Throughout the past 3 weeks or so of what has largely consisted of frustration and rough gym sessions, people keep asking me “how do you stay motivated?!” or saying things like “I wish I was as disciplined as you”. It’s easy to be motivated to do something when you actually like doing it. I get out of bed and walk into the gyms looking forward to spending time there and getting my work done – on most days. On other days, I’m tired and would rather sleep but with my current schedule, that really isn’t much of an option. I don’t consider myself much of a “disciplined” person – but I am a very consistent person. I very rarely miss a gym session because 1.) I don’t want to and 2.) I’m flexible. I’m flexible enough to know that if I can’t do my squats on Monday, I can try and get them done on Tuesday instead. If I can’t do that, I can try and alter my Wednesday workout to do what is going to be the most beneficial. I’ll take time off if needed – but if I’m being honest, I’m really terrible at doing this and usually need someone to say “YOU ARE NOT WORKING OUT”. I’d rather modify and do what I can but sometimes, that isn’t an option. I get frustrated. Really frustrated.
It’s tough to have a rough patch where progress isn’t happening at a such a rapid pace. Well, welcome to not being a completely untrained novice – you’re going to have to work a lot harder for a smaller reward, it’s going to be infuriating at times, but it’s going to be worth it. You’ll probably catch yourself saying things such as “Oh, it’s not as much as everyone else buuut I squatted this” or “I mean, it was only a 5lb PR.” or “It wasn’t as great as this person but I did this.” You can go ahead and stop right there because, no matter what it is, you worked hard and accomplished something. There is no qualifier needed. I don’t care if it’s an empty bar, if it’s progress, and you’re proud of it, you should celebrate it – no “well, it’s only..” needed. It’s easy to celebrate progress as a beginner – everything is shiny and new and bright. As time goes on and the PRs become few and far between, it gets more difficult to keep the same optimistic outlook. You need something to sustain yourself outside of an external reward.
I actually really like what Camille Leblanc-Bazinet has to say about the topic:
When I get extraordinarily frustrated (and I’m not injured or in need of a mental break), I just simply show up. I know what I’m supposed to do that day, I do my best to do those things, but if it’s not there, then it’s not there. I make a note of it, take some time to look back and why it wasn’t there and what I can do next time to make it better.Throwing my hands up and saying “screw it” because I’m not PRing the crap out of everything isn’t an option. It just isn’t. And while I know the process isn’t linear, that doesn’t mean I don’t feel like just throwing in the towel after a particularly rough day, week, month. At some point, just showing up consistently turns into progress and the little things begin to add up. And while the temptation is to do more things – make it more complicated, do more volume, etc.; that probably isn’t your issue.
Momentum is a tough thing to counter – if you keep showing up, it gets easier to show up. While it may be hard to get started, it is easier to continue. The power in just showing up is that you keep that forward momentum. There are not starts and stops, there are breaks and detours, but you keep moving forward. So before adding in more activity, more squats, more banded chained clean complexes (I’m being sarcastic – please don’t do that), take a second to reflect on your consistency. Are you willing to just walk in the door and keep going without instant gratification? Simply showing up with some regularity will probably do much more than trying to complicate the crap out of something that doesn’t need to be that complicated.