Why Being Motivated Doesn’t Cut It

Motivation is loosely defined as why people engage in certain behaviors. Anyone who has ever wanted to accomplish anything (and that’s pretty much everyone) is familiar with motivation – it’s what causes us to take action. It’s why we start swapping our fast food for real food and it’s why we do our squats each week. We are motivated to accomplish our goal – whether that be an elite powerlifting total, a new PR, or just simply to look and feel better. It’s that desire that lights the fire that gets us to take action.

BUT, just being motivated isn’t enough.  Often times what gets us to take action isn’t the same as what gets us to sustain that action. A spark of motivation is important, but it’s just that – a spark. It should be accompanied by other important changes that keep the fire light and stoke that fire when it gets tough. (That sounds like a Pinterest quote, sorry).

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How many times have you embarked on something, maybe a new nutrition plan or a new workout regimen, only to find yourself totally burnt out 2 weeks later? You started out incredibly motivated – you’re bounding out of bed on Monday morning eager to start something new. By Wednesday, you’re a little less enthused but still going strong. By Saturday, you’re not really so stoked about it. By the following Friday, you’ve scraped the whole thing and said you’ll start something else on Monday. I know I’ve done it countless times. Motivation is great at getting you started but it’s not so great at keeping you going.


That’s where persistence and intensity come into play.

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Persistence is the ability to continue to do what needs to be done to reach a goal, despite obstacles that may exist. It’s getting up in the morning to train even though you may not feel like it. It’s sticking with the plan because you know it works. It’s the grind that you engage in to make forward progress. But persistence is hard. It takes a lot of mental energy to sustain. This where is habits become important. Habits allows us to engage in behaviors without expending a tremendous amount of mental resources and energy – we essentially can “autopilot” some elements and save our mental resources for other items. For example, if you have to get up at 5am to get to the gym, the first week is going to be rough. It’s early and cold and dark and your bed is pretty damn comfortable.  As you make it through the first week, each week becomes subsequently easier because  now, it’s just routine. You don’t have to really think about the fact that you have get up early because it’s now a habit. Forward motion is difficult to initiate but significantly easier to sustain. By creating new habits in a sustainable fashion, you’re able to keep that forward momentum without it consuming your thoughts and actions 24/7. Let me clarify though, that persistence is NOT getting injured and then going all out once you feel the slightest bit better only to find yourself injured again. That’s not persistence, that’s ego feeding. Persistence would be resting, doing what you need to do to heal said injury, and continuing to do that despite obstacles (i.e. your ego) that exist.

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Creating habits that help you be consistent in your persistence (that’s fun to say!) allows you to use your mental resources elsewhere – like in regulating your intensity. Intensity refers to how vigorously you pursue those goals. It’s how hard you work to achieve whatever you want to achieve. It’s naive to think that we can work at 100% all the time – life doesn’t work that way. Sometimes, you can only give 50% on the intensity scale and that’s okay. If your life is full of stress, adding more stress to that equation (i.e. trying to go HARD in the gym) isn’t necessarily the answer. Instead, you’re persistent – you do what you need to do. Doing the bare minimum isn’t going to win you any awards but it’s also not going to destroy you if you have to coast along for a week. Again, creating habits and creating a habit of persistence frees up your energy reserves for bringing in the intensity.

Training Updates

Thank you to everyone who took the time to take the blog content survey! It is immensely helpful to me. Speaking of the survey, a TON of you said you’d like to see more training/workout/strongman posts and since I don’t think I’ve written anything about my own gym stuff in a while, today seems like a good day to update things.

I’m currently entering the second 12-week cycle of my off season so I’m not doing any implement work but am doing a whole lot of power cleans, squats, pressing, and other things. I spent most of my first cycle being injured – I sprained a good portion of the ligaments in part of my back due to some SI joint issues so I couldn’t back squat or deadlift for about 2 months. I made adjustments, did some physical therapy stuff, and was pretty cautious about reintroducing back squats and deadlifts into my program. My cautiousness and actual chilling the eff out-ness seems to have paid off since deadlifts and back squats have felt fine the past two weeks. So what have I been doing for 12+ weeks?

Power cleans. SO MANY POWER CLEANS. I hate power cleans. But I PR’ed by power clean by about 6kgs (just about 13#) in 12 weeks after not power cleaning for nearly a year and also PR’ed my clean by 5kgs (over 10#) for several singles because my body apparently remembers how to clean even though I haven’t done that in at least 1 and a half years.


Power cleans are still my nemesis but at least they’re improving each week. 5 sets of 3 at 46kg this evening. Shirt by @reebok , wrist wraps from @strengthwraps #fitfluential #srbarathlete #teamx2 #livewithfire #startingstrongman #strongman #strongwoman #cleansoncleans

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We got to play with some implements on Saturday and it was great to see my power clean progress actually translate to implement stuff and I ended up with a 30# log clean PR.


Squats. While I was injured I was front squatting with chains, which is brutal at best. It was very helpful in building up my upper back and was great for rehabbing my injury. I also front squatted my old 1RM (175#) for a triple (140# + 40#ish of chains), although it’s tough to say how that works out since the chains add an entirely different dimension. I’ve been back squatting for about a week now and taking it very light. My “heavy” day felt incredibly easy so that’s promising and reassuring that I haven’t lost that much strength off of my back squat. At this point, my squat doesn’t really NEED to increase – I’m cutting weight and squats aren’t usually a competitive lift for me so just maintaining my current squat levels is really my goal.


Pressing. I’m a bad presser. Pressing has always been my weak point but I was able to make some measurable progress for the first time in pretty much forever. Having a back injury meant I couldn’t do much lower body accessory work so I did A LOT of upper body accessory stuff – dumbbell pressing, dumbbell rows, incline z presses, etc. I do love a good z press.


Can’t resist playing with new toys after I finish my workout. New 75# keg for lots of pressing practice. #strongwoman #strongman #kegsarefun #fitfluential #srbarathlete #startingstrongman #teamx2

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Other stuff: Like I said, I haven’t done a whole lot of implement work because we are in off season but we did play with some kegs and logs this weekend and I have made some noticeable improvement there. I can’t wait to see how these strength gains translate to implement stuff! I almost managed a triple bodyweight (465#) sled drag for 80 feet which was brutal and awful and fantastic.



[photo by Stephanie Lau]

Diet stuff: I’m well on my way to my new weight class. My programming and diet has changed over the past week or so to accommodate the fact that I still need to lose about 10# before I compete. Programming wise, that means cutting back the volume on certain things and making my weak points (pressing and bringing my deadlift back up) a priority by adjusting my schedule and other exercises. Diet wise that means operating in more of a caloric deficit and eating every carb on the planet to help ensure that my performance and recovery don’t take a big hit.

Whew, that’s it.

Blog Content Survey

For all intensive purposes, I’m a Type A person – I thrive off of plans, routines, and spreadsheets. One place I don’t do that….this space. For whatever reason, I could never get on board with editorial calendars, scheduling posts, etc. Don’t get me wrong, when I work with companies/brands/products, I’m meticulous about meeting my requirements and deadlines. But as far as scheduling and planning my own content…that rarely happens. As a result, this space ebbs and flows and changes – it goes from heavily recipe oriented to more posts about training to more mindset-esque posts to practical tips, etc. I also refuse to produce content just to produce content – I’d rather have this space be a little quiet than put out something that isn’t helpful or useful in any way. Life has been crazy busy, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon, so I want to make the most out of my limited writing and blogging time. SO with that said, I’m interested in what YOU all want to read more about it.

Since I love data and numbers and things, I’ve devised a quick little survey to gauge what sort of topics you all like most, least, and what you want to see more/less of. If you would take a second or five to answer a few questions, it would be SUPER helpful!



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