Roadmap to Motivation

“How do you find the motivation to stay so consistent?” This is a question I get so many times, and when I do, I’m often surprised by it. What surprises me is not that this IS a question, because it’s one I had for so long, but rather that my fitness practices are so deeply ingrained that I don’t even think about it anymore.

Working out wasn’t always a thing for me. I didn’t always like it, I didn’t always work at it, and I wasn’t always consistent with it. It was just something I did because I like to eat.

Over the course of the last several years, though, there’s has been a shift in my perception and emotional attachment to fitness. It’s something I look forward to (and some days I look forward to just getting it done), and I love how I feel when I do workout.

So how do I find the motivation? I have a long-established, deep-seeded philosophy that starts with believing in yourself. But if we break that down even further, here’s how to find your own motivation.

Find your why

Our why should sustain us through the easy days and the really crappy days. We will have those days when we ask ourselves, “why the (bleep) am I doing this?!?!” We want the rational part of our brains to have an answer at the ready. “I want to get healthy for my family.” “I want to take better care of myself.” “My doctor says I’m at risk of disease if I don’t get my weight under control.” Whatever that “why” is, own it. Write it down. Begin your journey with a purpose – a destination of sorts. Without a map of where we are going, we wander about purposeless.

Have a goal

You have a destination, now you want to set your compass. We need to get from here to there by setting a waypoint. A goal is most effective if you can see it from where you stand. Something small to get you started, like finishing a 5k, or your first Sprint Triathlon, is attainable yet challenging enough to help you believe you can get it done. If it’s too big and you miss the target, it’s tough to get past that defeat and keep trying. Guarantee your victory with an accessible goal.

Have a plan

Training Plans are your map – your visual guide of how to get to where you are going. These can be the most fun, because you can see daily accomplishments. For example, print out your plan and use stickers, markers or other fun stuff to show your completed workouts, or draw big red Xs over them. Make it yours. Make it fun. When you see those days go by and your calendar fill up with stickers, or green completion statuses, you will find more drive.

Be accountable/go social

Our journeys can sometimes be lonely, so find someone close to you who has either similar fitness goals, or who has been there. It could also be a dear friend who loves you so much they desperately want to see you succeed, and will kick your butt if you fall off the wagon. Tough love is a careful balance, but if you find someone who will be your support crew, keep them. Being accountable to someone helps us get out the door, especially if we are meeting them for the run or for coffee after. You can also find Facebook groups of like minded people who are on a similar journey. It is comforting to know that you are not the only one who struggles, and you can brag about your victories as well. My favorite Social Media app is Strava – you can follow other people’s journeys and leave KUDOS for them.

Take small steps at first

Making wholesale changes across the board is like peeling out of the driveway at top speed. It may not be sustainable, and can lead quickly to burnout and/or dropping out. For example set one goal – only one – goal the first week. Maybe that is to walk/run 3 times for 3 miles. Maybe that is drinking 70 ounces of water every day. When you do that one goal, repeat it the next week and add another goal. Then another the following week. Each one revs the engine a little more and gets the flywheel going. It’s tough to get started, but once you make the habit stick, it’s easier to keep going.

Log it

Keep track of as much as possible by writing it in some kind of journal or log. This can be a pretty journal, a spiral notebook, a digital file, or online journal. If you want to make your journey public, start a blog and invite your close friends and family to read it. The key to the journal though is to be completely honest. If the workout sucked and you can’t find thing one that went right, say so. If you feel like you are turning into a Greek god or goddess because you had an awesome sweat session, say that too. Training journals help you gauge what works and what doesn’t.

Change the language, change the attitude

When listening to or reading about others’ journeys, nothing hurts my heart more than when someone says, “I’m slow,” or “I don’t think I could ever do that,” or “I wish I could…” These statements are self-defeating and comparative. The only person you should be comparing yourself to is who you were yesterday. Instead, say to yourself, “I’m running!” “Look at what I just did!” “I am stronger now.” Also, turn the workout into a positive, rather than something that you have to do. Say to yourself, “I get to go running today,” and see what happens to your attitude and motivation.

Conquer, celebrate, repeat

The time has come to put the pedal to the metal (or medal), and show off the hard work you’ve been putting in. It’s time to shine, go after that goal, and crush it! Cross that finish line with your arms raised high, screaming and hollering even if you feel like you are going to puke. Look at what you just did! Now go have a hamburger and a beer, kiss that medal and your family, then in the post-race haze, start the process all over again. Next time, go farther, dig deeper, go faster…Dream Bigger.

The motivation will come. Believe in yourself, because you can.

Please share your motivation techniques in the comments. Go get ’em, RunJunkies.