Losing Motivation Is Normal
For a lot of us, motivation to train comes and goes. There are many reasons for this, some of which we’ll explore here.
So what do you do when it happens to you?
If you read my recent blog about my experience with training v not training for hiking, you’ll know that I, like you, have times where I’m just not feeling it with my training. In that article, I described how not training made my hiking experiences less than great.
So we know that training has huge benefits for our hiking so why do we go through lulls in motivation and what can we do about it?
The motivation (pun intended) for this article came from a question I saw recently in the Summit Strength group from a client who was struggling with motivation for some of her training sessions. She posted seeking ideas and tips to help her find that fire in her belly to train for her strength sessions. The responses were varied but it also highlighted that she’s not alone in this. Some people struggle with motivation for strength workouts for hiking, others with other aspects of their training.
I know how this feels, because I’m the same. I’ve been there. And I know I’ll go there again. Even as a coach, I have times where I suffer from a case of the blahs.
First thing to acknowledge is this. We are not robots. We are not machines mindlessly going through our days without emotions, stressors or fluctuations in energy levels or health. So it may be helpful if you cut yourself some slack and recognise that you are, in fact, human!
Experiencing a lack of motivation does not make you a failure. It makes you normal!
Why Have I Lost My Motivation?
This could happen for any number of reasons. This is not a comprehensive list but here are a few of the things that could be the cause. And some tips that might help!
I want to acknowledge that whilst many of the tips are mine, some are tips I’ve taken from Rowan (the founder of Summit Strength) whilst others I’ve taken from the comments I saw in the Summit Strength group in response to the question posed by a client. I hope some of them help!
If you’re feeling low on energy for no obvious reason (lack of sleep, over-training, tripping the light fandango too often), it could be that you’re unwell. Last year, after months of struggling with energy, I went to my GP and it turned out that I have a sluggish thyroid (not uncommon as we age). When you’re feeling ongoing lethargy, this can have a huge impact on your motivation to train.
Tip - If it’s been some time since your last check up with your GP, it wouldn’t hurt to pay them a visit and get some bloodwork done.
If your nutrition is poor or inadequate for your level of activity, you may feel like your get-up-and-go has got-up-and-gone. Fuelling correctly is important for everyone but not everyone, even those who are active, know what their bodies need. Again, lethargy can be a real issue when it comes to motivation.
Tip - Consider speaking with an allied health professional such as a dietician.
TIME / STRESS
Life can be super hectic! If your life is a constant juggling act of trying to keep all your balls in the air with work, family, friends, socialising and training, it can be exhausting! Often, you simply can’t find the time to fit a training session into your schedule. So when you do, often you just want to crash, put your feet up and simply breathe. You dream of a day when you might be able to live a leisurely life and enjoy training where and when it’s fun for you and not rushed (maybe winning lotto will help!) But right now, you’ve got that job that needs your attention for 8 hours of your day. Along with everything else. No wonder you’re not always motivated to pump out a training session or two!
Living at this level of busyness can lead to stress. Stress can affect people in different ways and we know that exercise can be a wonderful stress reliever. All those feel-good things that happen in the body when we exercise can be just the tonic. And although we know this intellectually, in practicality, sometimes we just feel too stressed to even think about exercising.
Tip - Try to allocate some ‘you time’. I know, I’m hearing you. It seems impossible some days. But maybe set your alarm a little earlier and get stuff done whilst everyone else is asleep. Try negotiating with your family so that the outcome is that they leave you alone for 40 mins (bribes may be involved). Does your workplace have a gym? Make use of it. Work in an office block? Go up and down the stairwell a few times during the day. Walk up escalators in shopping centres. Or even go for an ‘urban hike’ in your shopping centre. I loved a recent response to my last blog from someone about his urban hike through an abandoned mall (pictures included!). Now that’s thinking outside the square!
BOREDOM / LACK OF RESULTS
Who loves doing the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over????? Ok, some people do. But I’m guessing that most of you don’t. And don’t they say that the definition of insanity is ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result’?
If you were to eat a bowl of chocolate ice cream after dinner, every night for weeks, months or years on end, most of you would soon get sick of it. Your excitement for that chocolate ice cream was at an all-time high the first few times or weeks. But after having it so often, it became routine and apathy set in about having that bowl of ice cream. It got boring. You were just going through the motions. Or, you just stopped having it altogether. But then one day you decided to switch it up with salted caramel! And there you go! The excitement was back! Variety matters.
If your training sessions are not progressing every few weeks, neither will you. We train to improve from where we are to where we want to be. As your body adapts to each phase of training, it needs more stimulation to get stronger. If your training program doesn’t progress in regular phases, your body will respond accordingly and remain at the same level. If you’re not seeing incremental improvements along the way, you may become disheartened. There’s nothing like feeling disheartened to affect motivation.
Tip - If your PT or coach has designed a program for you with no plan for regular progressions, consider getting yourself a new one who does. If your exercises are the same old same old for months on end, your needs are not being met. Ask your PT for a program which can ensure some progression and variety.
We can sometimes get bored by our environment. If you found yourself in lockdown for extended periods during the last few years due to Covid, you’ll attest to this! The same four walls, figuratively speaking, can drain the motivation from your very soul.
Tip - Mix it up! During lockdown, my daughter and I got sick of doing our strength sessions at home in the living room after a while. The gyms were all closed. So, some days, we would throw our bands, weights, mats and Reebok step into the car and head down to our local athletics track or park and do our workouts there. We were outside in the fresh air with the sun shining and the birds flying above. It was awesome! In fact, I reckon I need to start doing this again. We saw heaps of others doing this too. If you think you’ll feel embarrassed doing this, I guarantee you won’t after your first time. Besides, you’ll no doubt see others doing it too. Another option is to move from inside your house to your backyard. Set yourself up there and you’ll get the same outdoorsy vibe!
Now that gyms are open again in most areas, if you’ve never been to one before, maybe look for one with a free trial period and see if that environment appeals to you. If your motivation is waning by doing your workouts at home, you might find the gym setting excites you. Or not, but it’s worth trying, right?
Or you can do a mixture of all three!
EXPECTATION V REALITY
Do you expect too much of yourself? Have you committed to something more than you can realistically fit into your life? Are you a bit of a perfectionist?
If you’re someone who is pretty rigid with things in general, how do you feel if you miss a planned workout? Do you feel guilty? Do you feel like you’ve let yourself down? Do you feel like you’ve undone all the good you’ve done? This can lead to feelings of failure and sometimes, to dropping out completely. Total motivation killer.
Tip - Remind yourself that training is one thing in your day. It may not always be your priority. It may not always get done. And that’s ok. Missing a planned session here and there isn’t going to make all the benefits from your other sessions go down the drain. Accept that some days, it just ain’t gonna happen. Cut yourself some slack and ditch the guilt. Guilt serves no useful purpose in this scenario. It’ll just feed into how awful you’re already feeling. You are not a robot!
If you’re finding your training is hard to fit into your life, talk to your coach. I remember going back to full time work at one stage not long after I’d started a new training program. I struggled with motivation to do my sessions either before or after work because it all felt so onerous. I spoke with my coach, Rowan, and we adjusted things so that I could have much better balance in my life. I still progressed towards my goals which was all that mattered. Doing less than my original plan made life so much easier for me. Don’t suffer in silence! There are always options that’ll work for you.
Photo credit: www.datasciencecentral.com
TYPE OF TRAINING
Let’s face it, you may not like everything in your training program. It might be a certain exercise or a whole type of training such as resistance or cardio. If you’re faced with something that you really hate doing, you’re less likely to have motivation to do it. Sure, you can keep doing it if you feel you'll be ok with this. But you don't need to suck it up if it's going to negatively impact on your motivation to do it.
Tip - Communication is key! If you’re working with a coach or PT, let them know if there’s something you particularly hate doing.
If it’s a particular exercise, there's always more than one way to skin a cat! There will be a range of alternatives. Your coach will have some ideas. If it’s resistance training or cardio as a whole, this can be a little more tricky as these two elements are essential for getting prepped to meet your goals. Consider these approaches:
Do you dread cardio because you find it too hard? Do you feel like you’re going to collapse on the floor or struggle to breathe? You don’t need to train like a person possessed to get conditioning benefits. You may be pushing yourself unnecessarily. And you may not be training as efficiently as you could be. Speak with a coach about the best approach to cardio training for your goals.
So these are just some of my thoughts and ideas about motivation, lack of, and what might help. I’d love you to share your ideas with us too!
Photo Credit: Dorset Recreation Reserve Parkrun
About The Author
Andrea is a coach with Summit Strength, who specialise in helping hikers get strong and pain-free for their adventures.
At the age of 54, she discovered a real passion for hiking. But she also discovered just how limiting physical fitness and pain can be on the trail.
After signing up to one of the Summit Strength signature programs, she discovered just how much of a difference the right training can make to a hiker's enjoyment and comfort on their adventures. She knows that the journey isn't always easy and 'life' can sometimes impact on our training goals. She shares her insights and experiences with us in her blog articles.
These days, as an Online Adventure Coach with Summit Strength, she helps hikers all around the world get fit, strong and resilient for their adventures.
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Rowan is a personal trainer who specialises in training for hiking, trekkers and mountaineers for their bucket list adventures.
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