Riding the Motivational Wave

In this article, I address the difficult subject of motivation.

For me, staying motivated has been the single hardest obstacle to overcome – yet somehow, I have managed to maintain fitness and (so I am told) a good physique for over 30 years – so I must be doing something right!

Here I would like to share with you some of the techniques I have used to help me stay focused.


When I first started weight-training in my garage all those years ago, I remember reading a little pamphlet which came with my weight-set. In it, it stressed the importance of continuity. Although not really understanding at the time, I assumed it was suggesting all gains would be lost if you ‘had a break’; but experience has shown me it has more to do with motivation.

By making time to go to the gym, even if not really feeling up to it, will help to motivate you in the end; besides, also ensuring you do not have to go through the physical ‘pain’ of getting back into it next time. So even by just turning up and going through the motions can help and indeed, sometimes when you get there you feel re-energised and end up doing a great workout.

However, of course I am not suggesting a well-earned break is a bad thing; indeed, it can be beneficial both physically and psychologically. More that it should be infrequent and best planned for.

Short-term Challenges

Goal-setting is an important weapon to combat boredom and apathy. However, it can be tempting to set unrealistic goals, expecting immediate results or simply setting targets which could take too long obtain. We all know people (perhaps you are one) who following the archetypal bi-yearly push – such as the new year’s resolution to ‘get healthy’ or the two-week blitz leading up to the annual holiday for that beach body – thereby suggesting they spend the rest of their life feeling inadequate or unhealthy.

Look to give yourself frequent ‘quantifiable’ challenges, ideally over 6-8-week periods only, so that success can be easily measured. These could be, for example, to confidently perform a certain number of reps of a given exercise, ideally a primary exercise which involves simply pushing or pulling your bodyweight such as press-ups or pull-ups. Typically, this may well start out as an assisted exercise, but the goal here is to eventually perform them unassisted.

Positive (voluntary) Peer-Pressure

In the past I, have used self-induced peer-pressure to give me that proverbial kick up the rear; which I find particularly helps with my cardio-fitness. For example, by registering for a charity sporting event such as a 10k obstacle course, a five-a-side football team with work colleagues or simply (surreptitiously) training for the Dad’s race at the kids’ school, I have managed to keep motivated to improve my cardio-fitness. I have made sure to tell friends and family that I am doing it, which I find forces me into training harder to avoid embarrassing myself!

Mixing up your workouts

If you follow a routine week-in-week-out you will inevitably reach a point where it is not only becoming a chore, but you will also plateau with your results. The best way to prevent this is to mix-up your workouts every now and again; such examples could be Advanced Volume Training, HIIT or Pyramid training (see later blogs).

Changing your exercise regime can help to work parts of the body you may not be used to exercising. Thus by doing so, it not only benefits posture and balance but indeed all helps to increase your metabolic rate (remember: toned muscle burns more calories).

Seeing results

There is nothing more demotivating than feeling you are not getting results from weeks of hard work. The key here is to give yourself a tangible goal, rather than just a vague ‘I need to get healthier/slimmer’. This can be either a quantitative measure such as BMI (more on this later) or through an aesthetic measure i.e. to ‘look better’ (let’s face it, for most people this is the real goal here).
For many, the classic mistake here is to focus too much on body-weight as a success criterion. Although this can be one of many ways to measure results, it is by no means the only measure and can often give spurious results. For example, when toning the body, it is not uncommon for body-weight to increase – certainly in the early days – due to increased water retention in the muscles.
The classic, yet equally flawed method for measuring aesthetic results is to look at yourself critically in the mirror. This approach whilst on the outside may seem harmless, it can sometimes be self-destructive. How you view yourself will vary according to what you are wearing on the day, what you have eaten recently or simply what mood you happen to be in (and for women they have the added issue of water retention at a certain part of the month to boot). In my opinion a much saner method would be to take a full body ‘selfie’ in your swimwear or favourite dress on a periodic basis instead (perhaps once every month), and look for progression; however minor, a positive difference means you are doing something right, which ultimately keeps you motivated to continue.

In Conclusion

No matter how good a diet or exercise regime you follow, if you cannot maintain it longer term, you are doomed to failure in the end. The trick is to be constantly looking for simple ways to keep self-motivated, always mindful of the goal – to look the best you can and be healthy.
You cannot rely on others to keep you motivated – at least not unless you have large amounts of money to invest in a personal trainer – for life! – Even then, they have a vested interest in keeping you happy, so are not necessarily objective (see article: two’s company).

Simply put, the key to success is to keep riding that motivational wave.

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