“So are you training for something, or are you just working out?” – Anonymous
For about 10 years now, since I was 18 and starting college at the University of Illinois, I’ve been seriously devoted to fitness and weight lifting. As a 19 year old, I bought the Arnold Schwarzenegger Bible of Bodybuilding and dog-eared it. I spent precious scant money on protein powder for muscle shakes. Even after becoming a father some years later, taking on a demanding full-time job, and placating the various other demands of marriage and adult life, I managed to maintain a regular and intense (albeit truncated) exercise schedule. Lately though, I’ve been struggling with staying motivated during my workouts. Although I vary my workouts tremendously, I still find myself asking the questions, “Why am I here? Why am I doing this?” So, if the solution to boredom with working out isn’t adding variety to a workout, then what is?
This question might be particularly prescient at the beginning of a new year. Gyms are always packed in January, a little less so in February, and then once March rolls around it’s pretty much back to just the regulars. Of course college gyms are a bit different because there’s always that predictable swell in April when every frat guy is swarming the bench press trying to get a big chest before he gets his drink on during spring break. But for the most part, the rhythm of the New Year ebb and flow of gym crowds is pretty predictable. For most of those that eventually disappear and stop coming, I think the onset of boredom with what they do is to blame for their lack of motivation. These people need something to help motivate them beyond the initial novelty of creating a healthier lifestyle.
What could do this? Personal training? Sure, because it provides accountability and a variety of exercises from a hopefully well-informed exercise professional. Having someone to disappoint if you don’t show up for a workout or don’t perform to their expectations is a powerful tool for increasing persistence in achieving fitness goals. Which brings us to our main focus: goals are extremely important. Even without a personal trainer, goals can push you through the times when your workouts seem like a total grind. The most important thing is having a clear idea in mind of why you’re working out. Are you preparing for a competition? Are you conditioning for a sport or preparing for fight? Do you want to be able to complete 10 repetitions on the bench press at 275 pounds? The clearer that you define your goal, the less likely that you are to develop a really negative sense of ennui and find yourself staring aimlessly at the bar or fiddling with your iPod instead of cranking out reps and getting the hell out. Uh oh, here comes Mr. Chatty Man. This is the guy that always likes to talk about working out more than actually working out. Having a sense of purpose in the gym, built on a solid foundation of knowing why you’re there, will help you avoid him. Instead, you’re likely to be tempted to talk and waste precious time that you could be spending with family and little ones at home.
If it’s been awhile since you’ve set a goal, take a day off from working out, and actually think about what you want to accomplish. Write it down. Post it in three strategic places where you will see it and be reminded of it throughout the day. This way, you’ll be conditioning your mind to envision what you’ve not yet achieved, making it all the more real to you. Happy training.