A little over a year ago I was featured in an article in the Albuquerque Journal. I had been training for the NPC Muscle Evolution Championships in San Jose, and I was asked how I kept myself motivated with exercise and nutrition. At the time I had been suffering with severe foot pain that I believed to be nerve damage from injuries I sustained as a competitive runner. I made a Facebook post about staying motivated despite setbacks that led to the interview in the local paper. Little did I know at the time, but my pain had nothing to do with nerve damage. Months later I was diagnosed with RA, an autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack it’s own joints.
So much has happened in the 14 months since that interview. I had actually forgotten some of my original responses. So I wanted to go back, reread the article, and see if my perspective about motivation had changed. What I found is that my beliefs are roughly the same, but I would express them much differently now then I did a year ago. I think this is a product of having faced health problems and seeing fitness and life in general through an entirely different lens.
In the interview I described motivation as being an intentional choice and how the mind tends to accept positive thoughts as reality. I still believe those things to be true. However, I wanted to describe intentional choice just a little more clearly. I think we often see motivation as the precursor. In other words, we feel like we must be motivated to be able to take action. However, this view can set us up for failure in a sense. What if I don’t feel like going to the gym or am a little down and don’t want to take that walk. How about food? Perhaps I really don’t want to eat healthier foods or smaller portion sizes? Then I find myself firmly on a path to either abandon my goals midstream or maybe not even bother to pursue them. I am constantly waiting for that feeling of motivation to save the day, much the same way we often wait for a blanket of happiness to cover us at some point in life. It’s just not realistic.
It’s funny because people always think I am naturally motivated all the time. Nothing could be further from the truth. I struggle like everyone else. However, I have learned that taking some type of action always helps. When I had back problems last fall and couldn’t get out of bed, I made it a point to take action with my mind through books and webinars. Oddly enough that is when I decided to start my fitness business. As I recovered I took small actions to become more physically active. And believe me they were very small. I did not have the strength to do much more. But, each little movement forward made me feel better about the future.
There is something I do when I coach clients called ACT: Accountability, Consistency, and Time. This fitness model is based on taking some type of consistent, intentional daily action. In turn, these actions build small habits. The more we practice these new habits, the more confident we become in our ability to stay fit. From this confidence flows the motivation. We like how we look or feel and are encouraged to continue. The point is consistent action leads to change and change brings motivation to achieve further progress. However, the process takes time.
So what can we do to build a sustainable fitness lifestyle over time? Here are the 3 pillars I use for myself and with my clients:
- Accountability: Find someone or something to be accountable to. This could be a workout buddy, personal trainer, or fitness coach. You may want to develop your own accountability system with a written food and exercise journal or use one of the many online sources, such as fitness apps or private Facebook groups. If you choose a coach or trainer, be sure that person is the best fit for your goals. I use both business and fitness coaches who have experience in a specific niche that is best for helping me achieve the things I need in order to be successful in both journeys.
- Consistency: Get consistent where you can. Choose at least one area where you can be consistent in both nutrition and exercise. Keep it simple, realistic, and honest. Make sure it is something that you can actually do. Try to avoid “an all or nothing” approach. Rather, just stay focused on some small changes that you can implement. For example, maybe you pack lunch each day or eat a healthy breakfast or lunch to avoid afternoon cravings. Perhaps you take a 10 to 20 minute walk each day. But again, make it something that is attainable.
- Time: Plan it! Set aside a realistic amount of time to exercise, and schedule it into your day like you would an appointment. In the beginning try to avoid long exercise bouts. Just stay within a certain time limit until your body becomes accustomed to the change. The beautiful thing with this concept is that you are in control of where, when, and how long. Also spend some time planning your nutrition. You don’t necessarily need to spend hours meal prepping. However, do map out some ways to be successful that could include using a meal service, having healthy alternatives available in your fridge, or packing a few items in your gym bag such as protein powder, tuna packets, or fruit so you are never caught hungry while on the go. If you eat out, take the time to choose restaurants that provide healthier options on their menus.
The point of all these steps is simply to take ACTION. I have had so many experiences where clients describe to me situations where they are held hostage by a lack of motivation to exercise or by constant food temptations. So, they take no action at all towards fitness, or they go all out and are quickly discouraged by setbacks. Consistent action encourages us to take control rather than feeling as if circumstances rule or lives.