It happens, frequently. We have the best of intentions and then something, anything really, happens. Poof not going to make it to the gym today. Might as well cancel the whole week.
How do people break the cycle. How is it that so many people train consistently when so many others cant even get started.
It turns out there are some things you can do to make getting into the gym a little more manageable.
Motivation Tactic 1: SMART Goals
SMART Goals are Goals defined by a set of rules. The rules are the goal has to be
- Specific – the goal can’t be vague. Goals should not be “Be more mobile” or “get stronger”. Instead they should be something like “add 15 lb to my clean.” Or “be able to squat down and pick up my kid without needing assistance.
- Measurable – similar to specific there should be something we can measure it by. Strength is great for this. Goals to add a # to our lifts. Bodyweight skills can be measure by the amount of time you can hold a movement or preform repetitions or an number of repetitions.
- Achievable – the goal has to be physically possible.
- Realistic – often confused with Achievable the goal must be realistic. Adding 50 lb to your squat may be achievable but may not be realistic based on your lifestyle in a 12 week window.
- Time bound – the goal can’t go on forever. The goal needs to have a due date to know if you’re making progress on the scale you want or not.
Having a clearly defined goal gives a us a measuring stick to be able to say “what I’m doing is working” or “I need to change something”. I ask my clients to give me 2 goals each quarter. 1st is the goal for the quarter. 2nd is the goal for the next year. This helps me guide their sessions both the now and to plan ahead.
Unfortunately having a goal is an academic exercise. A lot of people have goals, but what sets apart the people who accomplish the goal from the people that have them is the systems they put in place to make it happen.
Motivation Tactic 2: Environment Setup
Here is a scenario you want to go to the gym after work, but after you’re done at work and get home to change clothes something always happens where you decide you’ll just get to the gym the next day.
After that doesn’t work for a while you think “I don’t need all the fancy equipment I can do bodyweight workouts instead” but still every time you get home something happens and you can’t set up the space and you end up not doing your training.
A way to motivate around this is to set up the environment ahead of time. If you are in scenario 1, have a bag packed and change clothes at the gym. If your gym for some reason doesn’t have a changing room, change in the bathroom at work.
For scenario 2 go ahead and set up the space you want to workout in before you leave for work. Maybe even set out your workout clothes where you put down your stuff after you get home.
These same tactics work for training in the morning. Go ahead and pick out your clothes the night before. Prepare the space, pack the work bag.
All of these are environmental things you can do to help you have to think and do less to get to work out. The goal is to train so we want to make it as easy to train as possible. The less thinking we have to do the more likely we’re not going to think ourselves out of the session.
Motivation Tactic 3: Small wins
Reward yourself, early and often. Not for nothing of course, but for any accomplishment that happens.
- Went to the gym? Reward.
- Did your warmups? Reward.
- Did your session? Reward.
- Did your accessories? Reward.
- Hit a personal record? Reward.
Especially in the beginning set up rewards for small achievements. Make training worth it. Yes in the long term the SMART Goal you’re setting might be the reward in itself however we want to set up small wins along the way to keep us going. Think of small things you can treat yourself to in order to celebrate doing the hard work. The more you can trick your mind into thinking that training ends up with a pleasurable event the more likely you are to do the training.
Yes we are trying to do what we can to classically condition ourselves. Positive reward is the best thing to get the human brain to be in the habit of doing something.
Motivation Tactic 4: Track metrics and mood
As you get consistent in the gym, a way to keep the party going is to keep track of metrics. I encourage my clients to respond to sessions with what numbers they did on weights, numbers of reps completed and time completed on bodyweight sessions. AND I have them track their mood. All of this gives them the data they need to get excited.
When it comes to a bad day they can look back and remember “this was a day I felt like trash but then I crushed my workout.” Or when a movement comes up they enjoy “Last time I did this I added 10 lb to my PR I wonder what I can do this time.”
Motivation Tactic 5: Create a plan
Some may interpret having a goal is the same as having a plan. Unfortunately having a goal is just knowing the type of food you want to make. Making a plan is getting the ingredients and following the recipe.
Creating a training plan to focus on the things you want to improve makes you more efficient in the gym and stops you from wasting time thinking about what to do next. Planning your training sessions removes the guess work of what when and how much because you already made the decisions.
Motivation Tactic 6: Get accountability
Finally getting accountability will dramatically improve your commitment. This is why group class and systems like CrossFit have been so successful. Having a friend to train with or just check in on if you’ve been to the gym can drastically affect your results.
Some people train at more expensive gyms thinking the luxury price will encourage them to be more frequent attenders.
The ultimate accountability is to hire a coach like me. A coach who will help you determine your goals, will make a plan for you, and will check in on your progress and if you have made it into the gym or not.
Motivation can come from a lot of different areas. These habit building tips can help turn motivation into discipline. Implementing these can turn you training from a confusing chore to a established routine.