You see the fitness models on the magazine covers. You look at the athletes with the stamina to win the match at the final hurdle. You know all about the health risks of being overweight and the benefits of being fit. You still can’t motivate yourself to get to the gym.
It’s because humans are habitual creatures. Our brains are genuinely resistant to change. Unless it sees an urgent reason to change, it’ll urge you to stay you the same. Your brain isn’t interested in your long-term self-improvement objectives. It just wants to keep you comfortable – and comfort doesn’t reside within new habits.
That’s why your mind tricks into believing you’d rather stay in bed or watch one more episode of your favorite Netflix series. If you haven’t been fit and active in a while, you’ll struggle to find the energy to fight against it.
How to find motivation
The solution is to find that urgent reason to change. This is called ‘leverage,’ and it’s the ultimate weapon in the battle against laziness.
As Bill Walsh says: "If you’re why is strong enough, you’ll find your how."
There are plenty of ways to create leverage. One popular method is competition. Find a friend who’s also looking to lose weight and challenge him to a battle of the scales. Whoever loses the most weight in a designated period is the winner. You can choose prizes for the winner, or even better, forfeits for the loser. The bigger the scale of these prizes, the more leverage you’re creating. An alternative way to leverage your competitive streak is to get into a sport in which the competitors rely heavily on fitness to succeed. As an experienced boxer, I can testify that the thought of losing a fight provides excellent motivation to be fitter than your opponent.
Another great tactic is to create accountability. Make a public promise to reach a specific fitness target. Social media has made this easier than ever. The goal can surround weight loss, or it can be to compete in a particular event. Many people sign up to run a marathon for charity when they’re incredibly unfit. Once they see the sponsor money rolling in, they find themselves to become fit enough to run 26.2 miles.
Your ‘why’ might involve looking great by a specific date. No-one wants to look fat in their wedding photos, or by the pool during their family holiday. It might be to prove someone wrong who said you couldn’t do it. It could be to get back at an ex who dumped you for being a fat slob. Whatever motivation gets your emotions pumping, write this down and hold onto it.
How to stay motivated
It’s important to regularly remind yourself of your ‘why,’ so put your written goal somewhere you’ll see it regularly. If there’s an image, you can print out, even better. Our emotions respond much better to pictures than words. Ideally, it’ll be somewhere you can see when it’s time to make that decision whether to work out or not. If you’re getting up early to go running, put it by your bed next to your shorts and trainers. If you’re heading to the gym after work, put it on your car’s dashboard.
It’s natural to lose motivation if your final goal is too far away, so set yourself mini-goals to hit every couple of weeks or so. Take photos of your progress after you reach each mini-goal. As you see yourself in the mirror every day, this is the only way to track improvements in your appearance honestly. Once you know how far you’ve come, you should be more motivated to go further.
Finally, be aware your motivation should improve over time. When you first start, you’ll have less energy. You’ll get tired quicker. Working out will hurt more.
It’s widely agreed that it takes the brain around 28 days to get used to a new habit. After this period, you should find it easier to get your ass to the gym.
From here, it’s all about patience. You’ll still have to days you won’t want to go, but that’s where your ‘why’ comes in. Stick to your routine, and you’ll have the body you want before you know it.