You’ve heard it a million times: Where there’s a will there’s a way. But when it comes to meeting fitness goals, it’s sometimes challenging to muster motivation. Waning energy, lack of time, family and work obligations are just a few of the excuses that might keep you from hitting the gym as often as you should. But if you want to live a long and healthy life, fitness is key and the motivation to stay fit comes easier when you incorporate a few tried and true strategies from the experts.
Identify Your Motivation: “Feeling agile and energetic is the biggest motivator for me to engage in fitness activities,” says Michelle Dawes, personal trainer, health coach and corporate wellness coordinator with Allegro Coaching. “Exercise is also a great way for me to manage stress. I would even say it’s become a part of who I am.” Michelle knows the importance of helping her clients find intrinsic motivation in reaching their fitness goals. “External motivation only lasts so long whereas intrinsic motivation is the internal ‘fuel’ that will keep you going when times get tough.”
Personal trainer and owner of BTaft Fitness, Brandon Taft agrees. “Fitness to me is about pushing my capabilities as a person. It is not only a workout physically but also mentally that will translate into every aspect of my life.” He stresses that both he and his clients find motivation in accomplishing something they weren’t capable of the day before.
In addition to the most common goals of losing weight or building more muscle, these experts find their clients want more out of life and this is a strong enough internal motivation to make fitness a priority. I have clients with a variety of external motivators: their grandchildren, being able to walk their large dogs,” explains Michelle. “But being able to set good examples for their kids and that internal desire to feel good inside and out is their biggest motivator.”
“Generally speaking my clients are not satisfied with the way they look and feel so they are motivated to change this aspect in their lives,” says Brandon. “My goal is to not only teach my clients how to properly eat and exercise but help them develop a positive mindset that will fuel their motivation for fitness and help them improve all aspects of their life.”
Move Past Obstacles: Time, commitments, fatigue and inconvenience are often popular excuses for avoiding a workout. Yet, working with your coach, tapping into your support network and employing some sensory stimulation can help you overcome obstacles and soon fitness will become a positive pattern in your life.
“Obstacles are something that every single one of us are going to face whether you are a beginner or advanced,” says Brandon. “The key is to not get emotional over struggling or having a temporary plateau but rather stay excited about your goal and keep trying.” He sometimes addresses client obstacles by making slight motivations in their programs, nutrition and training schedules if needed.
“I dig out personality strengths in my wellness coaching clients that they can leverage in their health and wellness pursuits,” says Michelle. “For example, if a client is organized and creative, I help them to use those strengths to accomplish their wellness goals. I also help the client realize what support structures they may have in place currently or could create to aid in their health and wellness efforts. I have found that having support from family is often one of the biggest assets to weight loss pursuits.”
Whether listening to upbeat music when lifting weights, using imagery, or burning soothing candles during yoga practice, sensory stimuli can be very motivating and help you move past obstacles.
“Different people may be more stimulated by sensory motivation than others,” says Michelle. “Some folks can’t get into their workout without their favorite tunes while others might like to hear the sounds of nature. I would invite each one to experiment and find out what they enjoy best.” Brandon agrees. “Good music can help keep you inspired during a tough workout etc.”
Establish Positive Goals: “Goals are important to have because they give us direction,” says Brandon. “What do you wake up each day and aim towards?” He recommends setting smaller goals that help you inch towards bigger ones rather than trying to attain something out of reach too soon. “I think a common mistake people make is putting too much pressure on themselves in the sense of time,” he says. “For example, they might say ‘I need to lose 15 pounds in 21 days, or I need six pack abs in 90 days.’ This mentality sets people up for disappointment and the methods used to get there aren’t sustainable.” He believes that we are more successful developing healthy habits and if you commit to these you will gain sustainable results that last for a lifetime.
“The most important thing is to surround yourself with positivity,” reminds Brandon. “Don’t listen to anyone telling you that you can’t. Try to listen to things in your life that inspire you to do better. Also, don’t worry about where you currently are at and become tunnel vision on where you are trying to go. Having positive thoughts and a vision of where you want to be will help you make the right decisions day in and day out to get you there.”
Making fitness goals a priority in your life is never self-indulgent. “Many individuals, especially women, feel guilty about taking the time to care for themselves to exercise, make healthy meals, or relax,” says Michelle. “If this is you, I encourage you to reflect on why you feel that way and how if you did engage with a new, healthy self-care habit how it might change your life.”
Create Some Accountability: Accountability is important but the most important thing to learn is self-accountability. I want my clients to make the right choices for themselves—not because they feel like they will disappoint me. I want them to get to a point where if they stopped working with me they would continue making the right choices and becoming a healthier person.
“Accountability is huge to sustaining fitness or other healthy behaviors,” says Michelle. “We can train ourselves to be committed to our goals, but external accountability can be quite powerful. I suggest putting exercise on your schedule as an appointment to yourself that cannot be broken.” She also recommends finding friends with similar goals to help hold you accountable. If you plan to come to the gym in the morning when you’d rather sleep in or after work when you’re hungry and tired, but you have someone you’re planning to meet, you tend to make that commitment to show up.
“If you plan to workout with a friend then find one that is willing to work hard,” advises Brandon. “This is a must or else you are going to do more talking and less working.” He believes that friends can help you with accountability not only from a motivational aspect, but from a technical one too. “Having a friend spot you and help you squeeze in a couple extra reps can really make a big difference.”
If you need help finding a workout partner, introduce yourself to others at a group exercise class, look for local meet up forums that focus on fitness or ask your coach or trainer about their group training programs where you can meet others with similar fitness goals.
Know Your Body: “While I do engage in a variety of regular physical activities, I make sure that I listen to my body,” says Michelle. “If I’m low on sleep or have an injury on the mend, I adjust my workouts to give my body what it needs. Maybe that means a yoga class instead of strength training. This to me is not making excuses to ‘take it easy’ but giving my body what it needs in that moment. I’m much better at giving myself grace for getting off my exercise schedule than I used to be, which has been as beneficial to my mental and emotional health as my physical health.”
“As far as feel I think over time you become in tune with your body,” says Brandon who reminds that rest is an important part of fitness as well. “We work hard in the gym, let the muscle recover and you come back better. Every couple of months I take a week off of training and often times come back to the gym stronger because I am at 100%.”
And when your energy or motivation wane, “don’t be afraid to ask for help,” reminds Brandon. “Working with a trainer is a great idea especially to learn proper form, accountability, and nutrition. If you can’t afford a trainer don’t be afraid to ask experienced lifters in the gym for help. Ask if you can workout with them sometime, how to do a certain exercise properly or advice on something you’re struggling with. Most of us in the gym are here to support one another and you can learn a lot from talking to people.”
Brandon’s biggest success tip for staying motivated is honoring your efforts. “Just imagine how awesome it’s going to feel when you bust through that wall and keep moving forward.”
Kim Monaghan, PCC, RYT, CPBS is the owner of KBM Coaching & Consulting LLC, a boutique Human Resources Consulting and Career Coaching Firm serving a national clientele.