So last week I made a rather "rant-y" blog post about motivation. You know, the hard line, full tilt "Coach Michelle" talk. You can read that post here, in case it's not longer "yesterday" when you read this. So today I thought I better back up the bus and give you the REAL talk on how to "create motivation" in your life, around fitness anyways.
But you will quickly see that I'm not a fan of this "motivation" word. I get asked all the time... "where do you find the motivation" or "how do you stay motivated"...
It's not about THAT word. The real word is HABIT.
Fun side note, or digression...something I do often when I write... Our online board currently has a book club with an amazing book about just that, creating habits. One of the perks of being a BADASS!
I've started from scratch at least 6 times.
So what gives me the right to give advice on this topic? One of my least favourite things in the fitness industry is trainers who offer up advice having not lived through a particular circumstance. If you've always been fit and never overweight...how do you really know what it's like to start from square one?
Maybe in some people's eyes the fact that I've had to start from scratch at least 6 times makes me less qualified to give advice about things like habits, consistency and motivation...but I beg to differ. You may say that means that I have "failed" at maintaining my "fit lifestyle". But I figure it makes me fucking human.
I've had 4 children, which means I've taken 4 breaks from fitness for well justified reasons. Post-partum is no joke, not all of my pregnancies were easy, some had longer fitness breaks than others. Some had far more weight gain than others....ooooppps....
So I said 6, that's only 4. Back in my university days I made a trip to France, seemed like a good idea. But it ended in some rather significant mental health issues, a boat load of therapy and about 80lbs of weight gain. And then I lost my husband to suicide when I was 36, I've written about how I allowed grief to take fitness from me many times, so I won't go into that here. So there's 6.
All that to say...I've practiced this "get on track" thing a few times...and through that I've learned a fair amount about what works and what does not, for me anyways. Maybe what I learned will help you as well.
I've lost over 50 lbs...3 times? Two for sure.
And I'm not talking about a little 20lbs of off track. My 5'1" frame has been over 190lbs on more than one occasion, and not always during pregnancy. I know the struggle of feeling defeated by the weight gain. I have repeated to myself many time "there's soooo much weight to lose, I'll never be successful." The other story I would often repeat to myself is "I can't do ALL of what I use to be able to do because of ALL the weight I'm now carrying, so there's NO point in doing anything." I would say something like, "well, I can no longer run 10km at a 5:30 pace, so what's the point in running a shorter distance and taking walking breaks."
I realize, and maybe you do as well, that this kind of talk lacks logic. But I can also promise you that if you have been in this situation before, you have said similar things to yourself.
Can I get a HELL YES from those of you in the back?
So maybe I know how to do this!
So initially when I entered the fitness industry I had nothing but experience, and zero education to back up said experience. I had also only applied my elementary skills to myself. So as my late husband use to say "your sample size isn't big enough."
So I set about fixing that. I've taken a few courses, read a bunch of books and improved my knowledge base about weight loss and building better habits. And I've practiced this experience/knowledge combination with over 100 clients.
What I've learned? It's not about "motivation"...it's just about deciding, and then creating really good routines and habits.
So here's a little tutorial...
Building your fitness motivation from 0 to 10
If you have NEVER worked out before or if you are returning to fitness the very first place to start is deciding that you are committed to this process. It's not about "wanting"...you can want something and still sit on the couch all damn day. It's about actually deciding and then taking action. Nothing half ass here. Make the choice, every day.
1 - start with 7 minutes
This was by far my most successful method of returning to fitness after my pregnancies. I would decide on a little workout that took only 7 minutes, and required no bra. No changing my clothes in the am, no fancy equipment. Just get up, before my brain had the chance to say NO, and move my body for 7 minutes.
I tried jumping in fast once, went out for a what I wanted to be a 5km run, pushed too hard, fucked up my knee and then didn't do anything for another two months. So I've also tried the "jump in with both feet" approach. Never worked for me. Building gradually was always successful though. If you go from 0 to 60 minutes three times a week you'll likely injure yourself or at the very least feel like you "can't do it" after the first week and then quit.
Start slow, build up steadily over time. It works, trust me.
2 - solidify one or two habits before adding more
This one I see often. Over commitment.
Clients that announce, "starting Monday I will drink 2L of water a day, workout 5 times a week, give my food intake a complete overhaul and walk 20 minutes every night."
Then as soon as one of those items goes by the wayside, the negative self talk starts and everything goes to shit.
The much more sustainable approach is to add one small change at a time, solidify that good habit and then move on to the next one. This will not get you the kind of "12 week transformation" photos that blow up Instagram accounts, but it will get you long term sustainable lifestyle changes.
3 - find your obstacles and adjust
So you're trying to drink 2L of water a day and you keep missing your goal. Why? Step one of identifying an "obstacle" is simply to become aware that it exists. Is it that you keep forgetting and then at the end of the day you have too much to drink? Find an app on your phone to remind you. Get an accountability buddy and send each other messages. Figure it out! If you can't figure it out then ask for help solving your obstacle.
Example two, you're trying to get your workouts in before work in the morning, but by the time you find your clothes and get organized you are short on time and then you feel rushed and then you end early and then you feel defeated and and and... How about if you try getting everything ready and organized the night before? So the only thing you have to do is roll out of bed and start moving. See if that works!
Honestly...I've had these conversations 100s of times with clients, about dozens of different obstacles. There are very few we have been unable to solve just by talking it out and brainstorming about solutions. It's not always easy, but again it comes down to building good habits to support the healthy lifestyle you're looking to achieve.
4 - drag someone with you
Support is vital. Surround yourself with others who are equally interested in making healthy changes. A whole tribe of them if possible. And although it doesn't need to be family...I find it particularly heartwarming when it is. The picture at the top of this blog is of two incredible sister-in-laws, and these two women below are two sisters who consistently zoom together to keep each other motivated when we are in lockdown mode. Having a partner in crime can make a huge difference in your journey!
One of the things that really warms my heart is when I see new friendships bloom as a result of women crossing each other's paths in my space. It's wild to watch!
5 - watch your language
There's a rule in my Facebook Coach Board. Say something negative about yourself and I'll make you write out 3 positive things about yourself. Watch how you speak to yourself! It will have a huge impact on your "motivation". If you are trying to build a new habit and you are constantly telling yourself things like "I suck" or "I ALWAYS forget to drink my water." Guess what happens? You start to believe them. Tell yourself positive things and guess what? You start to believe that instead. Basic psych folks. Powerful shit.
6 - consistency = habit = "motivation"
I've been hinting about this all along and in my blog last week as well. It's not about "motivation" its about creating habits and being consistent about them. If part of your healthy plan is to walk 20 minutes a day and you run short on time, walk 5 instead. You'll be contributing to the consistency of the habit and you'll still feel like you're making progress. If you are trying to get in 3 cups of veggies daily, measure them out, prep them in advance and be diligent about eating them. Only get in two? Ok, try again tomorrow. And keep trying consistently...eventually it becomes second nature. Habit. And the whole world will marvel at your "motivation"....insert eye roll.
7 - be clear about WHY
I've turned clients away because I can't get on board with their "why". Here's a short list of why reasons I've sent to other facilities.
~ I need to look hot in a bikini for my beach vacation
~ I want to fit into the size 6 dress I wore at my cousin's wedding in 199X
~ I must lose the last 10lbs (this one really makes me wanna vomit)
Once upon a time I was asked to run a "little black dress bootcamp"....I'm sure it would have made some good coin. But I'm not in this gig for the $. And I don't care if you fit into the little black dress of your dreams. Although if it happens I'll celebrate with you.
My point? If the aesthetics is your primary WHY, your fitness habits are unlikely to last. You'll come back from the beach and stop, or you'll hit that magic number and quit. I don't like turnover at my gym. So I'd rather you just not start with me if you plan to quit some day.
I feel strongly that your WHY should be a forever kinda thing. Get stronger and STAY stronger. And my primary goal is to make you strong for your entire life, not break you for later, or just to make that dress fit now. Make you strong so that you can run after your great grandchildren.
So there's a good chance that said size 6 dress won't fit well when you go to put it on because I will have made your lats bigger. This is a win in my eyes, but you'll be pissy with me if that dress is your goal.
Whatever your WHY is, be super clear about it. Remind yourself about it regularly and then build your habits around that WHY. And bam, just like that, you're fit AF.
8 - if necessary, fake it
Here's the thing. I want fitness to become as habitual for you as brushing your teeth. Or putting your pants on before you leave the house. So on the days when you just don't feel like putting on pants or brushing your teeth...what do you do? You do it anyways. So why is your fitness habit any different?
If you have a day of "I'm not in the mood" you need to assess that...is it because you are overworked or stressed? Ok, find something more gentle to do. Be kind to yourself, but still get some movement in. Maybe you go for a walk instead of doing 100 burpees.
As a suicide widow I had MANY of these days during my return to fitness. Days when the sadness was so overwhelming that I could barely breath. When I wanted to just crawl into bed and pretend the world had ended. But I had three kids to feed. That needed me. So I am very, very well practiced as this "fake it" business. And I know the benefits of bothering to fake it. Eventually the habit factor takes over and then gradually it gets easier, and enjoyable.
You can do this...just fake it through the days when you really are not feeling it...trust me on this one.
9 - Mantra it up
If you are telling yourself that this "fitness thing is not for me"...then guess what? You won't get very far. Repeat cool positive shit to yourself morning, noon and night. Even if it's not true. Lie to yourself, or stretch the truth a little...pump yourself up. If you won't do it, who will?
Tell yourself, "I am a fitness goddess" or "Fitness is my middle name" or "I am the definition of what it is to be fitAF."
Or you can tell yourself something a little less over the top, "I am putting my best fitness foot forward daily." or "I own my fitness plan and will not be stopped."
Post these mantras all over the place. Make it your screen saver, have reminders pop up on your phone. Send it in text messages to yourself. Do NOT shut up about it! If you keep telling yourself these things, they will become who you ARE.
Mantras are incredibly powerful tools!
10 - when you fuck up, forgive yourself
You will fuck up. Likely a few times. Or if you're like me a few hundred times :P
The key? Don't beat yourself up about it. See #5. Talk nicely to yourself. Forgive yourself for the little bump in the road. Move on. Get back on track. This is not an instant fix. It's habits to change your life. And if you make it about long lasting change, it's not meant to be perfect.
In the words of the amazing Jen Sincero, "It's not your fault you're fucked up. It's your fault if you stay fucked up." So just keep trying badass. You'll get there.
So there you go...the real non-ranty version of keeping "motivated" in fitness. Also known as the non-motivation approach. Also known as creating habits, being kind to yourself, and owning your badass life.
Photo credit: Tabitha Rees Photography
Oh hi there...maybe you don't know me, or maybe you stalk me on the regular. I find people who cross my path are of one of those two camps. So which ever it is...hello.... In all likelihood, regardless of which camp you're in, you probably don't even know I have a blog page on my website, because it's been a hot minute since I have taken the time to sit down and write an "official" blog post.
I looked back...my last blog post, which was a bit of a hit, was in response to an article posted on "ScaryMommy"...about a bunch of excuses to not engage in self care. To which I replied with a blog post at the end of 2019, you can read it here. And as I was deciding to write a post tonight I thought, "I wonder how many more excuses she's come up with during the shit show of Covid to not engage in any form of self-care." Maybe this woman and I will cross paths some day.
Once again, I'm not claiming perfection during this Shit Show we call "Covid". And maybe you will look at the fact that I own a gym and say...fuck that, it's easy for her to stay active when we are in lockdown.
So first let's counter that claim. My empty gym makes me angry, very angry. And depressed, like super sad. It also makes me anxious, because I depend on the income from my empty gym to feed a lot of very hungry mouths. So no, owning a gym doesn't make it any easier for me to maintain my motivation during all these lockdowns.
For some time now I've been thinking of making a list of the non-Covid SHIT I've overcome, while simultaneously growing my gym. Why? Why would I want to do that? So you can look at me and say "holy fucking hell, she's some kind of superwoman." Nope. I don't want that from you. In fact, you saying that would likely make me want to toss a kettlebell in your general direction.
I'm not a some kind of super woman. As I like to say, I'm just some girl. Some girl who, after her first husband chose suicide, picked her drunk ass up off the kitchen floor and made something of her life. Some girl who, when I was at my very, very, very darkest points, looked to other widows who were in far "worse shape" and said...I'll be fine. These other women, who were widowed at much younger ages, or in far "worse circumstances" are managing...and I can too.
Ever heard of Erica Roman? She's my kind of "widow famous"...you can read her blog here. She was widowed at 24 years old, found out she was pregnant with her second child at her husband's funeral. I often thought of her when I was feeling sad about being widowed at 36 with three children. Made my story less sad.
So if sharing some of what my shit storm of 2020 looked like - as well as some of the amazing things that happened to me in 2020 - will help even just one person regain their motivation during our current lockdown...well, then I've done my job.
Here's the Coles Notes...
Awesome - trip to Panama with my daughter and some amazing women
Shit Storm - caught that "high maintenance" husband I referred to in my previous blog cheating on me, kicked his ass out
Awesome - same daughter was accepted to University with a big ass scholarship
Shit Storm - Covid - first lockdown, gym closed
Awesome - met an amazing man, he's somehow managed to stick around, seems to love me a lot
Shit Storm - ex-husband facing criminal charges, major legal issues
Awesome - we get to do outdoor classes
Shit Storm - loss of a tenant at the gym leads to major expenses and massive business restructuring
Awesome - said loss leads to a ton of new opportunities
Shit Storm - daughter drops out of school
Awesome - amazing man moves in, he must be crazy to love me so much
Shit Storm - daughter's eating disorder hits a climax which lands her in an expensive treatment facility
Awesome - clientele at 90% retention, lots of media coverage, growth in online programs
Extra Awesome - more than one tattoo appointment (aka therapy)
Extra Awesome - joined both my girls in a head shaving fundraiser
Shit Storm - find out I can't see my baby girl at Christmas
Awesome - although missing her, Christmas with said amazing man was incredible
Shit Storm - gym is closed again...no end to Covid in sight
Awesome - my baby girl comes home
Awesome - online programs and partnerships are growing and keeping me afloat
Extra Awesome - this amazing man and I are approaching our 1 year anniversary and somehow, I haven't scared him yet
Maybe my story isn't half as bad as yours. Maybe you lost a loved one during this time, couldn't have a proper funeral. Maybe you were diagnosed with something life threatening. Maybe, maybe, maybe.
So what's my point? Somewhere in the midst of picking myself up off the kitchen floor I started to repeat something to myself.
"This I can control,"
I couldn't control how my so-called friends were treating me. I couldn't control that my kids were sad about not having their Dad. I couldn't control a lot. But I could control what I ate. I could control the amount of movement I got on a regular basis. I could control my own physical and mental health. I could CHOOSE every damn day to make myself a priority. So that I could be a better Mom to my kids.
Now I CHOOSE to maintain my fitness because I have 100+ "kids" who expect that from me. And they look to me for motivation. They know every single bump in my road. I don't keep secrets from my clients. Ever. They see me cry. They see me in pain...I don't pretend it's all sunshine and roses. Ever.
And then they see me sweat. And work shit out on the gym floor. They look to me for tips on how to keep that up when the gym is closed. And they get it. Create a routine. (Fun fact, motivation will only get you started...you need HABITS to keep you going). Commit to yourself. Find a way to make it work.
Motivation doesn't come from some outside source...it comes from you. Deciding. Everyday deciding to do a little better than the day before. Everyday deciding that you WILL take care of yourself...put your own mask on, then take care of the rest of the people in your life.
No Pressure. No Diamond.
I am Michelle. Above all I am a mother of four incredible little beings. I am a certified Personal Trainer and Healthy Eating Coach, an educator and a real estate investor. I am a coach who also participates fully as a fitness enthusiast, a runner, and a swimmer. I speak from the heart and have no filter left to tolerate bull shit.