How to Push Yourself: 5 Tips to Staying Motivated
Posted on Jun 11, 2009 1:00:00 AM
How to Push Yourself: 5 Tips to Staying Motivated

Last week, I talked about seven ways to increase your intensity. While that's all fine and dandy, but often times the crux of reaching your goals is simply getting going each day.

Newton' First Law is the law of Interia. It goes something like this - "Objects in motion will stay in motion and objects at rest will stay at rest unless acted on by an outside force." Now I'm sure you're wondering how Newtonian physics relates to your motivation levels? Well, let me tell you.

We've all felt the power of being in a training rhythm. We get a few positive days of training in, and we start looking forward to the next one. If we miss a workout, we're even more motivated about making up for it the next day. We're psyched about what we're accomplishing with every workout, and we're reaping the rewards of our efforts. More energy, looking better, loads of confidence with a clear mind.  I, for one, am just plain miserable if I don't do something physical every day. This is the upside of inertia.

Sadly, there are a lot more people on the downside, trying to break out of sedentary habits. Exercise is uncomfortable at best; things shake and bounce, and unusual levels of soreness accompany workouts. In this state, the body is doing its best to send very persuasive, negative messages to just stop what we're trying to start! Simply put, the whole effort feels a bit like Sisyphus struggling to push his stone uphill. These are tough conditions to fight through, and perseverance is a challenge to be sure.

So as you can see, inertia is really a double edged sword.

Several other important characteristics of inertia to consider are that:

  1. The bigger the object is, the more external force it takes to get it moving in a different direction
  2. On earth, inertia is continually affected by gravity which results in friction.

Training has its own gravity that slows it down and conspires to siphon off our positive inertia and bring the whole show to a stop. This friction takes many forms:

  • Family obligations
  • Work blowing up
  • Not enough sleep
  • Travel
  • Poor energy / nutrition

Any one of these things can threaten our motivation. So what can we do to keep ourselves on track and achieving our goals. Here are five tips to staying motivated.

1. The hardest step is the first one!

Ironman legend Scott Tinley once wrote "... and so I went for a run, because I've never come back from a run feeling worse than when I left." How many times have we felt unmotivated and lethargic, but then we forced ourselves to do the workout, and within minutes of beginning, we feel a giant charge of energy? By the end, we are often overcome with a sense of well being, thrilled that we expended the effort and wondering how we ever struggled to get going. This is a lesson it seems needs to be learned over and over again. The reality is that "I don't feel like it" are words spoken by someone sitting, not someone training. Know that if you can just get going, you're going to feel GREAT!

2. An overnight success is the result of consistent toil.

Louisa May Alcott wrote that “Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them and try to follow where they may lead.” Long term goals are powerful but the reality is that they cannot be reached in a single leap. It takes many small seemingly insignificant steps to attain something truly significant. To this point focus some energy on identifying simple, attainable short term goals. "By the end of this month I will complete a set of low rows with my feet at the anchor point." or "I will train 3 times this week" or "Today I will complete this workout in 30 minutes". It is these daily, weekly and monthly goals that lead to sustained motivation and the realization of those highest aspirations.

3. Don't make excuses, Make it happen!

Excuses are what happens when the "friction" outlined earlier wins. Let's face it, life's busy and it will lay down it's challenges. It's inevitable, much like the following quote “Life is a grindstone. Whether it grinds you down or polishes you up, depends on the stuff you are made of.” So are you going to succomb to life's challenges or will you rise above them? Here are some examples:

  1. Your day blows up at the office. Have a short metabolic "contingency workout" that you jam through on these days as opposed to blowing your whole session off. A shortened workout is better than none at all! Try adding 40 TRX Burpees (20 on each leg) to the 40 / 40 challenge.
  2. You have a business trip - Take your TRX, pop one of the DVDs in your lap top and train in your hotel room before or after your day. Before you leave commit to doing a certain number of workouts while you're on the trip.
  3. Your kids have a soccer game during your usual workout time - Take your TRX and hook up to a tree by the field so you can get your training in and watch your kids at the same time.
  4. There is an athlete I work with who is an exec with a demanding job, two busy kids and one of the best age-group triathletes in the country. How does he fit in 25 - 30 hour training weeks on top of everything else? One of the ways is by involving his family. His kids ride their bicycles next to him on his training runs giving him interval splits, yelling encouragment and feeding him water.
  5. This Friday, the Pittsburg Penguins will play the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals - As a good Canadian boy you can bet, I'll be watching BUT I'll also be doing one of my TV workouts to make sure I can enjoy the game without missing my training.

I think you can see where I'm headed here. There is almost always a way to make it happen!

4. Peer Pressure Works

While you might be perfectly happy to hit snooze 26 times at the 5:30am alarm if it is only yourself to answer to, this scenario is quite different if you've planned to meet someone to train with. Knowing the phone will ring and you will face a "Where the hell are you?" is a sure way to respond to that alarm the first time. Find a workout partner or hire a trainer. This external pressure to commitment does wonders to keep your adherence high.

Another tactic is to tell your family, friends and co-workers what your are setting out to achieve. This will serve to elevate your motivation as now that it's out in the open you will have to rise to the occassion and produce results or face the spectre of admitting defeat publically. One final way which I was introduced to through John Berardi of Precision Nutrition is outlined  in "The Blackmail Diet" by John Bear. In this case, Dr. Bear arranged for $5,000 to be paid in trust to the Nazi Party unless he lost 70 pounds in a year. He ended up losing 76 pounds, and the Nazi Party missed their payday.

5. Commitment, Discipline and Sacrifice

I've always been humbled by the achievements of many of my clients. They've excelled in their field and made amazing contributions and to do so have shown unusual levels of commitment and discipline. Every one of them has made sigificant personal sacrifices to reach the levels they have. Unfortunately in many cases, one of these sacrifices has been their health. In his book "Outliers," one of the arguments that Malcolm Gladwell makes is that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to achieve true excellence in any field, regardless of innate talent. Now 10,000 hours is a lot of time. It works out to almost 10 years, practicing for three hours per day - EVERY DAY!

I've always found it interesting that my clients have stuggled with turning the same lens that they use to achieve success in business on their health.

Success in health requires the same commitment, discipline and sacrifice that success in any other field requires. You have to commit to the process of eating well and training regularly and with intensity. You have to muster the discipline that is required to get your workout done, day in and day out and not succomb to poor food choices. In order to have this discipline you also have to be willing to miss out on a few things that others don't. Wake up an hour earlier to get your workout in, pay a little bit more for organic food or locally grown fruits and vegetables. A close friend of mine used to have the mantra of "Weights before dates!"

Now am I saying you have to be ready to commit to 3 hours a day of training or you might as well forget about it? Of course not. In fact - quite the opposite. 30 minutes of good focused exercise per day on the TRX can bring astonishing results, especially when combined with solid nutrition. I will say that the reality is that most people don't achieve their fitness goals because they do not hold up their end of the bargain when it comes to applying a modest yet consistent measure of commitment, discipline and sacrifice. Understanding that this is a requirement and taking personal responsiblity for the outcome is a great way to help keep yourself motivate.

In addition to these, some of the techniques outlined in the "Increasing Your Intensity" post like Tracking your Results and Self Messaging will also work well. As usual, there are many ways to stay motivated.  What do you do to keep yourself going?


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