Understanding motivation is one of the most important things we can do in our lives, because it has such a bearing on why we do the things we do and whether we enjoy them or not.
I have recently posted a poll on my Instagram stories, asking my followers if they were staying on top of exercise.
“No” was the most popular answer.
In another poll, I asked “Why?” and offered two options: “No guidance” and “Low motivation”.
“Low motivation” received an overwhelming 100% response.
What many of us might not realise is that your initial motivation is fuelled by a sense of novelty and inspiration to achieve success.
Unfortunately, neither of the two lasts long.
Your shiny new training program becomes old news in a couple of weeks.
And your long-term goal of losing 50lbs can seem too far away when you step on the scale and you’ve only lost half a pound this week.
Once your starting levels of motivation are running low, don’t wait to wake up one day and find them miraculously restored.
Spoiler alert: It won’t happen.
Instead, become the architect of your own motivation.
One way to do this is to accomplish a workout when it’s the very last thing you want to do.
This will boost your confidence and thus perpetuate a positive feedback loop of success, followed by a sense of accomplishment and renewed motivation, followed by repeated success.
In this article, I will cover my top tips to do exactly that.
1. Break it down into manageable chunks
When you’re not in your top fitness mindset, a training session can seem really overwhelming.
Try to break it down into smaller, more digestible steps, as follows:
Visualise each individual component and focus on how doing it will make you feel.
At this point, you will have thought about it, written it down, and imagined it.
All that’s left is doing it.
2. Downsize your goal
On a standard day, your expectation might be to complete an entire training session.
But, if you are struggling to work out at all, then this can’t be considered a “standard” day, so “standard” expectations won’t work.
A client of mine has recently come up with an amazing tool, which we called “the Panic-o-Meter”. It’s a scale from 0 to 100, where 0 is feeling chill and 100 is struggling to get up from bed in the morning.
The expectations you have when you’re a 0 on the Panic-o-meter become unrealistic when you’re a 75 to 100.
So telling yourself, “What’s the point if I can’t do a whole session?” is counterproductive.
Reframe the expectations, downsizing them to something you can manage.
For some of my clients, that means doing the warm-up. For others, it’s the warm-up plus one set of one exercise.
“Well, ok, but I’m not making gains then.”
If you’re only doing a warm-up or a single set, no, you are probably not making gains. You are, however, maintaining a fitness habit you have fought hard to build in the first place.
And what’s the alternative, anyway?
Sitting on the couch eating your weight in chips and cookies? Because you can be certain you will not make gains doing that.
3. One step at a time
Commit to starting with the first point on the list you made based on Strategy Number 1. In my example, that’s “changing into your workout clothes”.
Once you complete one point, you stop and ask yourself, “Do I want to continue?”
If you do, then you carry on. If you don’t, then you stop.
Even if you stop after the first point, you will have still done more than if you had not done anything at all.
Over time, you can challenge yourself to complete more points until you get to the end of the list – which would be a full training session in the bag!
As an alternative, you can commit to exercising for the duration of your favourite song.
When the song ends, you can put on another song if you want to, but you can also end the session, knowing that you have done at least five minutes of physical activity.
Again, you are not a 0 on the Panic-o-meter today, so we aren’t expecting 100% results.
We are expecting the minimum effective dose for you at this time, which will be an extraordinary improvement from doing nothing at all.
4. Do it in stages throughout the day
Maybe you’re not a Strategy Number 2 kind of person. Maybe, unless you complete a training session, you really can’t feel accomplished.
At the same time, you’re not in the right place to do this all at once.
In this case, committing to complete the whole session in smaller, bite-sized chunks throughout the day could be your winning move.
For instance, if your session consists of:
That’s 15 sets in total. If you were to do three sets per hour starting from and including 2pm, each chunk would take maybe five to ten minutes and you would be able to complete the session by 6pm.
You can split it up in other ways, such as:
The amount of work you do at any one time isn’t all that relevant, as long as you get it done.
How do you handle low motivation? Please feel free to comment with your own suggestions!
A personal trainer who likes bodybuilding, superheroes, and bread.
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