you don’t? Is it just because you were preordained to be fat and lazy?
There is nothing physically or mentally different between you and me.
I have gone through the same trials and tribulations over the years. But, after over a decade of training and then coaching, I have definitely learned a thing or two.
Motivation is a habit.
It’s not this drive to get up off your butt. It’s a pattern so ingrained that you feel at an abject loss if you don’t carry it out.
All of these questions about “what motivates you to train?” and “what keeps you moving?”, is all media hype.
Mostly created by a bunch of journalists or “fitness writers” who have trained less than a few years and still blast motivational speeches in their ear to get out the door. Half of the time, their writing is really just to help get themselves out the door.
There is nothing necessarily wrong with this. In fact, it’s a normal part of the training life cycle, but it creates this stigma that you have to be pumped up and raring to go to get out the door.
That’s just not the case.
Training is done like brushing your teeth.
Not mindlessly, but with an ingrained habit so deep that you feel you have to do it. There is no choice.
The Journey To A Habit
The thing is, habits take a long time to form. 30 days gets you past the first hurdle, but it’s months and years to make it a part of who you are.
We are stubborn and independent people, making a change is not easy.
Just like with all things, we tend to go through this training life cycle that tries to break us at every point. But at some point, we break it and it turns into something rock solid.
This rock solid “thing” is a habit. Habits are the secret to having motivation to train.
This process is actually a lot like dating. In fact, we are going to use this analogy for the remainder, so, bear with me.
Finding Motivation To Train Phase One: Keep Looking For “The One”
First, you’re scared to get out the door. You keep putting it off or thinking you should get to the gym, but you don’t take any action.
Or, maybe you start talking incessantly with your buddies about it. But at the end of the day, the girl in the corner of the dance floor (gym) has yet to be even talked to.
Eventually, something clicks.
Whether it’s a new year’s resolution (the link has my thoughts on this), your wife alludes to you being fat one too many times (for going to the gym, hopefully not for dating), or you find out that you have time to kill. Regardless, you make your way to the gym (or talk to the girl).
After smooth talking (or fumbling for words), you go on a date and realize you don’t like this (or her).
It might even take a couple of weeks.
Then you throw it off for another day while still paying your gym fees (or going to the bar), and just talking with your buddies about getting back out there. So, square one.
This sound familiar yet.
If it’s a girl, you eventually work up the courage to talk to another one. If it’s the gym, you get heckled by either yourself, or your buddies, or your wife, until you try it again.
If you are like most people, in the girl’s case, it’s a different girl.
At least hopefully, if not, you are officially a stalker.
If it’s a gym, hopefully, you try either a different gym or a different workout.
If not, while you are not a stalker, there is a good chance you either give up on finding a new gym, or you’re destined to keep ping-ponging in and out of the gym for the foreseeable future.
The trick is to keep trying.
We don’t all like the same girls, and we don’t all like the same way to train. You just have to find the right one for you.
Yes, there are more optimized ways to train, plans better for strength, plans better for running, and plans better for weight loss.
But, if you don’t enjoy it, just like with that girl that you both hate being in a relationship with, if you do decide to stick it out, it’s just painful and mind-numbing for both of you.
So, let’s not do that.
The optimal plan for you is the plan you want and are willing to do.
Maybe it’s water polo, but since you have never swam before, you don’t know. So, get to a pool and find out.
Maybe it’s slackline training, so find a place with one, or buy one.
Maybe it’s carrying atlas stones around. So join a strong man gym.
Maybe you never liked the environment or the people. So, find a new place to train.
Regardless, the majority of people actually enjoy moving, but it takes finding what type of moving that is.
It doesn’t have to be perfect, but you do need to like it or at least not hate it.
Motivation To Train Phase Two: The Crush Phase
After you finally find the right training or girl for you. You start dating and now you are regularly going because of the excitement.
If you can stick with the excitement long enough, you will start seeing results.
To get away from the girlfriend analogy. This is when “newbie gains” start being made. Which is really just the rapid adaptation to an entirely new stimulus.
Your body is freaking out at the new challenges it faces and starts making rapid changes. If you give it the materials to do this, results will not only be fast, but you will improve for longer.
Correct materials as in, correct training and eating.
If it’s awful, you eat like crap and follow a Men’s Health workout, your progress will be too short and you will likely crash and burn (read as in, back to Square 1).
If it’s “good enough”, it largely starts getting addicting. Unfortunately over a period of time, this starts getting old.
The solution is to find a way to do this correctly. Get a coach or at least find someone who knows what they are doing, read everything you can, read a few books, clean up your eating, and reap the rewards.
Motivation To Train Phase Three: Going Steady
If you held on long enough, this now has a good chance of forming into a habit.
It’s not a rock solid habit, but it’s enough that now you think about it every day.
The problem is, the newbie gains have started to go away. It takes a little more care to find progress and a little more dedication. This is the turning point of if you want to continue this relationship or not.
Because of all of this, people at this stage start really looking for external motivation.
- Lesly Brown Recordings
- Nickelback (Don’t you knock them)
- Videos of Arnold doing Bicep curls
- More Bro things
This is also the start of new excuses.
“I can’t train, I forgot my headphones”
“I’m really just not feeling it today”
“I’m thinking my progress has stalled because I’m overtrained”.
But, if you manage to make your way through all of these things, you get to the point that everyone else is at that has been training for decades.
Don’t take this as a knock on external motivation. They are important, and those things above do work. Just know they are not a means to an end.
Motivation comes from the journey.
Also know that when in doubt, go back to phase one. Make sure you enjoy what you are doing, the people you are with, and the place you are. Don’t be afraid to mix it up. Just make sure it still supports your goals.
Motivation To Train Phase Four: Committed Relationship
No, there is no marriage, we are in a new age, no judgment here. But committed, yes.
This is the point where sometimes you still listen to Nickelback to get going, caffeine may still be a staple in your training, and being pumped is nice. But, whether you have those things or not, you still train.
Hell, sometimes you are snowed-in in Arkansas and you feel so guilty about not being able to train, you workout in the lobby, or your room, or even look like an idiot as you do the beep test in a hallway.
This is what a habit is.
This is what real motivation is. There is no question, no thought process, you just do it.
Exactly like brushing your teeth.
Don’t believe me? Let’s play this out.
For some reason, you miss brushing your teeth in the morning. Whether it is because you were on a plane, camping, or ran out of toothpaste, all you can think about is “I need to brush my teeth”.
Hell, you might even pay the $20 for a $1 toothbrush at the airport, or at least use the old finger trick, and you will still probably be conscious about breathing in other people’s faces the whole day.
Why is that?
You are presumably old enough to not have your parents tell you to.
Most people are too polite to say your breath stinks.
And, your dentist will tell you that you suck at flossing and need to brush better, no matter what you do and how few cavities you have.
This is because you spent years forming this into a habit, by years of peer pressure (kids making fun of you), external motivation (parents yelling at you), realizing girls are scared by green teeth and realizing that you like the feeling of a clean mouth.
This has formed into a rock solid habit.
This is the motivation to train that you should strive for.
For some people each of these phases takes months, but for most it’s years.
Thanks For The Doom and Gloom. So, What Now?
I hate to tell you this, but you will go through this process, pretty much no matter what, but there is a point to this.
The point is, we all go through these rough patches. Because of this, you really have to enjoy what you are doing, who you are with, and the environment you are in.
Peer pressure gets a bad rap in today’s society.
Peer pressure is the 8th wonder of the human race.
Yes, it can be used for bad, but it can also move mountains.
If you love what you are doing then let those around you help.
All you have to is tell people exactly what you are doing.
Because they will ask you about, talk to you about it, and make you feel guilty if you don’t. This can help push you into the gym. The goal is to make you think, they think, this is part of who you are.
This peer pressure is healthy and will help get you through the rough parts.
Sometimes we find friends, sometimes we pay trainers, look for a coach or a mentor, sometimes we join competitions, sometimes we tell coworkers, and sometimes we even use recordings of Lesley Brown.
The moral of the story, use every tool at your disposal and do whatever it takes because, at the end of the day, the real motivation is formed by repeated use of willpower that builds into a rock-solid habit. That is true motivation to train.
And if you do it long enough, people will even start asking you, “How are you so motivated to train?”
Until Next Time,