March / April 2017
With my 38th birthday around the corner, I took time to reflect back and take stock of what I've learnt, where I am now, and what I want and DON'T want.
I realised that to be successful at anything you have to be passionate about it. Goals don't work unless you do, and what fun is it to work on something that simply isn't bringing you any joy?
As an example, a broad goal like working out to look better isn't going to cut the motivation mustard for very long. I've preached this many times, but this year I finally experienced it.
My approach to eating and training has always supported my physique-oriented goal of looking more athletic and lean. Sure, functional fitness and strength were also top priorities, but I was never willing to sacrifice a lean physique to get stronger. The effect on my outward appearance was always the dominant factor to consider.
After years of trying – of succeeding, failing, getting lean, being not so lean, in a pattern similar to a yo-yo diet effect – I became despondent due to my 'lack' of results. Soon enough, gym and training were no longer fun as my workouts were driven by feelings of guilt rather than enjoyment.
I was forcing the issue and it made me dislike where I was and what I was trying to achieve. What's worse is that I never really achieved anything noteworthy.
That was until the day I let go of my physique-based ideals and fully threw myself into an activity that I enjoyed doing and something that was challenging and rewarding.
A mindset shift happened over the course of 2 to 3 months as I modified my training to support my new-found passion – mountain biking. Suddenly I was applying myself harder in training, even in the gym, and was researching techniques to improve my endurance and fitness. I also began to track my progress and achievements.
What's more is that a leaner physique became a by-product of becoming a better cyclist. I was doing something I enjoyed AND I started to look the part!
My 'eureka' moment happened when I stopped worrying about the fit of my jeans and started caring about the fact that I was the slowest person in the group of riders. Being the last one up a hill is far more embarrassing than the private struggle with your favourite pair of Freddys.
So, what's the message? Well, if you're struggling to connect with that inner passion required to shed those last few kilos or build a better body, perhaps it's time to reframe your training raison d'etre – your primary source of motivation.
Finding a new passion or challenge will get you moving again by igniting within you the most powerful form of motivation – intrinsic motivation. This is driven by an interest or enjoyment in the act itself, rather than on any external pressures or rewards.
The funny thing is, by pursuing your passion, you'll be more likely to achieve the goal you set for yourself in the first place. So go out and explore your options and find a place where you belong, even if it's not inside the gym. I promise that by making that connection, your desire and approach to bettering your fitness and strength in your new endeavour will ultimately lead you back to the gym, this time with a renewed sense of commitment and motivation to train.