I want to tell two stories that may help you better understand why fitness motivation sometimes feels elusive.
The first happened almost 20 years ago. I call it my dark season at work. A decision was made by others to change my job. It was the right decision, but it still hit me hard. That led to an emotional downward spiral that lasted longer than it should have. I hated going to work and wanted to quit, but didn’t.
The second is more recent. I added squats to my fitness routine. The reason was to “improve” my glutes. I’ve tried squats before and did not enjoy them, but I thought I would like the benefits enough to overcome that. I stuck with it for a few weeks but eventually quit. I hate squats.
On the surface both outcomes make sense. I’m not the first person who wanted to quit their job, but stuck it out. Nor, am I the first person who started a fitness routine only to quit when it never got fun.
But, beneath these obvious outcomes is the fascinating underworld of motivation. We often think of motivation as something driven by emotion. It’s actually far more complex. And, understanding that might help you to successfully restart your fitness journey.
Motivation is Rooted in What You Value…Not How You Feel
If motivation is based on how we feel I would have quit my job just like I quit doing squats. I hated both. But, that’s not what motivates us to make the decisions we make and take the actions we take. It’s what we value.
When I was struggling with my job, Ava and I had five children….number six came later. It was my responsibility to pay for everything. Making those mortgage payments and buying food were pretty important. I also value stability. Conversely, I don’t value risk. These values, responsibility and stability, were far stronger the the emotions I was feeling. And, those emotions were pretty intense. Because of what I valued, I was motivated to keep going to a job I didn’t like and not look for another one.
Obviously, there was far less riding on whether or not I do squats, but it’s still an interesting comparison because here was something I didn’t like doing and did quit. The motivation for adding squats was vanity. That’s what I valued…how I looked.
So, if I hated doing both, why did I stick with one and quit the other? Because values don’t exist in a vacuum.
You Lose Motivation When Something Else You Value is Stronger
When I wanted to quit my job, responsibility and stability weren’t the only values at play. I also value job happiness. It’s actually very important to me. That’s why that season was so hard. I had what I considered the perfect job until it got changed.
(By the way…I’m still at the same radio station. I love my job, and have for a long time. I work for and with great people. I recently wrote about what finally turned it around HERE)
During that struggle there were competing values. On one side responsibility and stability. On the other job happiness. The first two were stronger so I stayed. If that had been reversed I would have been motivated to find a different job.
But, with the squats I did quit. The value competing with my vanity was my comfort. To be clear, I don’t mind a certain level of discomfort, but squats exceed that. So, after a few weeks of doing those dumb things I finally had enough. I valued the comfort of not squatting far more than what I perceived the end result (cute pun, huh?)
Is It Possible To Change Your Motivation?
I began my fitness journey about ten years ago. My motivation, then, was rooted primarily in two things…appearance and health. My weight was starting to creep up and I didn’t like where the extra pounds were landing.
At the same time I was getting concerned about my health. I was experiencing occasional blood sugar issues. I could feel it. Since there is a history of diabetes on both sides of my family I suspected I was headed in that direction.
So…I started running. I wanted to get my weight under control before it got out of control and I wanted to feel better. I was willing to endure a great deal of discomfort to make those two things happen. That’s how motivation works. I found something I valued a lot more than being comfortable.
Fast-forward to the present. My fitness routine no longer includes running. Instead I walk 20,000 steps every day. I also do a high intensity cardio workout for 20 minutes each morning and strength training four times a week. The extra weight is gone and all my recent physicals indicate I am healthy. I feel good too!
The value that now fuels my fitness motivation is health freedom. I’m at that place in life where old age is no longer an abstract concept. I want to keep doing the things I enjoy for a very long time. It’s an incredibly strong motivator!
How I look is much less important, but clearly not totally unimportant. But, as a stand alone value it is not strong enough to overcome the discomfort I feel doing squats.
So, can I change my motivation to do squats? Yes…as long as I can find something about squats that I value enough to endure the discomfort which I hate.
Squats are called the “king of all exercises” because their health benefits are massive. For me, these two benefits mean the most.
- Squats are a functional exercise that make real life activities easier. This is a huge benefit for aging well.
- Squats help maintain mobility and balance. Again, this is so important as you get older.
Now, I have something about squats that I value more than vanity. And, I believe these values are stronger than the competing value of momentary comfort.
So, let’s put this to the test.
I am going to use my own Five Part Plan to Win at Fitness and add squats back into my routine. (You can click on each of these to read more about the plan)
Start Small – I am going to start with five squats a day
Think Long – I am making a commitment to do this every day for a year. This will help make it a long-term habit
Add Links – Each day I reach my target adds a new link to my Fitness Chain. Can’t break the chain! I will also use the Win Tracker to help keep me on target
Never Quit – There will be days I don’t feel like doing the squats, but I can’t quit. Here are five weapons I can use to keep me moving forward on those difficult days
Do More – Every 90 days I will increase my daily target to build momentum
So, there it is. A different and stronger value for adding squats back in to my fitness routine. To be clear, I don’t feel that rush of excitement that often accompanies a new adventure. I doubt I will ever enjoy squats, but I do feel confident that my motivation will come from how much I value the long-term benefits and that will keep me going.
And, if it improves my glutes…that would be OK too.
If you have struggled with what feels like lost motivation for your fitness journey, see if you can find a stronger value than whatever it is that keeps derailing your routine. A friend has recently restarted her fitness journey with new motivation because she has found her “deeper why”. You can too.
I would also suggest you use the Five Part Plan to Win at Fitness. Even with the right motivation it’s still possible to fail because you try and do to much too fast. Click HERE to get started.
Do you want to Win at Fitness? It’s not easy, but it is possible! Goal 20,000 Steps can help with articles that will inspire and guide you to success. If you click the FOLLOW button (below on your phone…to the right and above if you’re on a computer) you’ll get each article sent right to you the moment it is published.
You really can Win at Fitness! We’ll help you get there One Step at a Time.