When Motivation Is at an All Time Low

Handle Your Shit… This has been my tagline for close to a decade. I stole it from a close friend and training partner years ago and made it my own. This saying adorns my office walls in multiple areas; my wonderful clients and employees have gifted the saying to me in numerous forms. I used to tell clients this when they would come to me with tons of excuses about inconsistency in training or not following the program.

Personally, I tell myself to Handle My Shit numerous times a week regarding many aspects of life. As a business owner, a family man, and 40-something-year-old athlete I am constantly trying to Handle My Shit.

As a personal trainer/fitness professional it’s always been important to keep my body in good shape and lead from the front. Over the years I have competed in powerlifting, triathlons, and half marathons. I’ve trained for physically challenging certifications and completely transformed my body many times. I do all this because a) I love to push myself physically and continually challenge what I can do, and B) I like to use myself as an example to show people that they are capable of doing things they never thought of.

I was never a gifted athlete. I was a chubby kid who earned the nickname Pudge Muffin. Over time I became a decent athlete, but never a star. I was the kid that showed up to practice every day on the football team, but rarely played.  I look back and wonder Why didn’t I just quit? I got my ass kicked on the football team. I really wasn’t good nor was I strong. I lifted weights, but was by far one of the weakest kids on the team. I remember getting flattened more times than I care to admit only to show up again the next day at practice.

So why am I sharing all of this?

Recently, life has changed in a big way for me. I decided to take the biggest risk of my life by expanding my gym from a very successful and  comfortable location to a huge facility with over double the space and close to triple the rent. I did it because I had a vision, and the risk of not doing it was greater than the risk of failing, but that’s not why I’m writing this. I am writing this because my motivation to train, push myself physically toward a big goal, and crush workouts is complete shit right now. Training/exercising/working out/whatever you want to call it has never been a problem for me…… until January 2019. Life is great, but stress is stress. Trying to balance training, eating healthy, growing a business, spending time with family and loved onesit’s kicking my ass. This fitness thing is no different for me than it is for many people. I feel the struggle.

Last Sunday I woke up completely exhausted after a round trip to Phoenix on Saturday. It took all of my energy to roll out of bed, and I hate to admit this has been happening a lot. I had a 6-mile run planned that morning on my Training Peaks schedule. After my second cup of coffee I decided on a casual 2.5-mile walk with my dog. That is what I had in me that day. There was no moderate jog, interval, or even a brisk walk. It was a stroll for an hour with my pup. When I was done with my walk I was grateful to have done something physical that was also good for my mind. Good stress and bad stress still have the common denominator of STRESS. Learning  how to adapt and respond to it is crucial. I could have psyched myself up to run that day, but more than likely it would have depleted me and left me in worse shape. I could also have chosen to do nothing. One thing I know is doing absolutely nothing and sitting on my ass is rarely ever the right answer unless I have a fever or a doctor gave me orders to do so. There seems to be a recurring theme in the fitness world about going hard or going home, or being some sort of warrior/lion/predator animal in the gym. Let’s face it: that’s all bullshit. Truth: it’s consistency, not intensity, where the magic happens.

I am reminded of a story about a guy I met at a gym nearly two decades ago. He had suffered a heart attack and had a wake up call to get into shape. He showed up to the gym 5 days per week before the sun came up to work out. One day I noticed him walk in the gym, sit down on a bench by the front desk, and then get up to leave. I asked him why he was leaving. I will never forget his answer. He told me that he woke up and felt like complete hell. He was pretty sure he had a fever and knew he couldn’t work out, but he didn’t want to break his routine of driving to the gym. So he showed up that day, then want back home to rest. That is discipline. He’d developed a habit that he was not going to break based on how he was feeling that day.

Because I have very little motivation to train right now, I rely on discipline to be physically active consistently. To keep my body moving. The goal right now is to be active 6 days per week with a combination of lifting, running/conditioning, stretching, or walking. The goal is consistency, not a personal record or getting a certain amount of miles in. I still have a program scheduled and I know I can modify it when I need to. Just show up! Looking back to my days on the football team I’m grateful that I learned the discipline of showing up even when I didn’t really want to be there.

Everyone goes through times of poor motivation and stress, even fit pros who seem to have that area of life in perfect order. Showing up consistently during those tougher times sets you up for success when the time is right.

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