You’re not alone if you’re the type who busts out of the gate when starting something new, firing on all cylinders feeling like you can take on the world and nothing will stop you only to find yourself several weeks later wondering where all that motivation went.
What the heck happened? How could you possibly feel like a barreling locomotive one day only to wake up another like a pregnant snail pining for your next naptime?
Becoming suddenly unmotivated isn’t anything novel. It happens to everyone for many reasons that make complete sense. Yes, we have the best intentions, but how do we get that motivation back? How can we pick ourselves back up? Is it even realistic to be so motivated to begin with?
Read on if you find yourself in that rut and are in need of a hand getting back on your feet.
Why do we get unmotivated?
Psychologists could break down the reasons we get so unmotivated in life no matter our goals. Here, however, I want to keep things as simple and pragmatic as possible and give you some real, practical reasons you can relate to. It may seem simple at first, but combined these issues can derail the most motivated of us.
Simply put, you may just lack a goal. If you’re entering the gym with no real direction then you are missing out on a very powerful, necessary weapon at your disposal. Sure, you may have the short-term goal of bench pressing X amount or squatting Y amount of weight, but here I’m talking about that big, long-term vision regarding where you want to take things in five or 10 years.
Not having a clear vision or goal is one of the fastest ways to become unmotivated, especially when life throws obstacles your way and you need that solid foundation of purpose to fall back on.
Maybe you do have a goal or a vision but it just so happens to be rather unrealistic. It may be a bit too lofty for where you are at the present moment or what you have at your disposal or even what you’re genetically capable of.
We tend to dream in these big, abstract sort of ways without ever questioning our own abilities, resources, or commitment. We speak in general terms without defining or explaining the details.
Over time, we will become increasingly unmotivated due to this vague mindset.
Lack of a plan
No goal and unrealistic expectations will naturally lead to a flimsy, unspecific plan of action. If you think of it, everything that is well built starts with a set of plans.
Everything from building a house to planning a vacation starts with some form of a plan. Without one you end up winging it each and every time you enter the gym.
Be honest. Where did you find your current workout? Was it from some influencer? Maybe you found it on some random website or social feed? If not, then you possibly designed your own workout based on what you’ve seen others doing or what is popular at the time.
Much like diet trends, popular training methods come and go. Whether it’s German Volume Training (GVT), cross training, specialized circuits, cluster methods, or any other trendy lifting techniques found across the internet, it’s easy to fall into the trap of doing what everyone else is doing. There’s a significant possibility that what you’re doing doesn’t fall in line with your goals.
Finally, something that could have a massive influence (or lack of) on your motivation is the simple act of tracking your progress. If you don’t have a specific goal, a solid, realistic plan of action, or the right methods in place then how will you track something so vague, so unstructured?
All in all, you’re not getting any feedback. You’re not keeping a close eye on what’s working and what isn’t.
How to stay motivated to workout
Okay, so we’ve established a few missteps and wrenches in your system. Now it’s time to fix each one and make them work to your advantage. Again, these may seem simple and elementary but that’s the beauty. Simple works and combined, they will only garner more momentum toward your motivation.
Settle on a goal
This one is a no-brainer. Having a goal gives you that solid, unbreakable foundation to stand on. It will guide you in times of frustration, when life overwhelms you, and when others try to derail you.
No matter what happens, you’ll always have your goal front and center. Life will try to distract you, tempt you, and challenge your resolve, but by having a goal you become centered and committed. You own your eventual outcome.
You may be familiar with SMART goals which stand for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timeframe. In short, it’s a very organized way to set a goal that covers all of these aspects listed in such a way that will get you closer to success.
Is your goal specific? Have you defined exactly what you want out of your training? Is it to lose body fat? To build muscle? To run a timed mile? It needs to be as detailed as possible.
Is it measurable? How much body fat do you want to lose? How much muscle do you want to gain? When you run that mile, what time do you want to achieve?
Is it realistic? Similar to the above, if you have a goal of losing five pounds of fat in one month, does it sound doable? Or does it sound a bit far fetched? Be honest about setting your goals regarding your talents, abilities, and resources.
Finally, does your goal have a timeframe? Have you established a set amount of time to achieve said goal? Without one you’ll never maintain the motivation to drive on, to battle through the ups and downs to get to where you want to go. Additionally, be sure that your timeframe is a realistic one as well. Losing five pounds versus 20 pounds in a month bears some scrutiny on your part.
Make a plan
You’ve established a goal and have done your homework regarding making it a SMART goal. Now it’s time to devise a plan of action. Be sure that it includes time-tested, basic training principles. Avoid advanced techniques or other unfamiliar training methods as they will only confuse you and potentially stall your progress.
No matter what you choose to do, once you’ve made your plan stick with it. You’ll be tempted to program hop onto the latest trendy program or another plan that promises unrealistic results. Don’t do it. Stay on track with what you set out to do. This is where commitment is truly important.
It’s not enough to have some loosely composed, arbitrary plan. You’ll need to be a bit more specific. In strength coaching circles there’s a principle called training specificity – the mode of training needs to match the goal. For example, if you want to get better at running, run. If it’s powerlifting, you should lift weights.
It seems simple enough, however, one can easily drill this down into very specific parts. Regarding weight training, for example, we could break it down to hypertrophy (muscle mass), pure strength, power, muscular endurance, or any other subdivision of resistance training. The goal is to be as specific as possible and exhaust any and all resources toward that goal. Avoid stuffing your programs with fluff or other useless work.
Keep a journal
Lastly, one of the most powerful weapons to help you inject some new energy into your motivation is keeping track of your training. Having a physical notebook to refer to is indispensable. Be sure to record exercises, sets, reps, loads, and also anything else that may be of importance. Those other things can include stress levels, sleep habits, diet, energy levels, and anything else relevant.
On a daily basis go over what you did previously as well as look ahead at what you’re about to do for the day. Reviewing like this will have a profound effect on your motivation. It’ll also keep your head in the game and maintain your focus. Additionally, you’ll be able to spot speed bumps, snags in progress, and you can easily identify what’s working and what isn’t.
If there was ever a secret weapon for progress, a workout journal is it.
Losing motivation is a tough thing to go through, but with a little awareness and planning you can easily gain back that drive to succeed. Set a goal, get SMART, make a plan, get specific, and keep track of your progress. Once you get organized you’ll be back on the road toward those ambitious goals in no time.