Today I was listening to one of my favourite fitness related podcasts. The host was doing a Q&A on a number of topics using questions that had been sent in by his listeners. One question came up which was along the lines of “I have a lot of weight to lose, but I’m struggling with motivation. How do I keep motivated?”

I loved the answer to this question and it’s something that I often get asked about as well. The simple answer that I’ve heard before is “you just don’t want it enough”. Whilst there is, perhaps, an element of truth in that I want to offer a different perspective having lived the weight loss experience myself.

The reality is, whatever our goal happens to be staying motivated can be hard work. It’s not something that we just get once when we’ve made a decision and started our journey and then it stays with us for ever. No, it’s a fluctuating thing.

What I want to suggest is that motivation is a constant decision. I’m sure you’ll be familiar with the image of the person who puts a note or picture of themselves on the fridge as a reminder of their goal. As funny as this image might be, it comes from a good place. The thing is, we know ourselves better than anyone. We know what will work for us. It’s finding those things that will help keep us going and putting them in place when we are feeling motivated to help during those times that we don’t.

Something that can be a particular help, if you’re wired this way, is routine. If you have a routine where you exercise every morning before you go to work, or every evening on your way home from work (for instance) then it just becomes part of your day.

Whilst still talking about routine another idea is preparation. In particular meal prep. If you’ve been anywhere around fitness people you’ll have heard this phrase before. The key aspect to preparing food in advance is to take the decision away from the point of consumption. What do I mean here? Well, if you’ve planned and prepared a healthy meal in advance all you have to do is reheat/eat it. This will be completely separate to how you might be feeling that day. So a bad day which might sometimes bring on a lack of motivation towards your goals and result a takeaway or pizza or something (which isn’t inherently bad, I should point out - but I’ll come back to this another time) would actually result in consuming a meal that you had pre-prepared which is likely to serve your nutritional needs slightly better. This is one of the reasons that I have had pretty much the same lunch every week day for the last 4 years. Chicken, broccoli and rice. I don’t mind the taste (I change up the flavour of the chicken regularly) and it has become routine. It is a nutritionally balanced meal that I don’t even have to think about when I batch cook on a Sunday. This takes away any decisions I might need to make at lunch time - as the decision was made ahead of time - hence keeping me on track towards my goals (even if I’m not ‘feeling’ motivated).

When it comes to exercise, working out with a friend or in a group can be a help in those times as well. We can feel like we don’t want to let our friend or others down, so we go ahead and exercise anyway even if we don’t feel like it. Actually, on those occasions when we don’t feel like it we can sometimes have the best workouts!

The truth is, we often don’t feel motivated. “I’m not feeling it today” is a phrase I’ve heard a lot, and I’ve said it myself too. But, even in those times it’s what we choose to do that’s important. Rather than ending that sentence after the word today continue on to say “I’m not feeling it today, but I’m doing it anyway”. This is something I have said to myself with regards to exercise. It’s good to acknowledge how we feel, but then continue to take the action we had planned to because we want to achieve the goals we set.

Lastly, it is OK to lose motivation! Life happens, and sometimes other things get in the way of us making progress towards our goals. In those circumstances rather than beating ourselves up because we did eat the takeaway or didn’t go to the gym (or both!) we should be kind to ourselves. Acknowledge and accept the reality for what it is, take sock, refocus and move on. Tomorrow is another day.

So, in summary:

  • Motivation is a decision

  • Routine can help

  • Prepare meals in advance

  • Workout with friends or in a group

  • Find your own “I’m not feeling it today, but…” mantra

  • Be kind to yourself

Tim Cooper