Last October, a Florida man died after winning a cockroach-eating contest at a pet store. Just minutes after being declared the winner, he felt sick, started vomiting, and collapsed.
A month later, the autopsy report listed the cause of death as choking – on arthropod body parts…
I have no idea what made this guy think entering a cockroach-eating contest would be a good idea, but motivation is a funny thing.
Unfortunately, motivation can be just as perplexing when it comes to health and fitness. So let’s explore it!
The second leg of the stool.
Think of fitness as a stool with three legs. We discussed ‘expectation’ a few weeks ago and that’s the first leg of the stool. Motivation is the second.
Like expectation, motivation is subject to some significant inaccuracies. Think back to my ‘She’s All That’ illustration and you’ll remember that I expected washboard abs after two weeks of ab-rolling. But do you remember why I wanted that six-pack?
I was motivated by the sex appeal that accompanied the musculature. Notably, while the promise of increased attention from the opposite sex was enough to get me to Walgreen’s and inspire two weeks of ab-rolling, it ultimately wasn’t enough to overcome my love affair with mint chocolate chip ice cream.
There’s a good chance it won’t be enough for you either.
That headline probably got your attention – which is why sex appeal is constantly used to sell things like health and fitness products.
Just think of a few appealing commercials you’ve seen recently for weight loss products or exercise equipment. What resonated with you?
The message need not have been overt or tasteless – just think of the before and after images.
But here’s the question: What will motivate you to be committed to a fitness routine, long-term?
Sex appeal is probably not the right answer, whether you interpret that as a relationship, increased confidence, or a smaller dress size. It may be enough to get you to dial an 800 number, but it probably won’t keep you going.
If you’ve embraced sex appeal in the past and you’re still not where you want to be, it’s time to take a deeper look at motivation.
Two types of people.
In the context of holistic health, a lack of motivation manifests itself as the inability to maintain a consistent exercise regimen.
Amazingly, many people can ‘diet’ valiantly and force themselves to eat nothing but iceberg lettuce for six months in order to lose three pounds, but cannot string together three weeks of exercising three days per week.
If you’ve had trouble committing to an exercise routine, you probably fall into one of two groups:
1) Those who think about exercising, but never start; or,
2) Those who try to exercise, but slip back into old habits.
Can you relate?
No matter which group you’re in, there’s hope! The key to finally getting a consistent exercise routine in place is understanding your own individual challenges and how to wield motivation to address them.
“I think, therefore I am.”
– Rene Descartes
Unfortunately, Descartes’ famous postulation doesn’t hold when it comes to fitness. Getting in shape requires engagement, but sometimes the mental assent is so overwhelming we never end up taking a single tangible step.
If you don’t know where to begin, remember: The best workout routine is the one you can do consistently, indefinitely.
It’s that simple.
Exercising 30 minutes per day, one day per week over the course of the entire year is much better than exercising three hours per day for the first four days in January and then giving up.
There are at least two reasons this is true.
First, consistency is more important than frequency because it allows you to lay a foundation of healthy habits, which you can build on later. I learned to be physically fit from my wife, who is the daughter of a former semi-pro body builder. When we first got married, we’d go to the gym together and she would crush a workout while I sat in the car and practiced magic tricks.
I’m not kidding.
Eventually, I started joining her, and today I can’t keep myself out of the gym.
Second, most people with good exercise routines are motivated in part by the results they enjoy: strength, endurance, energy, health, productivity, and – yes – physique. As a result, their physical fitness routine becomes intrinsically self-sustaining. But there’s a catch, you have to build the momentum first. A couple of days in the gym every January won’t lead to results or momentum, but one day each week for a year will lead to both.
If you fall into group one, here are four tips for learning to leverage motivation more effectively:
1. Find a catalyst – You need to find something that lights your fire for change. Maybe it’s sex appeal or a sober assessment of your current health status. Try digging out your high school yearbook and imagine that crush who never gave you the time of day. Now picture that person’s jaw hitting the floor upon seeing how amazing you look. I’ve literally experienced this, and it feels great!
If that doesn’t work, find a motivational YouTube video to watch like the Arthur Boorman video we featured in the very first post. This is no joke! I’m in great shape, but I still often watch powerful YouTube videos before going to the gym.
Whatever it is, you need to find something that strikes a chord deep within you to break your rut of inactivity. But don’t stop there!
2. Be OK with where you are – Like it or not, you’re going to have to start right where you are. That may mean your first step is getting off the couch.
Be a realist.
Don’t allow self-pity to undermine the determination you’re developing and keep you from making progress. If you’re following this guide, you’ve got an accurate self-perception, sensible expectations, and a more sophisticated appreciation of motivation.
Change is already happening, and you’re already in a better place than you were just a few minutes ago.
3. Don’t make Excuses – Excuses are like armpits: Everyone has two of them and they generally stink!
Excuses kill motivation. They are your new kryptonite.
Avoid them by keeping that high school yearbook handy or bookmarking YouTube videos. It may also help to keep a journal, and write down some of the reasons you want to improve your health and fitness.
Excuses will rear their ugly heads and you have to summon your motivation to ward them off. You will be too ‘tired’ or ‘busy’ to exercise. Expect it and refuse sacrifice your precious momentum on the altar of convenience.
4. Be patient with results – Results are wonderful, but they take time to manifest. When you’re getting started you need to be patient. Resist the temptation to jump on the scale after a week or two.
Focus on your routine instead of results and trust that the results will come. Otherwise, your motivation will wane because it will initially seem like your effort isn’t paying off.
“Live your way into a new way of thinking.”
– Richard Rohr
Alternatively, overcoming the initial hump may not be an issue. Some people start – and stop – workout routines on a regular basis. It’s getting that commitment to stick that’s a problem.
If you can relate, your issue is probably a matter of perspective. Here are four tips for learning to leverage motivation more effectively for people in Group 2:
1. Change your brain – Do you think of working out as a reward or a punishment? What would it be like if hitting the gym was your favorite part of the day instead of the part you dreaded?
No joke – in law school I waited all day to get to the gym because it was such a great break from reading case law. The more I thought of it as a treat, the more I looked forward to it.
Is it any surprise the treadmill feels like a hamster wheel when you think of the gym as punishment for eating cookies?
2. Love the process – In order to make your fitness routine sustainable, you must balance your commitment with contentment. If it’s all about body weight or image, you may lose motivation if it takes too long to reach your goal – or once you get there.
Instead, think of fitness as a relationship. Appreciate your routine for what it is, and keep things fresh by adding new workouts, music, and goals. Get a professional trainer to help push through plateaus, deal with problem areas, and learn new exercises.
3. Get accountability – There’s no reason to struggle in quiet desperation. Find a friend who encourages and challenges you with his or her own personal dedication to fitness.
You almost always see couples at comparable fitness levels. That’s because we become like the people we associate with, for better or worse. Take a minute to think about your friends and family. Are they healthy, active, and in good shape? How does your activity level compare?
If you’re having trouble establishing your own fitness routine, chances are you’re not going to be able to change everyone else around you, as well. So find some fit friends and change your association a little bit. Then you’ll have a much better chance at changing yourself.
4. Be a champion – Finally, recognize that to be where you want to be will inevitably require doing things that aren’t comfortable. Just accept this and don’t let it throw your commitment off track.
I’ve mentioned that my father-in-law is a former semi-pro body-builder. He says that it only takes two times to be a champion – The times you feel like it and the times you don’t.
Champions do what’s uncomfortable and inconvenient. If you want to be fit and healthy, it only takes two times…
With accurate expectations in place, be sure to check your motivation as well.
Identify your tendencies and where you’ve gotten tripped up in the past. Then determine how you’re going to mitigate any pitfalls. Anybody can overcome challenges in motivation and enjoy improved health and fitness.
Check in again next post as we explore the third and final foundational consideration in being fit and healthy!
Editor’s Note: This is the third post in a series co-authored by Denver-based transactional attorney, Chris Rhyme dedicated to helping real people with busy lives get in great shape. If you found this post helpful, be sure not to miss the others – subscribe to NexTwelve.com via the link in the upper right-hand corner!
Leave a Comment: What has motivated you to get in shape in the past? What is the most important adjustment in perspective you feel is necessary for your future health and fitness?