Motivation: Risk & Reward
After a bit of a writing hiatus, I thought I would revive my blog with a slightly different tone: honesty. It's not that I haven't been honest before now, but I've perhaps been playing it safe, so let's peel back some of that friendly bullshit and get straight to it.
I often get asked how I stay motivated and I don't think there is an easy answer that can fully help anyone. I'm going to share with you my own experience and reasons for training with a few simple things I rely on to keep me going.
First off, I didn't wake up fit, nor was I very overweight as young adult. I had a hell of an awkward puberty phase (thanks, hormones) and I was maybe a little plump in my teens, but it was only in my mid twenties that the proverbial shit hit the fan. And I can also tell you right now that it wasn't a 12 week program or one special diet that got me to where I am now. Fitness is not a quick fix, but it's a damn good remedy to a whole lot of good stuff, so keep reading.
Secondly, it wasn't only one thing that made me fat. Well, sort of, a steady surplus of calories can be blamed, yes, but my weight was more than just eating. It was an accumulation of feelings I hadn't dealt with. I started exercising with the intention of losing weight and bettering myself around four years ago when I was at my lowest with my mental health and fed up with me, my body and the way I felt.
I had been on anti-depressants for a couple of years, I smoked, I drank quite heavily and I was generally negative with myself (but rosey with others). I'd suffered from anxiety since I was sexually molested as a child and growing up in a household where alcohol was abused definitely contributed to my unhealthy mental state and dysfunctional relationship with substances like alcohol.
When I started training my motivation was simple; I wanted change. I didn't want to be the victim of circumstance and I had nothing to lose, but weight. I genuinely didn't know what else to do. I had tried all sorts of self-hating starvation diets like juicing, protein meal replacement shakes, diet pills and all that crap. I felt weak, pathetic, ashamed, helpless, fat and alone. So what was the worst that could happen if I exercised?
Woody (my partner) has been unwavering in his support and kindness throughout all this. (Thanks, babe.) He suggested I try the BBG workouts by Kayla Itsines and convinced me to try bouldering, and so began my journey along this path I'm now on. Let me tell you right now, there were tears. Oh my darling, there were big crocodile tears! I cried when I couldn't do more than four push-ups on my knees, because my wrists hurt too much. I cried in the car ride home from the climbing gym when I was ashamed that I couldn't do a climb that should have been easy. I cried in the shower with self-loathing at who I was. Getting fit is not a joy ride, or at least it wasn't for me. I battled. I fought my inner voice everyday that said 'just give up', 'just stop', 'why even try?', 'just stay in bed instead of train' and 'just order Chinese takeaway' when I didn't feel like cooking, because at the very beginning you are trying something blind and hoping for change.
It took a while for me to see any changes, but I started seeing improvements in my capabilities and eventually my strength, my sleep, my stamina and most importantly with my mood. I kept at it and eventually I started noticing changes in my body. My jeans fitted better and eventually I needed new jeans. Those visible results always mentally feel the most rewarding, but for me it's the lifestyle changes that I appreciate the most now. I value my health and wellbeing. I invest time, love and effort in being the best me for me.
So what does this all mean for you? The point that I'm trying to highlight is that in order to achieve any goal there has to be a personal motivation for wanting it. Nobody is going to motivate you into exercising, at least not in the long term. There isn't a magic pill to make it better. It takes hard work, commitment, being honest with yourself and staying focused. Once you've set your intensions it's a matter of taking responsibility for your life, your choices and your journey. When it all starts to go a bit off track, you need to bring the focus back on what you want. Only you can create the change you want.
Here are 10 tactics I use to stay motivated:
1. Be honest
It takes a lot of bravery to take a good hard look at yourself and honestly think about what are causing pain points in your life. Take the time to identify all the excuses you have that are limiting your potential. Don't let excuses keep you trapped in a victim cycle due to fear. Taking responsibility for the things that can be changed gives you the control.
2. Create goals
Make your goals simple, specific, time bound, actionable and doable. An example would be: I want to lose weight (simple), I'd like to lose 5kg in 2 months (time bound and doable) and in order to do that I need to eat a bit better than I am right now (actionable). Write it down. This study shows that writing your goals down is more effective than not.
3. Keep track
Record your progress that is relevant to your goal, so whether it's noting your PBs in the gym, the mileage you're running, your calories consumed, your weight or measurements or if it's your mental health. Keep an account of what's going on with yourself if you have a specific goal, so that you can measure your success and can learn from your failings.
4. Accept risk
You have to be willing to push your boundaries and go beyond your comfort zone if you want to grow. The first bit is always the hardest, as it feels the most risky. Yes, it's scary and you will have to confront some of those fears you have hidden in a shoe box under your bed, but it's worth it. Change is involves a lot of risks with a whole load of unexpected rewards.
5. Fail gracefully
You're going to fail, accept it and create an opportunity to learn. Don't waste your time beating yourself up over a cheat meal that became a cheat weekend that slipped into Monday and Tuesday. My biggest failing is overtraining to the point of injury and having to spend ages recovering. It's frustrating, but it happens. We learn a lot about our shortcomings when we fall. Embrace those bits that you invest so much time into degrading yourself and make them your strengths. I now train smart and distribute my training sessions into smaller chunks to suit my lifestyle better.
6. Visualise it
Eyes on the prize! Remind yourself about your goals. Visualise it and make it happen. Put sticky notes up!! When I struggle with mental blocks I put sticky notes up on my mirrors and make myself repeat it. Your thoughts are powerful. If you are prone to negative chat with yourself then put up reminders about how awesome you are and why you want change. There are studies that have linked mental power to physical power, like this one. Flex that brain and use it to create positivity in your life and others.
Share your experiences with others and ask for help. There is no shame in not knowing. Find people on the same wavelength and connect to a community of people that will support you. This will help you stay on track and keep you motivated.
Now without sounding super clichéd, but it's true for a reason... believe in yourself. This come back to the visualisation point and if you struggle with this then make some really corny sticky notes and make the unimaginable possible! You have to actually believe you are capable of achieve your goals if you are going to do it. If you are really lacking in the self-faith department, then fuck it, do it anyway, because that's what risk is all about! Sometimes you need to just jump in head first, face your fears and blindly trust it's going to be ok.
9. Focus on you
Take time acknowledge your efforts and reward your good behaviour. If you are the type to be hyper critical of yourself, then remember to take a break from self-deprecation once in a while to create room for self-love and bit of breathing space to feel happy about your efforts towards an improved you. Don't compare yourself to others, this will only result in feelings of inadequacy. Everyone is on their own journey and have their own stuff to deal with. You do you. For the first six or so months after I quit smoking I used to buy myself a bunch of flowers on a Friday to celebrate being good to myself. I still occasionally do this, as a reminder of how far I've come. Find ways to keep your focus.
10. Have fun!
What would all of this be if it wasn't a bit of fun? Now I know what you are thinking, how can exercise be fun and as mentioned I have had my share of tears, but I also laughed a lot along the way, especially at myself! It isn't a race, it's your health and your life, and your fitness. You don't need to be thin in 12 weeks and the scale is a poor measure of your effort! Learn to enjoy moving more by removing some of the pressure you place on yourself. Finding a class you like, or going to a new type of workout with friends, getting creative with your running routes or just having an awesome playlist are easy ways to make exercise enjoyable.
I hope this helps! Please leave comments below if you have any questions or suggestions on how to stay motivated, as I love hearing your thoughts!
Till next time, stay focused! xx