The worst time of the year for a dedicated gym-goer is quickly approaching. With the arrival of January 1st, every gym across the country is inundated with well-intentioned fitness newbies who are hell-bent on THIS being the year they finally stick to their resolution. As a result, the gym is significantly more crowded than usual, which for me generally means less effective workouts (due to limited availability of equipment and space) and more angst (due to the general chaos and the fact that many people new to working out seem to be oblivious to appropriate gym etiquette).
I try to grin and bear it as gracefully as possible. Everyone was once a beginner, and many people are intimidated and uncomfortable when first joining a gym and starting to work out. I don’t want to be responsible for discouraging anyone from going to the gym, and many people avoid gyms precisely because they either expect or have experienced judgment and condescension from avid gym-goers. But that is a different topic for another day.
What happens year after year is that people quickly give up on their New Year’s resolutions, as many as 25% of people in the first week alone! And by March, the gym is usually back to normal. The well-intentioned people who signed up in droves in January have abandoned their gym memberships and reunited with their favorite sitcoms and fast food. What’s the missing piece? Motivation. Same goes for that friend or co-worker who is constantly dieting, falling off the wagon, and starting their diet again on Monday, week after week.
Comparing motivation to a fire is not a new or terribly creative metaphor, but it’s fitting. A fire will burn out if not properly maintained and fueled. Motivation is no different. It requires maintenance and upkeep. Its intensity will wax and wane over time, but it is your job to never completely extinguish it.
I’ve had a lot of people make comments about my discipline and motivation. How do I sustain it over time? Now, I may be mixing my metaphors a bit here, but to smolder means to burn without a flame and undergo slow and sustained combustion. That’s the approach I take when it comes to staying motivated.
Let me tell you a little bit about what a day inside my head looks like. I am thinking about my goals – competing and having the body of my dreams – ALL DAY LONG. From the time that I wake up in the morning to the time I go to bed at night, I am thinking about how I want to look and feel. I think about it every day of the week, every week of the year. I don’t stop thinking about it just because it’s a weekend or just because it’s a holiday. There is never a time when my goals are not on my mind.
This is important because fitness is not a compartmentalized pursuit. If you really want results, you have to live a fit lifestyle 24 hours per day. That means getting to the gym regularly and training with intensity. That means eating the appropriate quality and quantity of calories day in and day out (which sometimes means a refeed or structured cheat meal). That means hydrating sufficiently. That means getting plenty of sleep and allowing your body sufficient time to rest and recover between workouts. Those endeavors fill 24 hours of every day. If any of those components are out of whack or missing, you are compromising your results. This why you need to make your time outside of the gym just as high of a priority as you do the time inside the gym. This is why your rest days are just as important as your training days. This is why Monday through Friday is just as important as the weekend.
One way that I stay focused is to spend each night visualizing my goals before I fall asleep. I spend some serious time and energy imagining how I want to look, how I want to feel, and what my ideal life looks like. It reminds me why the hard work and the sacrifice is worth it. Some days, I just feel discouraged, unmotivated, and thoroughly ordinary in every possible way. But I know that the only way out is through. I refuse to dig myself a deeper hole by skipping a workout or eating crap. I stay the course and have faith that results will come as long as I remain consistent and disciplined, even when I feel like I’m not getting anywhere.