We’ve all been through it before. We justify it to ourselves for many reasons.
Your workout partner stopped going to the gym. You got bored of your program. It’s cold outside. You got injured. You’re too busy. You just don’t feel like going to the gym today.
Before you know it, one day turns into one week. A week into a month, and a month into “it’s been a while since I went to the gym.” Sound familiar?
On the surface it seems simple enough. You have a valid reason for not working out, you keep telling yourself. You would go to the gym, if had you had the time. But why does a small hiccup turn into completely falling off the wagon?
It has to do with psychology, and if you want to lift consistently (which you need to do whether you want fat loss or muscle gain) and prevent a bump in the road from becoming a 6 month break, you need to gain a deeper understanding of what keeps you going.
It’s rare that someone will tell you that they simply lost motivation and can’t seem to get themselves to the gym despite not having a good reason. But this is much more prevalent than most people’s Facebook statuses would have you believe.
And yet many are not actually doing the work. The question is, do they even know why?
When the subject of my being a trainer comes up in conversation, most people respond in one of three ways:
- They tell me about the latest health & fitness article they’ve read.
- They ask for my opinion on what kind of training they’re doing and whether it’s best for fat loss.
- They tell me about why they haven’t been to the gym lately.
Seriously, if everyone were to be taken at their word, I’d be forced to believe that the universe is hard at work conspiring to prevent a large majority of people from working out. I’m talking borderline sinister stuff here.
Clearly I know this not to be true. So let’s talk about why you REALLY keep giving up on the gym.
Reason 1: You haven’t been taught proper exercise technique.
This is an embarassing thing for most people, but why? There is a proper way to perform each and every exercise, and if nobody has taught you what that looks like and feels like, why would you expect to have proper form?
I’m a perfect example of this. I ran my first half-marathon last year, and when I crossed the finish line, my hips were killing me. Want to know why? Because I don’t have proper form. I haven’t been taught proper technique by a running coach, and if I wanted to run another race, I would get some coaching. It’s really quite simple.
The reason why this keeps you away from the gym is, as stated above, embarassment. You don’t want people to know you don’t know how to exercise properly, so you avoid exercising in public. Mission accomplished.
You have a variety of options here, and this is an easy barrier to remove. The simplest way is to hire a trainer (shameless plug). If that’s not in the cards for you, there are tons of articles, blog posts, and YouTube videos for you to peruse at your leisure. There are trainers with YouTube channels filled with exercise instructional videos. Here are a few to take a look at:
Bottom line is, if you don’t know how to lift properly, it’s time to learn how. It’s an investment in your ability to maintain your body for the rest of your life. As an added bonus, knowing how to lift properly will earn you a notch or two in anyone’s books (anyone that matters, atleast).
Reason 2: You haven’t set goals.
Note when I say goals, I mean the S.M.A.R.T variety. This means specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Having something like getting bigger arms, or getting lean is not specific enough. You will quickly lose steam when your arms don’t get bigger overnight, or doing 100 crunches a day for a week doesn’t get you a six-pack.
Accomplishing goals and setting new ones is what keeps you going, day in, day out. Without them, you’ll just be spinning your wheels.You need to become accustomed to going through this process over and over. If you haven’t set any new goals for yourself in a little while, your motivation to keep training is not as high as it could be.
Put your goals down in writing, and preferably somewhere you’re going to see them on a regular basis. If you don’t keep your goals front and center, they’ll drift to the back of your head and the bottom of your priority list.
Sometimes we need CONSTANT reminders to ourselves of what we’re working towards. With all of life’s distractions, it’s easy for things to fall through the cracks. We’re busier now than ever before, which means we’re likely to spend even less time reflecting on our goals and ambitions. Don’t let this be you!
Reason 3: You aren’t on a properly designed program.
This is one many people are guilty of. You do the same workout day in, day out, for months. Is it any wonder that you stop getting stronger and get bored?
Coming back to goal setting, a properly designed program has a specific goal. You should ALWAYS know why you’re doing what you’re doing in the gym. Progress is part of what keeps you motivated. If you’re not seeing gains, be it in any capacity, you’re eventually going to give up.
Whether it’s fat loss, muscle gain, endurance capacity, whatever, you need to be moving in a forward direction. Lift more weight for more reps, train at a higher intensity for more time — that’s the end goal.
Lastly, if you train at a big box gym, you should be able to purchase a 6-8 week take-home program from a trainer who will design the program with your goals in mind, and take you through one or two sessions just to be sure you know how to perform the work-outs properly. This is especially good for people with high-motivation, who just need some direction.
Many highly qualified trainers have designed programs and have put them up for sale as eBooks online. Spending $15 on a program that will last you 6-8 weeks is a great investment, and will ensure adequate progression, which will keep you coming back to the gym. Just make sure the program is in line with your goals, and you’re not performing anything unsafe. You want to live to lift another day.
Reason 4: You don’t understand the connection between the work you do in the gym and the results you see outside of it.
This is, in my opinion, the most powerful reason why most people give up on the gym. Everybody knows that you need to go to the gym to get in shape, but that’s about as far as it goes.
With so much conflicting information out there, it’s virtually impossible for a novice trainee to know whether jogging or intervals are better for fat loss, whether bodyweight workouts trump weighted exercises, and whether they should wear Vibrams or Under Armor to the gym (HINT: if you wish to be taken seriously, don’t wear either).
If you don’t understand precisely how your training sessions are contributing to your goals, be it getting stronger or losing fat, you are eventually going to become demotivated. There are some people among us who can simply be told what to do, and they will do it. No questions asked.
I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t work for me. As humans, we crave understanding. We are always in search of a greater purpose, and to continue engaging in activities that can be uncomfortable, challenging, and even painful at times, we need to understand HOW these activities are bringing us one step closer to our goals.
You need to find a trusted source of information. These can be hard to find, but to be able to trust someone’s information and expertise on a given subject is invaluable. Life is a constant journey of self-education, and if you want training and fitness to be a permanent fixture in your life, you need to begin educating yourself.
Take ownership of your learning, because it will provide you with added motivation and the confidence that comes with knowing you’re doing the right things.
Here are a few of my trusted sources:
Alan Aragon – Nutrition
Dean Somerset – Core Training
Bret Contreras – Glute Training
Roman – General Awesomeness
Sometimes you do have to spend some time scrolling through websites and blog posts to find someone you can rely on, but again, the investment becomes worth it when it eliminates all of the pseudo-science and contradicting information that gets passed around about fitness.
Reason 5: You aren’t taking the long view.
This is a problem that applies to far more than just fitness. Many of the things we want, things we strive to accomplish, are big ticket items. We want to be more muscular, we want to be leaner, we want to save more money, we want to eat better.
The problem is that, most of us take the sprinting mentality, when we should be taking the marathon mentality. It’s not about who can withstand the most dietary restrictions, or who can lift 6 times a week. It’s about doing the right things week in, week out.
If you are thinking in the extreme short-term, you are bound to fail. You are the way you are because of behavior and habits. These are NOT things that change overnight. Consistency is the name of the game when it comes to lifestyle change.
Take on less. You are far more likely to succeed if you focus on changing one to two things at a time, than if you attempt a complete overhaul of your diet and training overnight. If you haven’t been able to train consistently or make healthy choices when it comes to nutrition for the past 6 months, you have to realize that and accept that.
Slow, steady progress beats out short-term bursts. If you’re serious about your goals, learn to take the long view. We’re all in this for the long haul, whether we like it or not, so approach your training and nutrition that way. Learn to appreciate small victories, because they add up over time.
I hope at least one of the above reasons has resonated with you. The reality is many people are affected by a mix of the reasons discussed above, which is why it’s important to understand them all, and what to do about them.
I’ve listed these reasons in the context of fitness, but they apply to many things in life.
We could all do with seeking out a coach or mentor, being more specific and focused with our goals, following a program or system, understanding the connection between what we do and what it does for us, and taking the long view when it comes to our efforts and our accomplishments.
Remember, it’s the journey, and not the destination, that provides us with all our experience, learning, and wisdom. Enjoy it, learn from it, reflect upon it, and most importantly…CRUSH WEIGHTS!