If you are exercising yourself, or you are in the fitness and health industry, you must have heard waaaay more than once from other people that exercising gets boring and when motivation is gone, they have extremely hard time staying on track with their plan. And when it happens more than once, then frustration builds up, and each consecutive attempt of “New Year resolution” or “Beach Season preparation” becomes harder and harder to finish, because you already start the phase with “I’ve done it so many times and failed” mindset.
It is hard. However it is still possible to be in love with active lifestyle and exercising for many years without feeling like you are forcing yourself to do it. Let’s try to find out how is it possible:
Do not try to stick for short-term goals for a long time. Have an end date in mind when you start
Young guys are in constant quest for the best way to get buff and muscular, as well as gain weight. Young girls are in constant quest to become thinner, smaller, skinnier, leaner, you get the point. When boys become older, sedentary, quit sports, gain fat and start drinking beer to relax, they start talking about “being fit“, or “getting in shape“, or “lose few inches”. Women, when growing older, don’t give up their goal of losing weight, and then losing some more weight, and some more…. and then few inches here and there… and few more pounds down… and to flatten the stomach… and maybe one or two pounds less and it will be perfect. When everyone gets older, it doesn’t matter whether you a man or a woman, but the goal becomes more and more common – older people want to be able to move, to be able to do various stuff and enjoy life – independent, pain-free and active.
Here is a lesson that we can learn from it – when you have a short-term goal, such as muscle gain or fat loss, do not try to stick to this goal for a long time, because it will drain your energy and demotivate you. Weight management goals are short-term, they are demand high level of dedication and discipline, as well as certain outcome in the end. If you, however, decide to lose few pounds of weight, and start weight loss- program with no knowledge when it’s going to end, you are almost inevitably falling into the rut of following this program for too long. Why? Because not a single training protocol in the world works forever. Your body adapts and learns how to save energy, how NOT to burn that extra energy, how NOT to lose few more inches or few more pounds. Therefore, the longer you stick to this program, the less results you see. It is quite obvious. However in my everyday practice I see people doing the same routine for years, and still hoping to lose that stubborn 3 pounds of fat, or to gain that stubborn 3 pounds of muscle.
Long term mindset
Exercising is one of those odd areas of our lives where amount of superstitions, rumors, beliefs, and guesses is overflowing compared to actual information. One of those beliefs is that when you achieve your goal of losing or gaining few pounds, all you need to do is to “maintain”. Imagine yourself in the first grade, when you had to learn the alphabet: A, B, C… Then once you done with it, you tell yourself – I’ve done the task, from now on I will maintain this knowledge and there is no need for anything else. It doesn’t make sense, does it? The amount of knowledge and skills you have to acquire to graduate from school is thousands of times bigger than simple alphabet. And, you guessed it right, same thing with your own body – when you reach you initial goal, there is always so much more stuff ahead of you. In the end, you do want to live long, happy, healthy, independent, fun, active life, don’t you? Compared to the goal like that 3 pounds of excessive weight are like alphabet for a first grader – you may start with it, but you will never finish with it.
At this point I often receive an objection – Alex, but what if my goal is REALLY only weight loss/gain? What if I ACTUALLY don’t want to do anything else? All I can say, again, is to think long term. Will it be the same goal in 10 years? Or 20? Or 30 years from now? I mean, seriously, if you want to lose 5 pounds of fat, for over 30 years, then there is something seriously wrong with it. 5 pounds of fat are normal to lose in 5 weeks stress free. If you don’t know how, ask for a trainer and a nutritionist. But if all you are worried is these silly 5 lbs, then you are missing on the opportunity to enjoy things in life while you are living this life.
Plan ahead and plan in cycles
So what’s the plan now? The plan is to practice the way that you enjoy your exercising, not stress out about it. I learnt from Dan John quite some time ago about his yearly cycle – 1) in the fall he is playing football, 2) in the winter he is lifting weights, preparing himself for upcoming athletic season and goes through fat loss phase; 3) in the spring he starts getting more and more outdoors work, since he is in the middle of track season; 4) and during summer months he is enjoying outdoors sports and activities.
Now, here is the key to healthy relationship with your exercise and nutrition routine – start planning when you are going through weight loss or weight gain phase, but also plan to relax and unwind a little afterwards. Again, you can’t go year-long on the weight loss routine. If you can, you are either a superhuman or you already hate your training.
We are cyclic creatures, so why don’t we plan these cycles in our fitness lives? Here is one of my suggestions on how you can keep your motivation high while getting results and enjoying life:
– Summer is time when you should have fun. Make sure you still cover strength part of your training, but you can either shorten it, or be creative and come up with things you can do outdoors, such as TRX training, bodyweight drills, or just have a kettle bell in the trunk of your car and have a quick 15 minutes workout whenever you have a chance. When it comes to conditioning part – you have all the freedom, run, sprint, cycle, swim, hike, canoe, kayak, dragon boat racing, trampoline, rollerblading, horse back riding, badminton, paintball, wall climbing, beach volleyball, mountain biking… You can also sign up yourself for a run, or dragon boat race or a CN Tower climb – have fun with it, don’t overly stress about sticking to long grueling gym workout when you can have both good time and reap health benefits by being outdoors.
– Fall is time for shorter outdoor activities and transferring to gym. I personally like doing hill sprints, or sled dragging or farmers carries during fall time, it’s not insanely hot, so you can survive intensity of these exercises, and at the same time push really hard. Its also good time of the year to go through muscle building routine, and concentrate on building muscular lean body.
– Winter is time for hard strength training in the gym. No frills type of training. Keep the muscle, burn the fat. You still can come up with some fun stuff like skiing, cross-country skiing, or snowboarding, but other than that most of interesting activities are done indoors, such as indoor rock climbing, bouldering, trampolines, etc… It is also psychologically good time to go through intense fat-loss phase, after all the holidays overeating. However, physiologically it’s a little more challenging, since our metabolism is slower during winter.
– Spring is the best time to start complex preparation in terms of both strength and conditioning. Lifting weights is productive, but you don’t have to spend too much time in the gym. Once it gets warmer you also start doing more outdoor activities, anything from gardening and yard work to hiking and cycling.
If you are an athlete, then, of course, your season and competition schedule will dictate your training regime, so modifications will be made.
– Be aware that healthy lifestyle actually requires to stick with it for a lifetime, not just few months.
– Be aware that it can become boring
– Don’t get stuck with your short-term goals for a long period of time. If you failed to reach short-term goal, step back, refocus, spend time doing something else, and then come back and reach that goal
– Be proactive and smart about your long-term goals
– Look for fun while taking care of your health
– Weights and cardio is not everything in fitness. There is so much more to it
– If you feel that your motivation is going down and you don’t know how to boost it up – hire a professional coach, or join organized sport. It will help