A question I’ve been asked a lot in the last number of months is what motivates me. I’ve had to really think about that question and have had to break down what it is for me. Here are the things that I did to get from being averagely active to fit and strong in the matter of about six months.
1. Have a tangible intention or goal
As a Licensed Professional Counselor I specialise in motivating and moving emotional brain forward in a variety of ways on a daily basis. That part of our mind that works much like a very young child or an animal moves forward when it buys into or sees something that looks desirable or enticing. Thus, having a tangible goal or intention is very useful when starting a new workout routine or diet. The goal or intention has to be inviting to emotional brain because it will naturally move towards it when it is.
My intention for myself was to compete in my first bikini bodybuilding competition. The idea was new and different and definitely created some excitement emotionally. In order to get there, however, I had to be in the gym at least five days a week and watch what I ate.
2. Get informed
The next step into achieving my goal of getting fitter and healthier was to make sure I was informed. It had been a while since I was in a gym and I had to learn how to use the different machines all over again. It was important to know what exercises would help me achieve my goal of competing. Weight training was something I had never really focused on so it was all relatively new for me.
Working with heavy weights can be dangerous if not done properly. Many people have injured themselves because of a lack of proper form or technique. That would’ve been disastrous to my ability to compete. At times I had to ask for help from others in the gym I saw with good physique and form.
Diet was also an important component and I had to learn the best combination of fats, proteins and carbohydrates to achieve my goal. I made the decision to go completely vegan for several reasons as I have written about in previous blogs especially the one titled “Four reasons I eat a whole food, plant-based diet” and had most to make sure I was well-informed on where to get the best sources of protein.
3. Rally the troops
Another important component to staying the course is to rally the troops – use your social network. We are social beings by nature and do much better when we are in a team or connected to others. Have a support system that is uplifting, encouraging and can hold you accountable.
In my case I teamed up with a personal trainer who also became a really good friend. I also enlisted the support of my friends and family – asking for advice and talking to them when I was feeling less motivated. As an extrovert I find that being around many people in the gym serves both as a motivator as well as a source of accountability for me. Even if you are an introvert having that one person who is your workout partner or running buddy can do the trick. I made friends with people I met in the gym and garnered some workout partners who have helped to push me outside of my comfort zone and has helped me to achieve things I didn’t think was possible.
4. Make smaller milestones to be reached
Although having a big goal or intention is a must it can seem so far off and unreachable at times. Having smaller goals or milestones are imperative. As I started lifting weights the obvious smaller milestones were reaching a new weight lifting record. As I am writing this article I am proud to say that I just broke my own squat record yesterday by doing 6 reps of 225lbs. It was an amazing feeling of accomplishment that flooded over me as I pushed it up the first time and has served to motivate emotional brain even more – now I want to go 20 lbs heavier!
5. When you have down days make the next day an up day
Since beginning this journey it hasn’t always been easy. There have been very many days where I simply didn’t feel like going to the gym or eating the proper meals. At times I haven’t gone and I ate more simple carbohydrates than were good for me but I have learned that it is about what you do next that matters more. It is not ‘why’ but ‘what now’ that makes all the difference. Spending emotional energy on beating yourself up for not doing something is just a waste of precious energy. Simply make the next meal or next day one that is an up day and continue moving forward.