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How to (actually) stay motivated

Motivation, why are you so hot and cold?

I get a lot of questions about how to stay motivated to workout and to eat healthy.

A friend of mine said to me one day as we were heading into the gym: “I find my motivation coming and going. You’re so lucky! You’re always motivated and ready to workout.”

I could sit here and write down 10 tips to staying motivated on your fitness journey (which I have done, and you can check them out here), but to be honest, whether you do them or not, you may still find your motivation is slipping from time to time.

You can try to predict when the motivational slip will come, but you can never be certain. All we do know, is that motivation moves like the tide – it comes in high, and it comes in low.

My response to my friend’s comment was, “Nope. There are days I am really motivated and excited to enter the gym and other days, well I just don’t feel like it.”

Motivation comes and goes. Bad days happen, good days happen. Energy levels are up, and energy levels are down. It’s all part of the process. 

So, what can you do?

1. Use your low energy days.

The low energy or “bad days”, used to be very demotivating for me. But when I began viewing these days as part of the process to moving forward, I was then able to give myself a break, lean into my struggle and feel liberated. 

This was how I actually turned my low energy days into motivation. By embracing them and taking pressure off myself. 

2. Be brave and show up.

If you want to be brave, then show up in your life and show up to that workout. It’s saying, “I don’t really feel like being here. I am not at my 100% today, but I am here.” Showing up when you don’t want to is when the real change happens. Showing up when you have a lot of energy, the sun is shining and you’re feeling yourself, is effortless. But showing up in times of struggle – that takes effort.

I came across a quote by Theodore Roosevelt in Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

Be brave, dare greatly and show up in your life.

3. Embrace discomfort.

Aliza Licht, author of the book, Leave Your Mark, brilliantly wrote, “change shouldn’t be comfortable, and if it is, it isn’t change.” Change creates discomfort. Some days getting in workouts are easier than others. That’s it.

I’m not aware of anyone who actually enjoys living in discomfort. We often overlook the fact that this discomfort is only temporary. When experiencing change there are moments struggle and resistance. When I start a new workout plan, diet plan, recipe or even a route to work, I like to remind myself: if it’s easy, it probably isn’t change.

I wrote an article on the struggles with change you can check out, here.

4. Harness your "why".

Finding your why is probably one of the most important aspects to focus on regarding your fitness journey. Simon Sinek refers to something called the “golden circle”. The outer circle is the ‘what’, followed by the ‘how’ and inside the two is the ‘why’. When Simon refers to this circle he is usually describing business, but when I thought about this more, it can transfer over into our personal lives.

Many people know what they want – to lose weight, to gain muscle or to run a marathon, for examples. Some of those people know how they’ll do it – hire a trainer, buy a gym membership or see a dietician.

But, very few of them know why they want to do it.

In my experience, the why is overlooked because to identify it takes time, a lot of internal reflection, and probably some discomfort.  Time, feelings and discomfort - Yuck, I want to lose weight, and it’ll happen when I get into the gym. Right? Maybe. But what happens when the day comes you don’t want to go to the gym?

Finding your why is what’s going create consistency in the gym, day after day, week after week. Simply, “wanting to lose 25 pounds” or “wanting to be stronger”, are great and valid goals, but they’re not personal enough. Having to add another medication to your cabinet, wanting to see your kids grow up, needing to be strong enough to stay out of assisted living, having the freedom to travel wherever you’d like, feeling comfortable on the beach or feeling that you’re trapped in a body that is not your own. These are the aspects to your program, and you, which are going to get you to the gym when your motivation just isn’t there. 

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