I have been a gym owner now for nearly 10 years, and have been a trainer/coach for 12 and I can honestly say the number one reason why people quit is lack of motivation. I have heard countless times from people that they “wish they had my motivation”. Speaking to avid LBEB readers, I’m sure you all have plenty of motivation to train. However even the best athletes suffer from lack of motivation from time to time. I was lucky to have started weight training at a very young age. I was picked on quite a bit when I was younger. Like many kids that get bullied I didn’t have the confidence to fight back, so I was an easy target. When I was in high school I decided to do something about it, and started weight training. I know this is your typical meathead story that many of you may have gone through. It is very important to remember why we wanted to become “a stronger version of ourselves” if I can steal a quote from Elliot Hulse.
Once I started seeing results from weight training I was immediately hooked, and had to get my hands on every piece of bodybuilding material there was. Unfortunately I thought reading Muscle & Fitness and Flex would get me to look like Arnold. I would do all the workouts I would find in these magazines, even Lee Priest’s 20 set arm workout at only 15 years old. Despite the high volume bodybuilding workouts I did make good progress. I was able to stay extremely motivated through high school because I was able to see consistent results. I was also a wrestler and I refused to lose a match because someone was stronger than me. For many of you as athletes through high school and college, staying consistent with training is easy because, well, you have to. However many former athletes when out of college lack the motivation to train on their own, because the competition is over.
The first way to stay motivated is to make sure you are doing it for yourself, and no one else. This is one of my first questions to a potential new client. I have had plenty of people tell me the only reason they are here is because their significant other said they should. The worst is an overbearing parent who thinks their kid is going to be the next Michael Jordan, and forces them to weight train. Don’t get me wrong, I would have loved to start weight training correctly at a young age. However that’s the difference, I wanted to train and learn. Forcing someone to get in better shape is a sure way to get them to quit right away. So again, find YOUR reason you want to better yourself. It can be simply for health reasons, or like me you just don’t want anyone to mess with you anymore. Now that we know where motivation comes, from here are my top 5 ways to stay motivated
I encourage every member of my gym to compete in something. In my opinion, nothing will motivate you more than putting yourself out there in front of a crowd to show off your hard work. I had always trained to get stronger but I didn’t consider competing until I was 26. My only regret is that I didn’t start when I was younger, because I was afraid to put myself out there. I reached a point where I was getting bored with my training, and needed a purpose to train. I considered bodybuilding but nothing excited me about being onstage flexing. Luckily a friend told me I should try powerlifting, and I signed up for the first meet I found that was nearby. I immediately had a fire lit in me, and all I wanted to do was get under the bar. I never thought I was going to be any good at powerlifting, or even strongman. What I did know is that I would be become a better lifter, and push myself harder than ever. In case any of you missed it, check out Brandon’s article on why he decided to compete here.
Find the right training environment
This can be a very tough one. With so many gyms getting rid of squat racks and heavy dumbbells, many serious lifters are forced to find new gyms. Fortunately there are more and more “hardcore” garage gyms popping up as a result of this. This is one of the main reasons I started my own gym. I was sick of commercial gyms not allowing me to do the training I wanted to. I can honestly say if I didn’t start my own facility I wouldn’t be a pro strongman, or possibly would have never even competed. Having the right training environment also goes along with having the right training partners. Personally I like training with likeminded individuals, and more important competitors that are stronger than me. I wrote an in depth article on this you can check out here.
Overcoming an injury
Getting injured is every competitor’s greatest fear. Unfortunately, if you push yourself to the absolute limit, injuries are bound to happen. I have been competing in Strongman/Powerlifting/Crossfit for nearly 8 years now, and this is something I have grown to accept. My first major injury was a complete pec tear while bench pressing in a charity event, of all things. After surgery I was completely depressed, and unmotivated to do anything. This is where many athletes let themselves go since they can’t train, so their nutrition goes out the window. This is something you should absolutely not do, as it will be far more difficult coming back with extra body fat. Luckily after my surgery I snapped out of it after a 2 week layoff, and decided to focus on the things I could do. I was in a sling for 2 months so the safety bar became my best friend. I’m sure many of you following the Lift Big Eat Big page saw LBEB athlete Matt Falk using the safety bar, when he was coming back from his shoulder surgery. Your mental approach to coming back from an injury is everything. To get injured, obviously something went wrong, maybe you just did something stupid, but either way take it as a learning experience. After my pec tear I had to figure out why it happened. After working with some bench press experts I have been able to come back to benching with even better technique. More importantly I learned how not get injured while benching, so I am now a better coach because of it.
The goal you set for yourself has to have meaning to you. If it doesn’t you will not be motivated enough to pursue it. A lot of people just want the end result without the hard work, and this is how we have people like Dr. Oz on television.
I stated previously about lacking drive when I considered bodybuilding the goal wasn’t right for me. I never would have been able to step onstage without being excited to do so. I wanted to compete to train harder, and have more motivation but bodybuilding wasn’t doing it for me. The thought of being out on the platform in powerlifting did, so it was an each choice for me. If you are lacking motivation towards your goal then it’s not the right goal for you. To find significant meaning in your goals, you must consider a few things. One being, what is the outcome if you don’t succeed. When I compete in pro level shows I must make a bodyweight of 231. If I don’t achieve this then I can possibly show up to a contest, and not be able to compete. Not competing would be a big negative consequence, but let’s say I just wanted to weigh 231. Without competing there would be no negative consequence if I failed. This makes the goal less meaningful, and less likely for you to push yourself towards it. The goal should make you want to act, and not force you.
Being completely burned out happens to even the best athletes. When I first started strongman I competed 10 times in my first year. I had an absolute blast, and learned a lot about competing, but I was exhausted and my entire body ached. My second year I didn’t learn from it, and competed 12 times. At one time after winning my pro card I competed 3 weeks in a row. Again I had a great time but I was left completely beaten up, and even had to pull out of Pro Nationals. At this point I was completely burned out, and didn’t even want to think about competing. It turned out I needed the extended break to let my body heal. Not only to get healthy again but to just be able to train for fun, and not worry about a competition. When athletes reach the top level of their sport we tend to let the sport define who we are. When we can’t compete then this is where motivation takes a drop. Despite everything I have accomplished I feel I’m only as good as my last competition, and I know many other athletes feel the same way. We all have bad shows, but again you must see this as a way to improve.
For example last year in a big pro show I was in the lead going into a press medley I had smoked in training. For any of you that have performed a circus DB clean and press you probably know there are a lot of different techniques to press one. Another aspect of the circus db clean and press is the shape of the db makes a huge difference in how you press. I’m very good with a flat sided db where I literally put it on the side of my head. This is called the “boom box” technique. However with a round bell you can’t do this as well, so it’s better to let it sit more on the traps. Going into the competition it was supposed to be a flat db, so this is what I trained with. When I walked up to the medley it was a slater bell which has round sides. I immediately freaked because I knew this was a huge weak point for me. Sure enough in the competition I missed the dumbbell losing my first place position. At first I was pissed and even blamed them for switching the dumbbell on us. After I calmed down I realized this is strong(wo)man, and any event is subject to change. I immediacy ordered a slater bell to practice with so that would never happen again. This sounds simple in theory but turning your weaknesses into strength is the hardest part of training. You will never succeed in anything if you don’t master this.
Share what keeps you motivated and why on the LBEB Facebook page, or drop a comment below.