motivation to work out

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    Jan 21, 2007 6:39 PM GMT
    This may sound strange but I have to ask it anyway. Can anybody give me any advice on how to stay motivated to keep working out? I mean I start a workout plan, stick to it for about a month and then stop working out. I'll couch potato for a few months, start working out again then stop again. On and on the cycle goes.

    It's frustrating. I see some results, feel good about the workout and myself, think about how good I will finally look with my shirt off, envision finally having washboard abs.

    But it doesn't seem enough. I stop working out anyway.

    Any advice would be appreciated.

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    Jan 21, 2007 7:43 PM GMT
    Set some goals for yourself. Do you want ripped abs? Want to run a race for time? Impllicit in your question is that you do have some "wants."

    Also, once you set the goal, get a training buddy. This will involve someone else in your quest, and will make it difficult for you not to show up for a workout.

    For me, just staving off the erosion due to aging is a goal that will keep me running and going to the gym for as long as I am able. And there are two parts to issues and vanity issues. Both are important.
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    Jan 21, 2007 9:42 PM GMT
    I say don't say unrealistic goals. Set little goals that you know that you can achieve. If you set your goals too high you usually run the risk of not getting them and then you'll be disappointed and become a couch potato again.
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    Jan 22, 2007 1:35 AM GMT
    I agree with getting a training partner if you can, but you can't place all your motivating requirements on that person's shoulders. you need to be able to motivate yourself without someone else's input.

    some ways - as mentioned, set small, achievable goals for yourself. I find that keeping a training diary recording your workouts, routines and weights lifted can keep you motivated because you can see your progress.

    also, try to find about 6 to 8 different exercises per muscle group, and rotate through 3 or 4 of them per workout. So you aren't always doing bench press/pec dec/cable crossovers for your chest. Try decline and incline presses, flys and pushups as variation.

    lastly - discipline yourself with a few home truths. a workout takes about 30-45 minutes of your day. if you live far away from your gym, find one closer. if you workout at home, tell yourself "I cannot sit on the couch before I have done my workout" or "I cannot phone my friend until my workout is over". etc etc. Be disciplined, remember it's only a very small fraction of your day, but it will count in enormous ways.

    good luck.
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    Jan 22, 2007 2:56 PM GMT
    I agree with the above. You really need to determine what you want specifically. So think about and determine some goals. I think you need some short term as well as long term goals. Take measurements and write them down. It helps the motivation to have some kind of evidence of improvement and you can't always rely on the eyes at the start.

    For me, I have to have my gym close to work and it has to be a place I like. I recently changed from a gym I'd been a member of for over a year because my needs had changed and I dreaded going to the gym.

    Have fun with it too. For me it has to have some degree of fun. And I guess for me, the final most important point is that I've already decided that I'm going to work out today. So I'm not going back and forth with will I or won't I. It's kind of a day by day battle so this is a huge help for me to already have it decided.
  • art_smass

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    Jan 22, 2007 3:40 PM GMT
    I trained to become a volunteer group fitness class instructor for the YMCA. My sense of obligation doesn't allow me to let down the participants, so I'm required to be at the gym at least three times a week. That might sound a little drastic, but it works for me. I've made at least 2400 trips to the gym because of it.
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    Jan 23, 2007 9:18 PM GMT
    A good friend of mine once told me to go to the gym anyway and sit there, even if you are not motivated to work out. It worked.
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    Jan 23, 2007 9:27 PM GMT
    Yeah just getting dressed for it and out the door is more than half the battle on days I'm feeling like avoiding it.
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    Jan 25, 2007 9:16 PM GMT
    Although you say you are achieving results it doesnt sound like the training is enough to maintain your interests or deliver the results quick enough that you seek.

    Normaly that would mean that your training/diet/hydration/sleep is not in sync with each other and certainly not something that fits in with your lifestyle.

    One of the most valuable thing I have learnt is to treat a trainer like any other commodity you would buy ie make sure that you listen and pay attention to know that they are good for the purpose and secondly that the plan they deliver is inline with how you want live eat and work out.

    get those things right and then the motivation falls into place
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    Feb 13, 2007 4:51 AM GMT
    Follow the workout plan that's available for this site. I've been following it and it keeps me motivated because I'm doing exercises I've never seen or done before.

    I, also, agree about gym choice. I belong to NYSC and I am free to go to any one of their gyms. I take full advantage of it because some of them have different equipment to use.

    It's also good that you listen to music that would get you pumping to go out on a Friday or Saturday night. For me, really good dance/pop music makes me workout to the beat.
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    Feb 23, 2007 6:48 AM GMT
    I'm sure everyone has different psychological barriers to working out. And, they probably change over time. I've had a similar pattern as yours when I was younger.

    I have 3 bits of advice:
    1) Trust the process. Don't lean on how you look day to day, or after a workout, to judge results. It's natural to be psyched up when looking pumped. But, judge "results" over weeks. Body weight fluctuations (mainly water weight changes from multiple different things) can cause you to look different from day to day, and make you think you are regressing, when you are not. If you are motivated by how you look the day after, you'll be disappointed on many occasions. Your psyche will remember that disappointment.

    2) Don't beat yourself up over a weak workout. The most consistent gains I've made is when I've gone to the gym consistently even when I thought, "this is going to be a bad workout day" (and even when it was a weak workout...even over multiple workouts) I'm sure everybody has convinced themselves to wait until the next day, only to miss multiple days in a row.

    3) Manipulate yourself, and figure out what is keeping you from going. It can be little things that keep us from going. And they change over time. Lately the psychological barrier for me was the fact that once I started the process for dressing to leave for the gym, my day was over. I couldn't run errands before or after, and showering at home ended my day. So, I kept putting off going, until it got too late. I was repeatedly missing workouts because I put it off until too late in the evening. So, I started pre-packing everything I needed to change and shower at the gym. I can now simply grab my bag and go in a second, and run errands on the way and after. The barrier is gone. (And, besides, changing there is more fun. :) Note: It can be diff. for everybody and it can change. At one point in my life, changing there was more of a hassle.

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    Feb 23, 2007 8:45 AM GMT
    1) You've got to make it a high priority task each day. I got in good shape half a dozen times over the years, then lost it all because some project at work demanded 16 hour days for a year at a time. That's bullshit. Carve out a sacrosanct time period and don't let anything get in the way.

    2) Do what it takes to have a good time. Maybe that's setting up a good sound track. Maybe it's scheduling workouts with a buddy, or meeting someone for coffee at the end of a ride. I find that changing up the routine once a month or so helps, and that's supposed to be good for you anyway.

    (Aside: I've talked with several guys who fantasized about a workout that devolved into hot sex. Only tried it one time, and even though we used light weights, my buddy got a little excited and hurt his back. No sex after all :( So much for THAT motivational technique.)
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    Feb 23, 2007 2:20 PM GMT
    I am the worst about getting motivated to hit the gym, but I've worked through it. Here's what I did.

    First, in order to even get myself in the door, I hired a personal trainer for a month (paid in full and up front.) Just the thought of already spending the money and then having to answer to someone made me get off my ass and get in the gym. (Did this for a month, which was the foundation for building the habit of going.) I don't need him anymore. You'd be surprised that have the battle is simply getting in the front door.

    Second, killer songs on iPod or MP3 player. Something that gets your blood pumping.

    Third, look around in the gym - notice the huge arms on that guy over there... remind yourself that's what you want (if that's your goal) or those abs on that other guy. When I'm working out and I feel like dumping the last set, I'll look around and find the biggest muscle head in the place and go up to him and ask, "Mind spotting me for a minute?" Not only will this force me to do the last set, it gives me something great to look at while I'm doing it.

    And lastly, I have posted, taped, downloaded tons of muscle guys photos and put them everywhere for motivation. I can't leave the house, get in the car or get on my computer without seeing a rock.

    It helps me... might work for you too.
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    Feb 24, 2007 10:07 AM GMT
    This is a fascinating topic to me. I think willingness is an underrated quality in people; people value things like potential more than willingness, because willingness is "only" the thing that bridges potential and reality. It's easy to say, "Oh, just do it," but I think everyone has to figure out the best ways of cultivating willingness in themselves.

    My solution so far is only to do athletic activities I enjoy enough to do on their own even if they were not making me any healthier. Even then, I go through periods of being super-bored with bouldering, I burn myself out on cycling by training improperly and then pushing myself too hard, or I just lapse on the yoga because I don't stick to a schedule.

    Lots of other good advice on here, which basically boil down to really doing some self-analysis when you're lacking motivation and figuring out why.

    I always used to write off as "crutches" things like committing to future events that required me to train in the meantime, or relying on others to hold me to training, or basically anything external. But that's silly; if I have those external things, I might as well take advantage of them, and there's nothing wrong with, say, committing to a really long bike ride a few months off which overwhelms even my finely-trained procrastination instinct and gets me to train because I know if I don't, I'll be toast when I have to do that ride.

    For the most hardcore example of the "eliminate the barriers" strategy I've ever seen, check out this guy's blog:

    He started systematically breaking down his reasons for not cycling... to the point where he will bike daily no matter what, even through up to 4 inches of snow and blistering cold! That's a bit more hardcore than I am, but the principle is sound -- if you are feeding yourself excuses, take advantage of that information to eliminate them one by one.

    Another practice I've found useful from the Buddhist side of things is to view negative emotion and experience not as reasons to be upset and dejected, but motivators themselves. That is, when you're pissed at yourself about missing workouts, or you feel a sense of dread when you think about stepping onto a scale or going to lift after taking time off and fearing the loss of strength, oftentimes (if you're anything like me) those negative emotions just make you sit there and suffer and fight with them and make it all worse.

    Instead, you can put them to use -- when you feel fear or dejection or whatever, channel it instead as motivation, i.e. "This fear is my signal to go work out, so I stop feeling fear," or "This depression is my encouragement to work out, because I know if I do it'll go away." It's a kind of mental switch, and it's hard to maintain all the time, but when you do it's pretty cool. Free motivation! Plus, redirecting them like that means you don't sit around beating yourself up, which is critical, because that does the exact opposite, lowering your self-confidence and increasing the chances you'll lapse again.

    Enjoying the process itself is important to me, too. I used to get really upset when I would go boulder and get stuck on a problem and be unable to do a particular move, and get frustrated. Then I didn't want to come back and work on it, either. A friend casually observed, "Yeah, the key is to enjoy the process, and not be attached to the result." Now, I won't say I necessarily love the days when I go in and don't send a single problem, but I'm more able to work through them, because I can focus on enjoying the process of working on the moves, enjoying figuring things out step by step, and not judging my work based on whether I "succeeded" or not. After all, in exercise -- like in all things! -- there's no such thing as "success." We work and make progress, but we're never "done."

    Heh, sorry this is so long, I'm putting off going to sleep. Hope it's of some use! :)
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    Feb 24, 2007 2:21 PM GMT
    bej11, mindgarden, atxclimber etc. have made some good points. I'm going to echo some of them.
    - make the workout session a priority
    - reduce obstacles by simplifying the process of getting ready to go to the gym
    - don't beat yourself up if you don't manage to do what you have planned
    - don't get discouraged by 'deflation' (i.e. looking less pumped up hours later compared to immediately after working out). Do it regularly and notice the musculature start to stay longer.

    I have been on and off the wagon a few times. I'm currently on the longest streak and intend to keep it going. In fact, the motivation was strong enough that I returned very quickly after being sick for 3 weeks.

    A few other things that have helped me:

    I subscribed to an exercise magazine (Men's Health in my case). I don't take it too seriously. It provides tips, eye candy which also doubles as motivation.

    I also signed up for the online personal trainer (much cheaper than a real human being for those on a budget) for a few months to help me structure up a workout plan. It felt tedious to have to follow a plan but it helped to build a sense of what muscle groups to combine in a workout and so on. This is important because I found it very draining to not know what to do next. I now go to the gym with a workout planned in my head, stick to the muscle group plan (and also generally starting the workout with larger muscles) but vary the actual workout according to machine/weight availability.

    I recently started working harder on muscles that I had overlooked earlier (probably because they seemed less sexy) - back, legs - it brought new gains in the other workouts. A recent boost in protein intake has also helped. I saw the results more quickly and that helps to sustain and even boost the drive for the next workout.