Find long term fitness motivation can be hard for some, but here’s how I made it a habit
A client of mine recently asked me how I stay motivated. I hadn’t given it much thought until then. After looking back through the last 16 years, it all became very clear. That’s a picture of my sister and I. If I remember right, that was my prom night which would put me at about 17 years old. I was also 6’3, 165 lbs soaking wet. (can you guess which shoes I’m wearing?)
For some reason, it’s never enough to admit that you want to look impressive and attractive. We always need a more ‘noble’ reason for doing it. My fake and noble reason was basketball. I was working out to get stronger and more athletic for basketball (but not really). As I write this, I’m about 13 years removed from my basketball career, but I’m as in love with lifting as I ever have been. It’s not because of basketball. It’s not even because of looking better, although that played a much bigger role than basketball did. It’s because it’s who I am and what I am. After 16 years, the person who I’ve become is built on my habit of lifting weights. It’s my cornerstone habit, my source of pride, steadiness and my proof that I can accomplish things, no matter what they are.
Your cells in your body die off and are replenished all the time. This means the food you eat literally rebuilds your body, continuously. You actually are what you eat. I see lifting weights the same way. Lifting is so embedded into my very fiber that the current ‘Mitch’ doesn’t exist without it. So, to ask me how I stay motivated is useless. I don’t need it. I lift weights several times a week, whether motivation is high or low. It’s not what I do, it’s who I am. Now, how did that skinny kid at 17 stay motivated through the first 5 or 6 years is another question.
The above photo is me, about 8 years removed from the first photo. Here I am about 6’3, 245 lbs. Before we get into how I got from point A to point B, it’s important to establish one thing: we may think everything we do on a daily basis is a well thought out and conscious decision. But they’re not. They’re habits. Automatic, and for the most part, mindless.
I base a lot of my coaching around building powerful habits, but during the time I went from skinny prom kid to shirtless camera guy, I didn’t know a thing about habits. Without knowing it, perhaps with a lot of luck, I hit a lot of the major keys in habit development.
I Made It Social
When I first began weight training, I was too intimidated to go to the gym by myself. To remedy that, I recruited a few of my friends. we would workout in packs of 3-4. Our workouts were awful, and the programming sucked (you really can’t call it programming), but we went every single day. It doesn’t matter how you feel that day, if you have 2-3 other guys meeting you for your workout, you show up.
Being a group of 17-year-old guys, we also got really competitive, which was awesome. I distinctly remember one of my friends getting his hands on a jug of protein powder, and at the time I thought this was going to create a massive advantage for him. I trained extra hard to try and combat my ‘disadvantage’
Adding a social element not only jacks up your adherence, it makes it more fun. We love other people, whether we want to admit to it or not. If you want to pick up a new powerful habit, make it social. It will keep you honest and keep it fun.
I Blew Off Steam
The people who know me best also know I can get fairly anxious. I’ve since tackled this issue head on with a diligent meditation and recovery practice, but during my early 20’s while I was getting my feet wet in the gym, I would worry about anything and everything. The gym was my refuge.
I noticed that I could go into the gym with a mind full of madness, and walk out looking at the world through a totally different lens. Suddenly my mind was clear, I was focused, and I was happy. What made this especially effective is the fact that I acknowledged it. I Acknowledged My Rewards. This is where the luck sneaks in. I didn’t know the power of focusing on my wins and accomplishments. In fact, everywhere else in life I was laser focused on my failures and short comings. But by some stroke of luck, or fate, or genetics, or something….when it came to the gym, I always focused on my wins.
It didn’t matter how small the win was, I found it, and I acknowledged it. It could have been a bench press personal record, or it could have been the fact that my shoulders felt good and pain free that day. Every day I acknowledged the mind clearing stress relief that came with the workout as well. Counting these wins played a crucial role in cementing my workout habit. Acknowledging these wins was my reward for a workout well done. Eventually, you begin to anticipate the reward before you even begin the workout, and that makes keeping your workout habit extremely easy.
You know how when you walk through the mall and smell Cinnabon, your mouth waters, and the next thing you know your wallet is lighter and your stomach has a sticky bun in it? That’s a similar effect. When you acknowledge your wins daily, after every workout, you begin to crave that reward. Your mouth waters for it. You won’t miss many workouts at this point.
I was thrown off for a minute when I was asked how I stay motivated. It’s a thought that hasn’t crossed my mind in years. After looking back I see that when I needed motivation, I found it by not looking for it. Instead, I focused on my daily wins, and I made it social. I didn’t get into this, but I also kept my ‘why’ in mind at all times. When you know why you’re doing something, it makes it much easier to actually do it.
Eventually, weight training and I became one thing. Motivation is no longer a factor, and it has no influence on whether or not I will workout or not. If you’re looking to solidify a workout routine into your life, I recommend viewing it as a habit. After all, what we do on a daily basis is a series of automatic habits.
By Fitmo Coach, Mitch Heaslip
Mitch is going to get you into the best shape of your life! But what’s his secret? Mitch has developed solid methods that work for both men and women in losing weight and building muscle. With his very flexible approach, Mitch can tailor his methods to anyone. When it comes to building strength, muscle, and losing fat, his approach is second to none!
Learn more about Mitch, and working with him via the Fitmo app here.