At the risk of embarrassing myself, I’m going to let you all in on a little secret. When I was 13 years old I went on my first roller coaster. I had successfully fought the peer pressure for years, but on this day, my attempts were no match for the large group of rowdy 8th grade boys I found myself at King’s Dominion with. Two minutes and enough girly screaming to last a lifetime later, I was hit with a very profound realization…I hated roller coasters more than I thought I did. It’s been 15 years since that fateful day but it remains my one and only roller coaster experience. I have ZERO desire to ever step foot on another roller coaster for as long as I live. The heights, the big drops….it’s just too much for me to handle.
We’re All On A Coaster…Just Maybe With a Little Less Girly Screaming
Of course this isn’t the only type of roller coaster that I’d like to avoid. As most anyone who has ever worked out has probably realized, your motivation levels can often be a roller coaster of sorts. You go through periods where you are willing to do ANYTHING to make changes in your body. You feel on top of the world and there’s nothing that can stop you…until you come off this high and you fall into low motivation periods. During times of low motivation you’ll find you’ll often convince yourself why you don’t have time for the gym, you’ll cut workouts short, and you’ll slack on your clean eating. This isn’t permanent though and in a few weeks or months, you’ll likely be back on top of the world, telling all your friends on Facebook how hard you’ve been working out…until you lose the motivation again. This cycle happens for everyone and is the primary reason you aren’t making any real progress.
You see, these periods of fleeting motivation prevents you from realizing the most important thing when it comes to changing your body and health; consistency. Consistency (and a well-designed fitness plan) breeds success. When you can’t stay consistent, you can’t make progress. You’ll take one step forward-one step back as long as you remain on the motivation coaster. I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing more frustrating than putting in the time and effort to work out and seeing little to no progress.
My Personal Coaster Ride
I’ve had my own experiences on the motivation coaster, and let me tell you, it’s no fun. I’d workout like a freak for 3-4 months then get burnt out and take a month or two off. This repeated from the age of 18 to about 24. It wasn’t until the past few years that I’ve discovered what it takes to get off the track to nowhere. For me it was all about setting lofty yet realistic goals. Don’t set a goal of, “I want to lose 10 pounds”…set a goal of, “I want to run 10 miles non-stop”. Once you hit your goal, bump it up. By seeing constant progression, you’ll be more likely to keep working out. Additionally, make your goals known to as many people as you can. Let Facebook, Twitter, or your own personal blog help you with this. When other people know of your plans, you are now accountable. Personally, I’d feel like a real doofus if I told everyone I knew I would be running a marathon in October then never got around to doing it. Indirectly make other people hold you accountable.
I’ve been using the method of progressive goal setting for the past four years and have successfully kept myself off the motivation coaster. It all started with a goal of wanting to do working sets of 225lbs on bench press (I’m a recovering meathead, cut me some slack). Then I wanted to run a 5K. Then I wanted to be able to swim a mile non-stop. Then it was get to <10% body fat.
My goals have progressed quite a bit in 4 years…. Just this morning I was awake at 5AM, out the door by 5:45, and in the swimming pool by 6:15. Today was a training day. A one mile swim, 25 mile bike ride, 6.2 mile run…all before 9 AM. Could I (or more importantly, WOULD I) have done this just a few years ago? No way. I had no reason to. Wanting to be ripped, lean, and athletic is too vague of a goal. My goal at the moment, and what I’m training for, is an Ironman race at the very end of this year. I know what it takes to compete in one of these and if I’m missing workouts, achieving this goal isn’t happening. For those that don’t know, an Ironman is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and if that wasn’t enough… a full marathon to finish things off….not something to take lightly.
Since I made the decision to take on this challenge I’ve made more progress than I have in the past 8 years combined. I’m in the best shape of my life and know the ONLY reason for this is my consistency. Six days a week I’m in the gym, pool, yoga studio, on the beach playing soccer, or riding a bike. My motivation has never been higher, I’m on pace to achieve my goals, and I couldn’t be more content with how things in my life are going at the moment.
How to Avoid the Motivation Coaster
- Use progressive goal setting to continually push yourself harder. Start small and build your way up.
- Keep yourself accountable; let others know about your goals and think about this when you want to skip workouts and/or back out of the goal you’ve set.
- Constantly measure, track, and acknowledge your progress, no matter how minimal.
I’d love to hear some of the fitness aspirations that you guys have. What are some of your biggest fitness goals at the moment?