“I was doing so well!” That’s the anthem of so many who have fallen off the training wagon. We hear it every week in consultations with new clients at my gym. Elite marathon runners, former SOF guys, college athletes — even these normally dialed-in ass-kickers lose momentum, fall off the wagon, and find themselves slower, fatter, and weaker than their former selves.
Everyone is susceptible to losing their training motivation. A dip in exercise moxie happens to everyone from time to time, but there are strategies to fight this lag that will keep you hoisting iron, logging miles, and making progress.
Plan for Contingencies
Busy days and breaks in routine are enemies of fitness momentum. The busy day says, “Well, you can’t get your full workout in. It’s probably not worth it to do anything.” And a break in routine steals all of your normal triggers for action. These are so disruptive because folks don’t plan for them. Then, in the moment, it takes a ton of mental energy to make a good decision. The default easy way out is too tempting — just skip it. To successfully keep up your momentum, you have to plan ahead.
To fight a busy lifestyle or work day, be real with yourself. You know you’ll get busy. You also know that doing something is better than nothing. So, plan to do at least a little something on those hectic days. The objective is to show up, check the box, and move on. Maybe you just do a set number of pushups between meetings. Maybe you do a 10-minute mobility circuit.
The same approach applies to breaks in routine. You get called into work early, or the kids are sick, or some jagaloon pooped in the pool, and now you can’t swim. Have a plan for when your routine is disrupted. Have running clothes ready for a last-minute pool closure, for example. The objective is to just check the box and keep the momentum going. Don’t mentally hammer yourself if things aren’t perfect. Just show up.
Tap Into Your Purpose
Purpose is a hell of a drug. Many people flounder with training consistency because they’re working out for insignificant reasons. Their goals are focused on the short term or aren’t actually meaningful. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be one hawt dood. But in my 15 years as a coach, aesthetic goals have proved to be the weakest training motivation — followed closely by shallow performance goals like benching a certain amount of weight. Folks hit the body-fat goal, or the bench-press goal, and they fall off the wagon because, well, now what?
I’ve seen people astonish themselves when they set their jaw and move toward something that truly matters to them. It’s all the better when that thing that matters is tied to a vision of an improved future self. Think of those mountains and packing out a bull elk. Think of that selection process and your future in the military. Think of your kids and being an active participant in their Little League or track career.
Create or Join a Community
There’s no such thing as self-made. We need people to show up for, and we need people who show up for us. Knowing that other folks are counting on us is a powerful motivator. There are those days when we don’t want to get out of bed. It’s raining. It’s cold. But you get that text message from your buddy. You know that they’re trying to do something that’s important to them. You lace up your sneakers and get your ass out the door. Create strong bonds that make you feel counted on, and you will be more consistent.
Hire a Coach
This one goes for all levels of gym-goers and trainees, novices and veterans alike. Maybe you’re an experienced gym rat, but you don’t have the knowledge you need to get to the next stage of your training. Hiring a coach who gives you confidence to do the right things that will get you where you want to go increases the likelihood that you’ll actually do those things. There’s also skin in the game. Making a financial investment holds your feet to the fire because wasting money feels bad. When you hire a good coach, you also should know that they’ve put their skin in the game. They’re spending time and effort on you.
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