Motivation: How to get it and How to keep it

I know, I know. You’ve heard it a million times; “stop comparing yourself to magazine covers” and “those women aren’t real, they’re airbrushed”. Truth be told, that IS the truth. So stop it. Seriously.

We humans have an uncanny way of taking our commitments and turning them into expectations. Our expectations for having a Beach Bod or fitting into a size 2, I admit, comes directly from our media and maybe even the fitness industry itself, or at least what it once was. I am here to release you from those expectations! At least, perhaps, for the time being.

Our commitments are the life-blood of our motivation! How in the world do I as a personal trainer expect my clients to be motivated if not by the promise of incredible and even unrealistic gains and losses? The answer is paradoxical. The promise of those large gains and losses, and the striving for them, leave most people disappointed and deflated, even if they keep the Fitness Magazine dangling in front of them like a carrot on a stick. When one has no integrity in the purpose of their workout, things can fall apart quickly!

Start by asking yourself what is really important to you. Well…what is it? Is it your family? Your career? Your social life? Your health? And it doesn’t necessarily have to be one thing! Our lives are so rich with goodness, sometimes it’s hard to choose! So list them. What in your life brings value to your life? What or whom would you rather not live without? My personal answer, as an example, is mobility. There is almost nothing in life that brings me more joy than dancing with my girlfriends or biking through the city of Chicago. In fact, the thought of being immobile can bring me to tears in an instant! This is where we start to cultivate our commitments and throw away our expectations.

I’ll be totally transparent here: that was not the reason I STARTED working out at the age of 15 with weights and workout videos. I started because I gained my first bit of womanly weight within a month’s time; 12 pounds. I had no idea, but those 12 pounds would send me on a journey through fitness that I could have never imagined. I didn’t love exercising. I did it because I knew that was a way of keeping off weight, and I remember thinking “I REALLY have to do this for the rest of my LIFE!?!?!?” It seemed a cruel joke, ominous almost. Dieting seemed worse, though, so I stuck with it.

The strange thing is I didn’t see that weight drop off, but I stayed committed to working out anyway. There was something else at play; a commitment that I wasn’t even aware of. You see, I come from a family of morbidly obese people, and the thought of gaining weight was terrifying! By the time I was 19 years old, my dad was immobile and had had quadruple bypass surgery. I knew that that life was not for me.

So I urge you to ask yourself again: what is really important to you? I can guarantee you whatever it is, being unhealthy, unenergized, in chronic pain or immobile does not serve that thing. Does it? Write down what those things are and how exercising can directly serve those things in your life. If your family is the most important aspect of your life, list how staying committed to your bodily health can serve them. Do you want to set an example for your children? Live a long life of great adventure and sex with your spouse? Dance at your granddaughter’s wedding? Write down the reasons that come to mind. There is no wrong answer so long as it moves and inspires you.

Next, set up a workout schedule that works for your schedule. Put your workout in your calendar. Pack and prep all necessary things to make that happen, and when the time comes for that dreaded workout, have your list of ‘most important things’ in front of you with all the reasons for your workout. Read it to yourself out loud and make it sound meaningful. This, for you, will create a commitment rather than an expectation. If you want to spend more time with your hubby, wouldn’t creating, in the ways you can control, a longer life for yourself do just that? Don’t let life sidetrack you from what’s really important.

Life is happening all around us and inside of us. For reasons unexplained, we humans need to be reminded of what’s really important. Writing it down and reminding yourself out loud makes it real. I am eternally grateful to that determined and committed 15 year old girl. And believe me, your future self will be thanking you profusely.