What gets you to go back to the gym day after day? What pushes you to finish the long sets, complete your assigned programming, and push yourself to new levels?
It’s so common in the fitness world to talk about motivation like it’s this mythical, physical thing like buried treasure–what to do if we have no motivation, how do we find our motivation and how do we keep our motivation? And what I notice about the lifelong lifters I follow is that while many of them have had a lot of success as competitors, they keep those wins in the larger perspective of how lifting makes them feel and what they learn from it.
And that’s what we hear in this video from Jeff as he heads into a new contest prep. He’s got 8 or so goals he states for his prep, and many of them are internally motivated–to enjoy the process, to learn about himself, to have fun and share this activity with his friends. And the ones that are more external, he still connects them to internal motivators–to educate and inspire others, to fulfill his current potential and be competitive at an “advanced” age–all connect to how those will make him feel and how they reflect his values.
Internal motivators are useful because they are directly in our control, whereas external motivators, like winning a competition or a race or moving a certain amount of weight on the bar, are outside our control. We can control what we do to prepare to some degree, but ultimately, it’s on the judges, who shows up, and numerous random possibilities that influence our performance on the day. So by focusing most of our energy on how we feel doing the work day after day, how an activity reflects our values and so on, we are keeping ourselves in the driver’s seat.
And if we’re not feeling motivated? Then maybe it’s time to reevaluate or at least check in with ourselves. I love lifting, but I admit, I’m not excited to do it every time or for the whole workout. Sometimes, I’m just going through the motions. In those moments, it helps to remind myself why I’m there. For me, there’s the external motivators of wanting to have bigger muscles and to be able to move more weight, but the internal motivators, the things in my control, include:
- Having the time to focus on myself and my own needs in a life when so much of what I do is for others.
- To actively take care of myself and my body so that I’m in as good of health as I can be within my control
- Feeling strong and capable with new challenging physical tasks
- To say “F-you” to the universe for the numerous physical limitations piled on me over the years and refusing to let them define me
Reading that list immediately makes me want to go out to the garage and do the damn thing. My guess is that Jeff’s list does that for him, too.
What’s on your list? What keeps you motivated and inspires you to keep doing the work? You know I’d love to hear about it! (As a side note, I find watching him lift with such intent strangely relaxing and comforting. Do let me know if I’m not alone in that!)
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