- It’s incredibly common to want to make exercise a regular part of your life, but somehow struggle to make it actually happen.
- However, searching for external motivation is actually an error, according to industry expert Jordan Syatt.
- To get started, you might need to force yourself for a little while, but once the results you seek become visible, you’ll be motivated to keep going.
- It also helps to pick a form of exercise you actually enjoy and set yourself goals unrelated to aesthetics.
- This is the first installment of Live Well with Rachel, INSIDER’s new fitness & nutrition advice column.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
I’ve been following your fitness/wellness journey and have been inspired, but that inspiration only gets me so far. For the longest time I’ve struggled to find the motivation to actually get up and go to the gym. The problem — which I understand is confusing — is that I really want to do it, I just can’t seem to actually get there. I might go once but that drive to keep going until I see results is what’s lacking.
Sitting on the couch, watching Netflix seems like a better idea than going to the gym for an hour. And I always regret that decision after I’ve made it, but I’m trying to learn how to make the right decisions first. I really do want to go to the gym regularly but I can’t seem to get myself to do it. I honestly wish I knew why.
I was hoping you could share some advice on how to get past this first struggle? I know that this can be a very personal thing to decipher and that everyone has their own motivation, but I’d be grateful for any advice as I feel I really am at a loss.
What a relatable situation you find yourself in. For the longest time, getting myself to do some form of exercise required so much mental energy — it was more exhausting than the actual workout! Here’s what’s changed everything for me: I found the forms of exercise I enjoy, so I no longer have to muster up the motivation to do them. I actively want to.
I, for example, have realized I hate jogging, so I no longer make myself go out for runs (I also swear the elusive “runner’s high” is actually just the joy of the run being over, but dedicated joggers may argue otherwise). It’s simply a case of trying enough different forms of exercise until you find the ones you actually feel good doing, not just the feeling after it’s done.
The queen that is Serena Williams summed this up nicely in a recent essay for Harper’s Bazaar. “Since that fateful victory in 1999 [her first Grand Slam win], I’ve won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, 39 Grand Slam titles in all, and countless gold medals.
“I have been asked what keeps me motivated to continue playing tennis. To me, the answer is simple: I love the sport.” As long as Serena loves tennis, she’ll feel motivated to play.
I realize this is more simple on paper than it may be in reality, and most fitness fans will tell you it took them a while to find their niche. But if you keep at it, you’ll get there.
According to elite powerlifter and strength and nutrition coach Jordan Syatt, it’s actually a mistake to search for external motivation.
“I think the most common misconception that a lot of people struggle with is that they’re always looking for motivation, they always want to know the key to motivation and how you get motivated,” he told INSIDER.
“And that’s a very backwards way of going about it, because there are times in which you’ll get an external source of motivation, whether it’s a competition at work or you’re doing something with a friend, but usually those things don’t last, which is why people get motivated for a short amount of time but then they won’t actually follow through.”
Instead, you just need to push yourself to get started, says Syatt, who specializes in strength training, nutrition, and behavioral health psychology.
“The unfortunate answer, the not sexy or marketable answer, is that you don’t start with motivation, that’s not what you look for,” he explained.
“You have to start with what I call grit. You have to go when you don’t want to go.
“You have to force yourself. It’s going to be way more comfortable to lie in bed watching Netflix, being comfortable, eating what you want to eat, than getting up and going to the gym and doing the things you know you should be doing in order to achieve your goals.”
Syatt recommends setting yourself a 30-day challenge to, say, go to the gym four times a week.
“I like these short term challenges because if you can do them, and you can, then what happens is you grit the f— up for those 30 days, then within those 30 days you’ll start to see results. And from those results you’ll get more motivation to continue on past those 30 days,” said Syatt, who is Gary Vee‘s personal trainer.
This is the “action — results — motivation” loop which Syatt believes is the key to reaching your goals.
However, in order to make sure you form new habits, it’s essential to try not to make your lifestyle switch too drastic.
“Some people do these 30-day challenges and they do something outrageously extreme: they’ll go to the gym every day and cut their calories outrageously, and it’s not something that’s sustainable,” he said.
“You want to give yourself a challenge that’s sustainable for an entire 30 days, and that way you’ll take the action and then you get the results, then you get the motivation that cycles back to the action.”
Another important mindset switch is to move away from the idea of training being about aesthetic results. The reason for this is that changing the appearance of your body takes so much longer than people think (especially if you’re doing it healthily and sustainably), and if that’s your only reason for going to the gym or a HIIT class, you’re bound to feel demotivated.
Instagram fitness sensation Kelsey Wells actually believes this is the biggest misconception people hold about exercise. “Fitness is not about aesthetics, fitness is about your health,” the American trainer told INSIDER. She believes it’s totally fine to have aesthetic goals, but they shouldn’t be your main motivation for working out.
“There’s nothing wrong with your body changing or having physical goals so long as they’re attainable for your body type and you’re going about them in a healthy way,” Wells explained.
“But the problem becomes when that’s your driver — you’ll never be satisfied, you’ll always be picking yourself apart, you’ll feel like it’s taking too long, you’ll think it’s not working and will just feel discouraged.”
Instead, set yourself non-aesthetic goals — that might be doing a pull-up, swimming 20 lengths of front crawl without a break, or managing to stick to the beat throughout a whole spin class. Having something like this to work towards, provided it’s not too ambitious and is actually realistic, will help you stay driven.
Wishing you well,
As INSIDER’s Senior Lifestyle Reporter and a self-confessed fitness fanatic, Rachel Hosie is fully immersed in the wellness scene and is here to answer all your burning questions. Whether you’re struggling to find the motivation to go for a run, confused about light vs. heavy weights, or don’t know whether you should be worried about how much sugar is in a mango, Rachel is here to give you the no-nonsense answers and advice you need, with strictly no fad diets in sight.
Rachel has a wealth of experience covering fitness, nutrition, and wellness, and she has the hottest experts at her fingertips — she regularly speaks to some of the world’s most knowledgeable and renowned personal trainers, dietitians, and coaches, ensuring she’s always up-to-date with the latest science-backed facts you need to know to live your happiest, healthiest life.
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