Motivation: as defined by Webster’s Dictionary, is a force or influence that causes someone to do something
It’s one of the great mysteries of human nature, whether we are aware of it or not, there is a constant all-out war going on within us between our will and our body. “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” is a popular saying that illustrates this fact: no matter how motivated we are to make a positive change in our lives, we still need our bodies to be on board to carry out the act. As a result, you wouldn’t have to look very far to find someone who would agree with you that the hardest part of maintaining a fit lifestyle is exactly that-the maintenance. There are so many factors that can interfere with a person's ability to stay on track; whether it’s lack of sleep, too many other things to do, improper eating habits, and the list goes on. But while the decision to make regular exercise a continual part of your daily lifestyle ultimately depends on you, there are a number of resources and habits that you can utilize to help you stay consistent in the gym.
Keep your goal to yourself (or at least, tell very few people about it). Psychologists who study human motivation have discovered that when you tell someone that you are about to do something great or meaningful before you actually do it, the positive feedback that you receive from your friends triggers the reward center in your brain in the same way that actually accomplishing the task does. In other words, you get the same good feeling of accomplishment without actually doing the work to achieve it (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHopJHSlVo4). Therefore, as much as possible, try to keep your goal to yourself, telling only one or two of your closest allies if you need their support to help you, and in the end, your hard work and results will reward you.
Having said that, it can be helpful to have an "account-abili-buddy"(South Park). Pick someone who you trust to be tough with you should you ever try to deviate from your exercise program, and even better, someone who would be willing to go with you to the gym at the same time. Not only will this person create a positive social pressure to keep you going, they can also be someone you can commiserate with. As trainers, we have seen this in action time and time again through training married couples, which is why we always say: “the couple that lifts together, stays together!”
Make a plan (or have someone help you make one). Empirical evidence suggests that writing down a list of tasks to be accomplished is much more helpful at getting things done than just trying to remember what you need to do. This theory can easily be applied in the gym as well. For example, having an established list of exercises to accomplish for the day will do a better job of keeping you on task better than just “making things up as you go until you feel like you’ve done enough.” Don’t know what exercises you should do, on which days, in which order? Ask an experienced trainer! You can meet with one locally or find a great online training program to guide you through! (http://sentinelperformancellc.trainerize.com).
Create small rewards for when you reach different milestones. The human mind is wired to reward the body whenever it receives a positive stimulus, mainly as a means of survival. For example, we feel satisfied after eating because the body doesn’t want to be hungry. Likewise, we can give ourselves different small rewards if we reach fitness goals: get a massage after 4 months of not missing a workout; let yourself have a cheat day at the end of a week of strict eating; get yourself a stylish pair of slacks once you get down to a new waist size; etc. The idea is that you give yourself something small that you want ONLY after doing what you have set out to do in the gym to earn it.
The human mind-body connection is an incredibly powerful phenomenon. Without it, the history of human achievement would have never occurred. However, it does require mastery in order to be utilized effectively. The good news is that there is hope! Taking big goals piece by piece, working modestly, and surrounding yourself with people who you trust to help you are just a few ideas that can produce massive results. We are all given the ability to achieve something special; we can’t wait to see what you do with yours!
Joe Gernetzke CSCS