Motivation seems to be one of those buzzwords in the fitness community and world in general. We get bombarded with motivational posts on social media, cheesy posters on the walls at work or school, and even self-help gurus writing entire books about the art of self-motivation. I think, however, that it goes without saying that there are two types of people – motivated and not motivated. There’s obviously a spectrum of motivation, some people are able to eat relatively well and workout a few times a week while others live on the couch with crumbs all over their bellies. And of course we have the gym gargoyles who go nowhere without their hooded sweatshirt and gallon jug of water. What separates the gargoyles from the potatoes, then?
How Does Motivation Work? Why Train?
We know there’s two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation comes from within an individual – basically they’re just a motivated person. Extrinsic motivation comes from external factors which could include all those motivational social media posts, music, or even a training partner slapping your back before a huge lift. So again, there’s basically two types of people – people who are born motivated and people who need to be motivated.
So what if you’re the second type? How do you go about finding something that motivates you? Obviously you can follow all of the fitness accounts in the world on social media but that just results in an empty motivation. Physique perfection can seem that much more unattainable when every photo is set up with proper lighting and photoshopped to the gills. Motivational talks or books are great for getting you jazzed up for a day or even a week, but eventually that motivation will fade, too. So what’s the secret?
The majority of people who are working out are doing it for themselves. They want to look a certain way, feel a certain way, attract a certain person… all kinds of personal reasons. That may get you out of bed a few times a week and can help you turn down the dinner rolls once in a while, but at the end of the day it’s so easy to give yourself an excuse or a, “free pass,” around these personal reasons. You’re the only person that is affected by those choices and that’s why this method often fails. The secret to long term fitness and health motivation, then, is to not do it for yourself – do it for someone else.
The Secret to Motivation
Everyone has a special someone in their life, it could be a romantic partner, a best friend, kids, or even a dog. This is who you’re getting in better shape for. Forget about doing it to look or feel better. Do it because your wife or husband wants you to be healthy while you grow old together. Do it because your kids or grand kids want to be able to play with you. Do it because your dog lives for playing fetch and going on long walks and he needs you to be able to do those things with him. Finding someone else to go down this journey for is the single best thing you can do to keep yourself motivated and on the right track. It’s easy to skip a workout or cheat on your diet when you’re the only person facing the consequences. Try doing that when you know your choices directly affect someone other than yourself.
The fitness journey is not an easy one – hard work can be uncomfortable and giving up is so much easier than pushing on. Keep in mind, though, that someday looks will fade. A day will come when you have hit your last PR and can only hope to maintain your strength. A day will come when you’ll regret all the selfish things you did in your gym gargoyle days. But you’ll never regret getting healthier for the people you love. You’ll never regret that you ate well enough to still be able to walk your dog in your eighties. You’ll never regret that you stayed healthy and strong enough to not be a burden on your partner in old age. This the secret to staying motivated, for life.
Every single personal reason for fitness will eventually fade. So do it for someone else.
From being a mediocre athlete, to professional powerlifter and strength coach, and now to researcher and writer, Charlie combines education and experience in the effort to help Bridge the Gap Between Science and Application. Charlie performs double duty by being the Content Manager for The Muscle PhD as well as the Director of Human Performance at the Applied Science and Performance Institute in Tampa, FL. To appease the nerds, Charlie is a PhD candidate in Human Performance with a master’s degree in Kinesiology and a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science. For more alphabet soup, Charlie is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), an ACSM-certified Exercise Physiologist (ACSM-EP), and a USA Weightlifting-certified performance coach (USAW).