Let's face it, whether you are a seasoned weight trainer, exercise fanatic or just starting out on your journey to getting in shape, at some stage you are going to reach a point where you just lose all motivation and just want to give up.
It may happen after a few weeks or a few months if you are new at weight training. You may be seasoned workout enthusiast with years of experience and a well developed muscular body with the perfect six-pack. Yet, for some reason, sometimes inexplicable for the person the involved, the will and motivation to keep on working out and exercising simply seems to evaporate into thin air all of sudden.
Exercising becomes a burden and the excuses to skip a workout starts outweighing the reasons to keep going. Worst case scenario you give up all together, with the chances of returning to the gym drastically declining longer you stay away. But why does this happen and can we do anything about it?
Why We Lose Our Drive And Stop Training
There is no one specific reason why we lose our motivation and will to keep training. It not only depends on whether you are just starting out your fitness journey or have been training for 10 years. There are a lot of factors at play here. Lets look at a few of the most importance ones.
1. Not making progress or seeing any results
We see this most often among people new to weight training. As already mentioned in another article (which you can read here) your body has an amazing ability to adapt to change. This is especially noticeable when you start training for the first time. Your body starts to respond rapidly to the new stresses on body, making it very easy to keep working out. Unfortunately, these changes start slowing down after 3-6 months and may even come to a complete standstill. For a many novice trainees this can be very disheartening, especially if they don't have the know-how to progress past this sticky-point or plateau.
A seasoned weight-trainer may experience this same phenomena, but this may happen after years of training and seeing constant progress. Even following the principle of Progressive Overload (read more about it here) does not seem to work anymore. This can be a little more difficult to address, but needs to be addressed pretty quickly, as it may be much harder to get started again after finally giving up after years of training.
2. Losing Interest And Plain Boredom
This is seen quite a bit, but especially among people who are consistently following exactly the same routine over and over again. Even while still seeing change and making good progress getting in shape, you may start feeling stagnated and even get bored of performing the same repetitive routine week after week. This makes it harder to set time aside to go to gym or perform your home workout routine. After all, why do you want to go and put your body through so much stress if you aren't even looking forward to the prospect?
Luckily, this is not such a difficult to problem to solve. Hint.... "Variety is the spice of life" More on that a little later.
3. Distractions And The Demands Of Everyday Life
It is no secret. As we grow older, the perceived time we have available to us decreases dramatically. Work becomes more demanding, you get married and children may follow shortly afterwards. You constantly feel overwhelmed and tired, and "gym time" gets less and less priority and starts getting relegated lower down your to-do list as the months and years go by.
Distractions are not limited to growing older and the associated demands and added responsibility. A large percentage of younger people face many distractions of their own. The dramatic increase and accessibility of online and "on-demand" technology can be singled out as the biggest culprit.
I don't even have to discuss social media, as its influence and addictive nature has already been well documented. The sheer number of platforms available is staggering (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Whatsapp etc.) According to a study by the The Telegraph in 2015, teenagers spend and average of 27 hours per week on social media. Imagine what the number is today.
On top of that more traditional broadcasters and newer companies are now live-streaming movie and television content to your mobile device, directly competing with social media for your attention. I can go on and add online gaming to the mix, but you get the picture.
So, where do you think does going to gym and staying in shape slots into position when it comes to priorities in the mind of the younger potential workout enthusiast? This will not be hard to answer!
4. The Absence Of Consequences Or Accountability If You Stop Working Out
For every action or lack thereof, there are consequences one way or the other. If you keep showing up late for work and start calling in sick when you don't feel like working, you will receive a warning which will quickly be followed by losing your job if you don't pull yourself together. No job, no income. A situation we all are desperately trying to avoid.
The same with eating. If we skip a meal or two, we start getting hungry very quickly. Even if you manage to withstand the hunger urges for a sustained period of time, your body will suffer the consequences. Losing wait, severely weakening your immune system and an increase in loss of energy are just some of the consequences.
Unfortunately, the same can not be said for neglecting your workouts or stop exercising altogether. Especially if you are exercising alone or nobody knows about your training regime. You now have no one to answer to, which makes it that much easier to quit. Off course the consequences of not exercising, like gaining weight, a weakened immune system and loss of energy may make you feel guilty for a while. These aren't "urgent" consequences that are immediately felt however, making the instant gratification of relaxing at home, watching tv or socializing with friends a lot more appealing.
A Solution For Every Problem
Now that we know some of the main reasons why we lose motivation or even completely stop working out, can anything be done about it? Absolutely! Let's go through the 4 problems listed in the previous section and see how we can combat and overcome these obstacles.
1. Not making progress or seeing any results (solved)
This common problem is actually not that hard to address. All it really requires is a little more knowledge, your imagination and some experimenting.
As I already mentioned, your body is amazing in its ability to adapt. The trick is to learn to keep catching your body "off-guard", forcing it to adapt again and again, which means new growth and progress. The principle of Progressive Overload is used to achieve this. I have already discussed it in detail (which you can read here), but in short it simply means putting the body under new stress to force it to keep adjusting. This can be done in by various means:
- Never allow your body to get used to a weight. As soon as you can comfortably perform a routine without reaching failure, increase the weight your using. This way more stress on the muscles causes new growth and change.
- Another very effective way to force your body to change, is to lesson the rest period between your sets, putting your muscles under tension long before they are used to be trained again, stimulating more muscle breakdown and growth.
- Mix it up a bit. Off the top of my head I can think of at least 10 different exercises for each muscle group. This is not even taking into consideration the different variations in which you can perform each of these exercises. You'll be surprised what a difference bringing in a new exercise into your routine can make to stimulating new growth and making rapid progress.
Just a quick last thought on forcing new growth and getting results. I know I mention it a lot, but again, but please don't be afraid to experiment. You may just "stumble" onto a routine that works wonders for you.
2. Losing Interest And Plain Boredom (solved)
Yes, doing the same thing over and over again, can become tedious and boring. Especially when performing a strenuous and exhausting activity week after week you can start losing focus and interest very quickly.
One solution that works very well, has just been mention in the previous point. Mix it up. Changing and working in new exercises not only stimulates new growth, but keep things interesting. You know the saying, "a change is as good as a holiday" ? Well, if you are lucky enough to live in an area where you have access to more than one gym, use it! Not only does the different environments help prevent boredom wit a change of scenery, you are also exposed to different groups of people with different training styles. Perfect for keeping you motivated and stimulating new ideas.
Another very effective way to stay interested, is to find or stay focused on a role model that inspires you. If its a celebrity that you can easily find plenty of information on, that much better. You may admire the build of Zac Efron, the more muscular Dwayne Johnson or the classic bodybuilder shape of Arnold Schwarzenegger. On the female side, the classic curved but always toned body of Jennifer Lopez, the athletic and ripped Jillian Michaels or the super-fit Jessica Alba inspire millions of women worldwide. It really doesn't matter, chose whoever inspires you, look for photos of them on Google and build up your own private collection. Chances are there are also numerous videos of them on Youtube. Whenever you feel a lack of inspiration or motivation, look at your collection or favorite video. You'll be pleasantly surprised what a difference just looking at an inspirational figure and someone you admire can do for your motivation.
3. Distractions And The Demands Of Everyday Life (solved)
Although there is no denying the fact that the demands of work and family can rob you of the abundance of time you had earlier in your life, let's look at a few facts:
Despite these increase on demands on our time, we still manage find time for a lot of time for "non-essential" activities. In 2016, The New York Times found that on average, the typical American adult spend an astonishing four and a half hours per day watching television. Things get a little better with social media, but not much. In another article from the same New York Times in 2016, it is reported that the average person spends 50 minutes a day on Facebook, by far the most popular platform. This is followed by Youtube with 17 minutes.
All of this does not sound too bad, but if you add it all up, the average time spend on these leisure activities alone amounts to more than five and a half hours. This not even taking into consideration other social media use and additional leisure activities. Yes, these times vary among different countries, genders and age groups. But let's be very lenient and subtract 2 hours for any skeptics, still leaving more than three and a half hours still available.
Now let's have a look at how much time you need to stay in shape. It has already been proven that you only need 90 minutes of vigorous training per week to stay in shape. That is three workouts lasting only half an hour each! Now, you really want to argue that you are unable to find time to exercise and stay in shape? If you are more serious and committed to achieve even more ambitious results, four sessions lasting forty minutes per week are more than enough to reach almost any goal. That is less than three hours per week. (If you are looking to get started with a workout plan I can wholeheartedly recommend for men and women of any age, read this article.)
To sum up, you can probably find an excuse not to find the time to exercise and stay in shape. It has already been shown that if you really don't want to do something, you will always be able to find multiple "legitimate excuses" not to. With that said, it has been thoroughly proven that there no way you can blame a lack of time for not being able work out and stay in shape.
Getting the younger generation (specifically those that are not already inspired and avid workout enthusiasts) to set time aside for exercise, is a pretty tough nut to crack. This is also a topic for a whole other discussion. I am wiling to say this much about it though. I think the most important part is education and encouraging children to get involved in physical activities and sports at an early age. I can go on, but I may tread on a few toes and wind a few people up, so lets leave it at that.
4. The Absence Of Consequences Or Accountability If You Stop Working Out (solved)
The ease with which you can give up on something when there are no real consequences or someone to answer to, is simply astonishing. Deciding to get and stay and shape, unfortunately is one of those decisions you normally take by yourself and pursue in isolation. So you can see how easy it is to cut back on your training and even give up, especially when working out starts getting difficult or you really struggle to get results.
The best solution is actually in the description of the problem. Being held accountable can be one of the main driving forces, keeping you going and pushing you through tough times and ultimately help you reach your goal. So, create that accountability.
All of us have one or more person in our life close to us and who's opinion we value. It can be a spouse/partner, friend or sibling. Do yourself a huge favor and tell them about your decision and goals. And not just one person. Tell as many people close to you as you can manage; your partner, sibling and as many of your friends as possible. Even if you already started on your journey, tell them what you are doing and trying to achieve anyway.
This may be a bit uncomfortable and sounds self-serving, but your future self will thank you for it. Why? Simple, you created accountability. Everyone now knows about your commitments and goals. They see it when you leave for a workout, or come back late after one. It comes up in conversations, when you discuss future meetings or talk about about each other's week.
Now imagine contemplating giving up on your training. All of the sudden its not something you can do without having to answer some uncomfortable questions at the very least. You may even be chastised a bit by friends and family, especially if you were very vocal about your original decisions and goals. The mere thought of it will help you to keep going and not give up on your goals. And you will be glad you did it!
Apart from this very important step, there are a few other things you can do to help even further. Start keeping a diary, even if it is just to write down your reasons for starting and what your goals are, and keep track of small accomplishments and milestones along the way. Whenever you are in doubt and even think about giving up, you can always go back to it and remind yourself why you started in the first place and how far you've come.
As always, feel free to leave me a comment or suggestion, and remember to join my mailing list to get informed whenever a new article is released, as well as helpful hints & tips and news on new developments.
Until next time, take care and let me know if there a specific new topic you would like me to discuss.