You’ve got goals. You’ve got the program to get them, and you’ve found the gym to do it in.
Or at least, it is for the first few weeks or so.
But, once you get into the routine of actually training, it doesn’t always stay that way. That initial burst of enthusiasm is often tempered once you’re in the thick of it. Heck, that’s a big part of the reason why most people don’t stick it out for more than three months at the gym.
So, how do you go the distance? How do you avoid that three-month hurdle and keep your training up for years, or even decades.
It’s about finding the right ways to motivate yourself.
This, of course, is a very individual thing. But, in my experience, at least, there are a couple of common strategies that will work, and a couple of common pitfalls to avoid. In fact, you can check out a few of them below.
Protect your gym time
Saying that you’ll go to the gym three or four times a week is one thing. Actually doing it is another thing entirely.
As soon as you start going to the gym, you’ll acutely notice that life has a way of trying to sabotage you getting there. Friends will suggest meeting up for drinks during your training times. Work and family commitments will start encroaching into the hours you’ve put aside for your training.
And, it’s easy to let these things get in the way. You think to yourself, “one missed session isn’t going to affect my motivation or my results in the long run. What could it hurt?”
But the truth is, once you’ve let one session slip, it’s easier to let others go as well. Before you know it, one session has become five sessions, you’ve not been to the gym in two weeks and your SMART goal is getting further and further away.
So how do you get around this?
Well, it’s important that you set your boundaries and protect your gym time as much as possible. Let your nearest and dearest know that you’re training, why you’re doing it, and when you’re doing it. Explain to them how important it is for you to complete those sessions, and that where possible, you want to avoid scheduling anything in that time. Once they understand why you’re doing what you’re doing, they’ll respect your need for the space to do it in.
Unfortunately, there will be times when you can’t get out of a commitment that clashes with your gym time. When you’re faced with those situations, though, make sure you reschedule your gym session as soon as possible. Then, put that rescheduled session on the calendar and commit to it. That way, you avoid the risk of missed sessions and the slippery slope that they lead to.
Remember your goals
I’m not going to lie to you. There are days when going to the gym is hard.
Say I’ve been up all night because one of my kids has a fever. The prospect of an hour of squats, bench and deadlifts doesn’t exactly appeal to me. I’d much rather be in bed, drinking coffee, or in bed drinking coffee.
It’s in these moments that it’s important to remember your goals. In the milieu of day-to-day life, it’s easy to lose sight of why we’re training. But, those goals are what brought you to the gym in the first place, and having a clear vision of them will keep you coming back.
Of course, there’s the question of how you keep those goals visible.
Sometimes, it’s as simple as writing them down in your training journal (more on that in a sec). I have a couple of sentences at the beginning of mine that remind me of why I’m there. They’re great to look at if I’m having a bad session, or debating whether I should make it into the gym that day.
If you’re a more creative sort, and you’ve got some free wall space, then making a motivation montage is also a great idea. Collect photos, quotes and illustrations that remind you of your goal and assemble them as a collage in an easy to view space in your home. Being faced with those visuals on a day-to-day basis is a great way of keeping your fitness aspirations in your mind all the time. It’ll pump you up and get you out of the house.
Keep a training journal
Last, but by no means least, keep a journal of your training so that you can track your progress.
In part, the reason for this is practical. When you’re training three or four times a week, you don’t always remember what exercises you did last session, how many reps you did, or what reps you were working at. Keeping a training journal means you won’t be stood gormlessly by the bar, trying to recall whether it’s 50 or 55kg you should be putting on there.
But, the training journal isn’t just a memory aid. It’s also a testament to your progress. You can look back through it and see how far you’ve progressed. Often, the results will surprise you. Knowing that your weights have gone up 30kg in a month, for example, is incredibly motivating, especially when you’re having a session where you doubt your abilities.
One last thing, I’d recommend keeping this journal on paper, rather than on your smartphone. Smart devices can be distracting in the gym, and you want to avoid the risk of checking social media or emails while charting your goals. Pen and paper might seem decidedly old-school these days, but if you want to have the right headspace in the gym, it’s a must.
You’ve got the program to get results and the motivation to do it. Do you need anything else? A gym buddy? Protein shakes? A personal trainer? In the next edition of this series, we’ll be asking just that…