What Fuels your Fire? 8 ways to Stay Motivated and Driven in Exercise
The key factor to keeping the furnace of your work ethic stoked to achieve your goals. There comes a point, though, in a lot of hardcore gym goers' experiences that there is a decrease or a loss of drive to move forward and to continue to remain as consistent and committed as before. This is usually a huge disappointment. It's not like you want to have the loss of spirit and drive for lifting, it's just that the old routine grind isn't doing what it used to for you.
This is a very real problem that lifters might face more than once throughout the course of their experience for a number of reasons. Fear not, fellow brethren in iron. As much potential as this has to derail your train completely, there are ways to ensure that this doesn't happen.
In this article, I'm going to share with you 8 ways I think can help you change things up to keep that fire burning inside. Of course, these are just a few ways next to many, but these are some great places to start if you are low on drive and motivation and flat out of ideas on how to solve this.
1. Find a Workout Partner
Two heads are better than one, right?
Finding a workout partner can be a great way to mix things up, share ideas, and help keep you accountable. A workout partner's goal is to help you reach your goals, while you help him/her reach theirs. Some lifts such as bench press, squat, shoulder press, and others cannot be trained maximally without a spotter/partner. Having a workout partner who will push you beyond your limits and to new heights might help stimulate some new growth that you have never seen before, allowing you to bust previously esteemed PR's.
While it can be nice to train alone and at your own pace once in a while, I personally have found that my best workouts are with a partner because they can help me get forced reps, negatives, etc. which really helps my growth. I highly recommend hooking up with a workout partner, even if it is just a few days a week, especially to help you train your core lifts to the maximum and increase your strength and muscle mass.
2. Enter a Competition
This is a set goal with a deadline. We sometimes can be far too lenient on when we want to reach our goals, and entering a competition that has set standards and a set date can help you commit to a time frame to reach a goal. This can be any type of competition, preferably one that will is conducive to your goals. If you want to train for strength, enter a power lifting meet. If your goals lie in aesthetics, try an amateur body building show. Though performance in competitions is always very important to us, don't be as concerned in your first one. This is your chance to see if how you prepared for it was appropriate, or if you need to make some changes for the next time. This also gives you a feel of what a show or meet is like, and gives you the dearly missed adrenaline rush that you had back in high school and college sports.
Entering a competition gives you a set purpose to train. I notice when I am not training for something specific, my workouts tend to fluctuate in intensity and effectiveness. Leading up to a competition, each day is precious and therefore motivates you that much more to work hard each day you step into the gym.
Again, don't worry so much about your performance in your first competition. Aaron Rodgers certainly wasn't a superstar his first game in the NFL. Build on each competition, and use this as a tool to push the pace of your progress.
3. Change Up Your Routine
This one might be a little cliché, but I know plenty of people who are aware they need to do this, yet do not act on it. This can be anywhere of reorganizing the order or the exercises you do, to changing up your rep range completely and maybe training with a different goal than you are used to for a few weeks. This often can be a beneficial change, even if you don't enjoy the temporary goal as much as you do your primary one.
For example, though I train for both body building and power lifting, I like training for strength and power lifting a bit better than I do body building. I personally would rather have a little higher body fat and be stronger, than be articulately aesthetic and not as strong. However, without my body building training phase, I would not have the strength I do today. Though I have to take a hit in my strength in order to train like a body builder for a short period, it helps recruit more muscle fibres, enabling me to have more potential for strength the next time around.
There are multiple ways to change up your workout routine, but it is still possible to make these changes and continue to work towards the same goal and have your training reflect that as well. Change doesn't allow your body to adapt, and this helps you grow more, and progress towards your goals.
4. Get a Personal Trainer
This is for those that can afford it, as I know some cannot.
If you can afford a personal trainer though, this can be a huge boost. A personal trainer is an expert in the field of fitness and will help create and structure a workout and diet plan tailored to your style, body type, and goals. While a handful of gym goers out there know a good deal about exercise, a personal trainer has studied exercise and has had much practice with what works and what doesn't. They are pricey for a good reason. Especially if your are training for a competition or show, a personal trainer can help give you that edge you need come show time. Some of the best body builders and power lifters have coaches and trainers to help push them to the next level. This can be a great way to have someone else get an eye in on what you have been doing, and what needs to change to get that spark reignited. The good news for common folks too, is that you don't even need to hire a personal trainer for a long period of time. Even just hiring one for a few months can give you some new insights on dieting and exercise that you can then take and apply when you are building your next routine.
5. Find New Music to Train With
While there are a handful of people who prefer to train with no music, most people do choose to. Having good music during a workout can give you a boost and help you keep a high intensity during your workout. Some prefer to have a play list they run through, while others like to beat a single song or two to death for a week or two before getting sick of it and moving on. Whichever you prefer, keeping a fresh input of new songs to keep your workouts intense, I have found, is very important. I'm sure we have all had periods where we cannot find a song to get that adrenaline flowing to save our lives. Having that new bolster can give your workouts new vigour.
While music is not necessary, I find it really does help. If you haven't trained with music before, I recommend trying it and making a decision after comparing a few workouts with music and a few without. I personally prefer heavy music with a fast tempo. This almost sets my pace and intensity for me right out of the gates. Think of it like a metronome, only for weightlifting. In any case, I recommend asking around the gym to see if anyone is plugged in to good music. Websites such as Pandora, Spotify, and YouTube can give you suggestions based on what you play already. New tunes is a great way to get that rush back in the gym without pre-workout!
6. Pick Up a Sport or a Summer League
Unless you are still in high school, college, or the pros, chances are that you haven't played competition sports in a while.
A good idea to get yourself excited to train again is to join a pick up or summer sports league. These opportunities sometimes aren't advertised in a way that it would surely reach you, so you might have to seek these out. Especially if you are in or near a big city, I guarantee there will be various leagues like this. Most commonly are volleyball, baseball, and softball leagues, but I have seen soccer, flag football, and even ultimate frisbee leagues around where I am.
This can be something light hearted and fun to help get you to train again for fear of performing poorly in front of friends and admirers! Changing things up and taking a training day off a week to do a league like this can be the shake up you need to get over that staleness of lifting you might have. Breaking the monotonous routine of getting up, going to work, going to the gym , and coming home will give you something else to look forward to besides lifting.
7. Set Mini Goals and Track Your Progress
This is a good one, especially if you have a long term goal that you are currently reaching for.
Here, you should set goals that are 1-3 weeks long. These can be things like "lose 5lbs" or "add 5lbs to my bench or squat". This helps lay out for you the small steps you take en route to your ultimate goal. This also lets you see spurts of progress and helps you to keep going. I know I have fallen victim to not tracking my progress, and then the next week on bench press wonder "Did I do 290 for 5 reps or 295 last week?" Guessing is a sure way to mentally be unsure and unstable about the amount of growth you are making. This can lead to unnecessary frustration. When in doubt, write it out. Keeping a log of your lifts, even if they were down from the last week can help you chart your progress and see if changes need to be made.
As humans and people of an immediate gratification society, we need constant reinforcers and reminders that what we are doing is good and that we are on the right track. By setting mini goals and tracking your progress, you will be able to see that you are or are not really making progress after all and can respond from there.
8. Remember Why You Started
This is, in my opinion, one of the most important ones.
Each of us has the reason for our initial push into exercise. Maybe it was because of being overweight, maybe it was because you were bullied lots in the past, maybe it was because your friend was injured in an accident, and you train for them because they can't. Whatever the reason, let it burn inside of you a little bit. When my drive to lift goes down, I sit and think real hard about why I started lifting. I put music on to set the mood, and just let the thoughts sink in once again. Dwelling on all the positive and negative motivation gets me fired right back up.
Even if your motivation for training has evolved or changed, dwell on it for a bit, and give it some good hard thought. Think about how hard it will be to get back everything you have worked for once you even start to walk away.
I love lifting because it holds you accountable on a daily basis. One can lose progress so quick so the discipline to be in the gym and training hard HAS to be consistent and with lots of heart. There are no short cuts, and you get exactly what you put into it. Few sports can speak the same.
Push Through and Persevere
Lifting is not for the faint of heart. It takes true grit to be able to come into the gym just about every single day and give your all. It is completely understandable why one would get burned out from time to time. Don't let excuses rule your roost! Make the changes you need, whether it is one or a few from the list above, or others that I did not include, and get back to the grind.
"Pain is temporary. It may last for a minute, or an hour, or a day, or even a year. But eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit however, it will last forever." - Eric Thomas