If you are like most people, your motivation typically peaks in early June, subsides when fall hits, then picks back up for a month or two in early January. This is the workout cycle of millions of people across the globe. With fall well under way, your motivation to hit the gym is probably starting to wane. You worked hard all summer to show off that (almost) six pack, but what’s the point now you may be asking.
I’ll be the first to admit, getting yourself to work out on a Monday evening after work, when it’s dark by 5:30, drizzly, and cold out is a bit tough. The dark, cold weather is definitely a buzz kill and can sap the mental motivation of even the most determined individuals. To make matters worse, the longer the “break” you take from working out, the harder it will be to get back into the swing of things.
In order to achieve the body and lifestyle almost all of us crave, we cannot be seasonal warriors. Working out hard for 6 months a year is great, but it’s the 6 months you’re not working out that is going to really hurt you. One step forward and one step back gets you no where. There’s no point in working out hard for part of the year only to lose all the gains you made. Then, you start right back over when you start working out again. How would it feel to have a six pack next summer, as opposed to the almost there, still soft, sorry excuse for a six pack that you’ll develop after a couple of months of working out and laying off the breakfast burritos.
By working your body hard and then laying off for a few months, you condition your muscles and system in such a way that making long-lasting gains becomes more difficult. If this cycle is repeated long-term, year after year, for multiple years, you’re going to need to work twice as hard to get where you want to be. Since you are having a hard time working hard 12 months a year as it is, you can forget about ever having the body and lifestyle you want.
That said, not all breaks are bad. After 3-4 months of serious exercise, it is good to take a solid 2 weeks off and let your body fully recover. Often times, you will find you are stronger post-break than you were before taking time off. Your muscles really regenerate themselves and come back twice as strong. There is however always the danger that your two weeks off turns into many more. This is where self-discipline and determination come into play. Don’t view your time off as a vacation from exercise. View it is an important part of the process in toning and developing your body. Keep your eating habits during this two weeks off and make the break work for you, not against you.
In order to keep your motivation where it needs to be through the doldrums of winter, there are several things you can do;
- Find indoor activities that you don’t typically take part in during the summer. Start playing pick-up basketball at your gym once a week. Get involved with group fitness classes. Take up kick boxing. The options are endless. Bottomline, find something you wouldn’t typically do during the summer because you’d rather be outside.
- In your workout journal, write down monthly goals for October-January. Each month, give yourself a different goal you want to obtain. Maybe its lose 10 pounds in the month of November. Maybe it’s bench 225 lbs. by the end of December. It doesn’t matter. Studies show that people who have concise, short-term goals will stay more motivated than those that are just aimlessly working out because they feel they have to. Continually shoot for loftier goals and push yourself to complete them.
- Remind yourself why you are working out. We all know how painful working out can be some days. On days like that, remind yourself that you are working out today so that tomorrow isn’t in vain. What’s the point of experiencing the workout pain and struggles every summer and new year’s if you are just going to allow it to fade away when your motivation levels sink. Oft repeated, and a bit cliché, but absolutely true; one step forward and one step backwards gets you no where.
- Take pride in the sacrifice. When you are coming out of the gym all sweaty and the cold evening air hits you, take pride in knowing that you are out there doing something productive while other people are sitting around at home eating crap and packing on the winter pounds. You on the other hand are determined, you are becoming stronger, both and physically and mentally…you are a machine! Take time to appreciate your efforts and accomplishments.
The more you “force” yourself to get to the gym, the easier it becomes the next time. Elementary human psychology tells us that. Tough it out on the “bleh” days and you will notice they become fewer and farther between. Just think how good you are going to look this summer after having worked out for 12 months straight. You are going to be a different person, both physically and mentally. Employ a little self-discipline and the results will follow.