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I’ve been going to the gym on and off for five years. I go from fully committed, getting great results, great diet, etc. to falling off and starting again. I can’t figure out how to get motivated and stay consistent.
If this is a priority for you, stop allowing training and good nutrition to be a choice based on how you feel, or on motivation.
Where training is concerned, sit down and plan out what you will do each day, where, and for how long. Figure out the best way to fit that into your schedule.
Then put those sessions on the calendar, just like you would, say, a kid’s practices that you had to get them to every week, or a regularly scheduled volunteer commitment.
Inform any interested parties that this time is not negotiable; it’s off limits. Then treat it as exactly what it is—a commitment you’ve made to yourself.
Getting motivated, or how you happen to feel about doing it in the moment of getting in the car (or going to your home gym, or wherever you plan to go to exercise) doesn’t matter.
Even if you feel tired, or furious that you have to do it—do it. You wouldn’t skip the volunteer commitment just because you weren’t feeling it, right? This is no different.
The good news is (and you probably know this already) that as soon as you start, you’ll start to feel happy about it, and you’ll feel proud when you’re done.
Life happens; work around it
I’ve said that you should keep your training time off-limits. That’s fine in theory, but life does happen. Sometimes schedules go off the rails (for all kinds of reasons).
And I would never, ever suggest that you should miss your kid’s big baseball game or that holiday party with your partner because that was your scheduled gym time. Let’s keep our priorities straight.
However, you can more easily maintain a habit of not missing workouts by expecting the unexpected. Figure out how you can handle a situation where your gym time really does need to get moved because of an important and immovable conflict. What are some alternate (though probably less ideal) days/times you could go if your regular schedule has to be changed?
Maybe your job will have you traveling on a training day. If that’s the case, scout gym options at the hotel or nearby (nearly every gym offers day passes) before you leave for your trip. Then, actively game out how you will fit training into your schedule at your destination.
Meal planning and more
The same principles hold for diet. You need habits and systems that make it as easy as possible to stick to your food program, whatever that is.
For many people, this comes in the form of meal prep, which removes the need to think or make choices about what you’re going to eat and makes it fast and easy to prepare food.
Even if you don’t meal plan/prep per se, you can use similar principles; find meals and recipes that you know fit your goals, and create a meal rotation using those.
And be sure to consider things like your schedule and how much energy you’re going to have to prepare these meals. Don’t plan to make a dinner that takes three hours to prepare if you’re likely to have to work late; that’s a recipe for disaster, or at least DoorDash. If this is a common problem for you, seriously consider doing meal planning/advance preparation; if that’s not viable, plan (and shop for food in advance) for quick, easy meals on busy weeknights so you won’t be tempted to go off program simply due to sheer exhaustion.
If you find yourself having to eat out a lot, make lists of healthy options that you enjoy at the types of restaurants where you tend to go, so you don’t get caught out and end off swerving off your program. If I’m going out to a new place, I try to check the menus online ahead of time and devise a loose plan of attack before I ever leave my house.
At home, make it harder for yourself to eat foods that tend to throw you off track. If at all possible, just don’t buy them; discipline and motivation matter much less when you don’t have the option in the first place. If other people in your house eat those foods, try to come up with alternatives you can choose that are a better fit with your goals.
Change your identity
It’s a lot easier to form habits consistent with your goals if you identify with the person you intend to become. So start thinking of yourself as someone who works out regularly and eats right: “I’m someone who goes to the gym.” “I am someone who keeps my commitments to myself.”
Better yet, think of yourself as an athlete. This is training. Athletes train whether they feel like it or not. They eat what they’re supposed to, whether they feel like it or not. So do you.
Not everyone needs to do this. But if you’re asking how to stay motivated and consistent, then diet and exercise must matter to you.
If that’s really true, this is the way.
Now go do it, badass! You’ve GOT this!! 💪🏼🔥💛
(If after all of this you still feel like you’re really struggling with being inconsistent and forming habits that stick, I highly recommend the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. It’s a game-changer and reflects/expands on many of the ideas in this post.)
Got questions about lifting, training, competing, or any related topics? Send ‘em my way!