Find Your Purpose

Here is the question at hand – “How do you stay motivated to exercise? I start out well – then – if I miss a day or 2 it is like starting over. Any suggestions???”

Mike and Brian & and the rest of my awesome followers!:

Thank you for your questions.  First off I will say that these struggles with motivation are extremely common.  I would wager to say that pretty much every person who works outs, trains, and competes in athletics faces similar dilemmas.  A huge determining factor in the motivation level in my opinion is created when you go from being a on a team to becoming an individual who is doing it for the love of the sport, or for the love of keeping ones body fit.  As the vast majority of us are not professional athletes we must hold jobs for our living so that we can pay for our housing, our cars, our groceries, etc.  This is what turns our exercising into hobbies.  It is no longer a sole devotion to the sport, or to exercise that one may have had growing up in grade school when it was then kind of an afterthought, sports were just something that was a part of your life that you just did and didn’t really think much else about for most kids its just part of growing up .  Now that were are all grown up the exercising, the sports, the training..it all becomes a hobby, an additional item that is added to ones life on top of everything else.

Here’s the determining factor, did you get into your hobby (your exercise) with a passion, with a love for it? If you don’t have a true love for it then you are selling yourself short.  Sure its easy to head out for a nice job on a sunny evening after work in the park when the sun is still shining and 100 other people are that, everyone can do that!  The trick to staying motivated is being consistent in your effort and sticking to your plan.  I would guess that most people who head out in the cold winter for a morning job feel like crud when they start.  I know I do!  It’s usually freezing outside, you’ve not seen the sun in months, its icy, your house/apartment is warm and toasty, and your bed feels like a fluffy cloud of wonderfulness.  Basically everything is telling you to stay inside and keep sleeping.  The key to keeping yourself honest is that you actually have to have a love and a passion for something to allow yourself to look the other way and head outside in the nasty weather.  If your not fully immersed in your efforts to better yourself at the gym, on your bike, in the pool, or running then you won’t have the drive to keep yourself going. I would wager to say that the vast majority of people who get into athletics, training, weights just to get some excercise or to lose some weight won’t be around for the long term. Eventually they will burn themselves out and when they no longer have any other motivation they will sputter and stop. Yet, if you develop a passion for being the best at what your doing each and every day then you know have something that can keep you going even in the darkest times. Whether you lift weights to keep in shape, take up tennis at the club to stay competitive, or join the masters swim team; do it with a passion and be the best that you can be each and every day.

I know that when I look back at the times I spent in the weight room when I was in college I cannot believe the amount of time I spent lifting weights.  Today I struggle getting to the gym twice a week to lift weights.  It just seems so mundane and boring to me.  You see I have developed a new passion, one that is very strong and has lead to me to so many places already.  I enjoy swimming, biking, and running.  I love the fact that all the training leads to races where you get to show off all the work you’ve put in, and more importantly I love that it has placed me in a sort of community of people who are absolutely amazing!

For the vast majority of us we will never be Olympic athletes, for us we are the general masses that keep sports moving in this country. Without us Age Groupers triathlon and other sports would be non-existent. That’s not a bad thing, its just a thing. So don’t get discouraged when someone is faster, like when you watch a professional triathlete. That is their job, and they do it well. Instead of saying that you will never be that fast, take it all in and see if you can learn something to better yourself. And when you see someone in the lane next to you absolutely crushing out swim sets don’t get angry that you are not as fast as them, the truth is that they have probably been swimming a lot longer than you. Triathlon and basically any sport in general rewards the patient. It rewards the silent warrior who doesn’t complain, who puts the work in, and gives it his all. Because I am partial to triathlon I will say that patience is right up their with vo2 max, lactic threshold, blah blah…if you don’t have the patience to trust in your plan, to trust in your coach, to trust that your training is going a certain way then you have a good possibility of sabotaging the whole thing. So in any sport, training, or life adventure do it with a purpose. Train purposefully each and every day, whether it be a 12 min mile paced run or a 5 min mile paced run. Each day should be set out with something to be accomplished or something to at least be attempted. If you come up short who cares! That means you are exerting yourself to levels that are beyond you…and the best thing about that is when you exceed those levels the next time because that means your are improving! Improvement is quantifiable and I urge you all to keep track of your training, or your days in the weight room, or your miles that you’ve cycled. If you write things down and make them come alive on paper then they will become real! When you look at your data from the past you will see that you have improved. Along the way improvement is hardly felt, you feel as if you are at the same place. But when you have kept track of your progress you can look at the hard evidence and see what you have done. I personally did that today on my bike test. Just one year ago I did the same bike test I did today. In one year my wattage has increased. It didn’t increase anything crazy like 50 watts, because quite frankly no ones ever does. And if they are telling you that they did they are probably exaggerating. The cold hard facts is that improvement in running or biking or swimming takes time! Lots and Lots of time. Just like lifting weights or doing the couch to 5k, to 10k to marathon route. I FIRMLY BELIEVE THAT ANYTHING YOU SET YOUR MIND TO IS ACHIEVABLE. Do not let yourself talk yourself out of it and worst of all don’t let anyone else tell you different. Talk to someone you trust or map it out yourself. Make your training goals realistic and stick to them. If you are overly ambitious and end up not meeting your training times you could end up feeling like you’ve failed. Instead plan realistically and hit the targets, build on the success and don’t get caught up in a bad day here and there. The most important thing is that you keep coming back for more. If your trying to become a bodybuilder you must become a gym rat, if your trying to be a triathlete you must fall in love with your bike trainer and chlorine. With anything you do you must throw yourself into it and really dig in. Obviously we all have jobs, careers, and families on top of that so it can be difficult. And with that I will end on this note, go buy a notebook and start writing. Write your plans, your goals, even your dreams. Just like in high school when you made brainstorm charts before starting an essay. Do the same for your life. Map it out and make it attainable. Everything becomes clearer when you can see it on paper, when you can actually visualize something. So do it! Plan when you can make it to the gym, when you can go grocery shopping, when you can sleep! When you can get to the kids athletic events. We can all fit it in if we try!

I know that when I look back at the times I spent in the weight room when I was in college I cannot believe the amount of time I spent lifting weights.  Today I struggle getting to the gym twice a week to lift weights.  It just seems so mundane and boring to me.  You see I have developed a new passion, one that is very strong and has lead to me to so many places already.  I enjoy swimming, biking, and running.  I love the fact that all the training leads to races where you get to show off all the work you’ve put in, and more importantly I love that it has placed me in a sort of community of people who are absolutely amazing!

Additional notes that I jotted down after I had wrote the stuff above:

To keep yourself motivated and to keep yourself honest I would urge people to become a part of something and be held accountable.  Not only to yourself but to other people.  Being a part of something is really big in my books.  Personally I feel my best when I am sharing great moments with other people.  I tend to spend a fair amount of time training and living alone.  Its just the nature of triathlon and being a single guy working a corporate job.  I am not complaining, its getting me to where I want to be and I am doing the things that make me happy.  However, the times that I am most happy, and have the most energy for life is when I am with others.  For example, every Mon, Wed, and Fri I have my masters swimming class.  Just about every M,W,F I head to the pool with about 20 other people just like me..including none only than Travis the Great. We swim from 5:45am – 7:15am.  Truthfully most lounge on the pool for a few minutes to chat with each other and debate about whether or not to actually enter the water, and some like me tend to get out around 7am so they can get a start on the rest of the day.  In my defense I will start swimming for the full session later on in the season, but for now I am content on getting my hour swim in and calling it a day with the pool work.  One of the biggest benefits of masters is not the actual swimming. Its the fact that you are swimming with 20 or so other people who are holding you accountable, who are hoping that you will be there in the early morning to give them that extra kick to get their but in gear.  I know that when someone says “will I see you on Wed, Matt?” and I reply “you sure will” I feel as if I have agreed to some imaginary contract and I don’t want to break it for fear of repercussions.  The people that I see on mon, wed, and friday mornings are my good friends.  We all understand they each of us is making some kind of sacrifice to get here that early in the morning 3 times a week.  It’s a cool group to be a part of.  In terms of actual training I think the benefits for a non-traditional swimmer as myself (meaning that I did not grow up a swimmer, I only just started swimming for real a little over a year ago) are tremendous.  Having the lanes around you as well as your own full on these mornings keeps the intensity from wavering.  Out of 4-5 people in each lane one of those people has to be feeling good and they usaully keep the morale of the group going so no one slacks off to much.  I think that is a huge negative about swimming solo at the local Y or wherever you swim.  If you constantly are swimming by yourself without any extra mortivation from people I think that you will not be getting your full potential utilized and you just plain and simple won’t be improving like you could.  I feel comfortable saying this because due to my work schedule last year I began swimming alone in the morning (not totally alone, lifeguards were at the pool) but you get what I am saying.  I was swimming alone, no one to keep me honest, no one to slap me on the ass and tell me to get going.  I would usually complete the full workout but it just didn’t feel the same.  I wasn’t always digging a little deeper and I was just flat.  I wasn’t getting any energy from the 80 year olds aqua jogging next to me.  Weird huh?  So I think that kinds of brings this being accountable thing to its conclusion.  The moral of this story is that becoming a part of something and being accountable to someone are a great way to keep yourself motivated because its not just yourself that you are letting down, its the other people who are counting on you.  When you are laying in your bed debating whether or not to get up (barring being actually sick) just think “If I don’t get to practice I am theoretically letting down 20-30 people”  Do you want that on your conscious all day? I don’t!

Train in the morning if you can:

When I skip workouts its pretty much always because they are afternoon ones and most of the times when this happens I COULD HAVE GOT THEM DONE IN THE MORNING! When this happens it absolutely kills me, I HATE IT!

Eat clean:

When its time to get serious about training its time to eat right. Consume the types of food that will be conducive to maximum potential in your athletic endeavor. Plan your meals out beforehand and write them down once they have been consumed. If you want help with this just let me know and I can not only lead you in the right direction for eating right but I can also show you great online tools that can help your structure it, log it, track it, count it…I think the hardest part about eating right is having the proper food available at all times. Most people’s downfall comes when they are hungry and the easiest option is a burger or a sub or something else from a fast food place or the restaurant on the way home from work.

2 Comments on “Find Your Purpose

  1. Matt: well said! I have printed this out, highlighted appropriate points and placed it on my refrigerator. One of the keys I have been missing is having someone hold me accountable. Will work at that and implement your ideas. Thanks for sharing your passion.
    Best regards, Michael Loughman, Grand Rapids, MI

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