Podcast Primer #2: Motivation Is a Crutch, So Stop Leaning On It

This is the 2nd in our series of commentary to accompany our podcasts; this week’s entry pertains to our podcast on Motivation (which of course I highly recommend everybody watch).

You Can’t Fall Off If You Never Got On In The First Place

Let’s get one thing out of the way; there is no bandwagon.  There is no platform or exclusive club or bus to “Gainzville”, as people enjoy tossing about.  This is one of the most often things we all see and hear about on fitness forums, articles, and even in passing conversation with people, and is one of the biggest mistakes people make right from the get-go.

Fitness and health and the pursuit of it gets put onto a pedestal.  It gets propped up onto a proverbial mountain top that people must ascend to, and therefore are as able to fall off because the footing on the treacherous path people set for themselves is unstable.

This is where motivational posters and videos tend to make themselves relevant, and by relevant I mean, something people tend to stare at and try and force them to be a starting point.

Paul Carter of Lift-Run-Bang (a man who I draw a lot of philosophical inspiration from) wrote a post on this subject and there is an excerpt from it that resonates with me:

Motivation is bullshit. Getting better should be something you’re already about. Not
something you need to be goaded into. I’m not saying some things don’t light a bigger fire
under your ass than others, but if you have to seek out reasons to get better, you’re
losing. Meaning, If it requires some outside force to resonate with something inside of you,
you aren’t in possession of what it takes to get better all on your own.
How will you CONSISTENTLY get better if it requires the dangling carrot to do make you do
At some point you have to decide that getting better is just a part of what you are. What
makes you, you. When that happens you won’t need “devices” in order to get better. It will
just be something you do. If you were isolated in a room with your weights for 10 years,
would you get better without the influence of external forces? I hope you can say yes to
that. If not, figure out how to say yes to that. 

What staring a bunch of uplifting quotes and pictures really does is externalize your drive to succeed so much you dilute or completely lose that internal drive and then you go and put yourselves into a vicious cycle of failure and stalling…

…so fucking stop that.  Right now.

Okay Then Mr. Debbie Downer, What the Hell do I do instead?

Well, since I am not a jerk and won’t leave the dear reader hanging on a negative note, the biggest thing I have stressed time and time again is to build good habits.

The good habits link above is, more or less, a really good starting point to getting started.  So let’s put it in perspective for fitness and nutrition:

Set a big goal, and lots of smaller goals to get you there.

Let’s say you figure you need to lose like, 100 pounds (or 45 kilos for those of us not using freedom units).  This is a pretty substantial weight loss goal and will probably take over a year to accomplish as sanely as possible.  Having your goals that far out there is difficult to keep things in perspective.  So, instead, set smaller goals such as; “I will lose 20 lbs. in 4 months”.   This is a smaller goal, is much more easily achieved, and keeps a solid weight loss pace (just a shade over 1 lbs. lost per week over the period).  Breaking the weight loss into smaller, more achievable portions adds up over time, keeps it in perspective and creates smaller (but still rewarding) milestones aimed at reaching the more ambitious one.

Find something you enjoy doing, and find a way to make it fit into every day

Time and time again people do things because it is effective, but not necessarily fun.  I made the mistake of this myself years ago when I was initially losing weight.  I committed to doing oodles and oodles of cardio; running 3-4 days a week, treadmill, bike, actual outdoor running…I did it not because i enjoyed it, but because I wanted to burn the most calories I could every day and didn’t think just lifting was enough.  Running became a simple means to an end.  It didn’t take long before I burned out from the effort of keeping up with it, and I abandoned it.

Nowadays I just lift and sprinkle in some sprints now and then.  I have zero desire to doing cardio, so, why the hell would I do it?  I had no real incentive to do it, and if I had kept up with it, it would have done more harm than good to my habit building and internal motivation.

The moral of the story is to find an activity that you actually WANT to do.  It should be something that you are eager to do, eager to get better at, and that you find easy to integrate into your lifestyle.  If you want to do it, you’ll make it work.  So, if you want to play floor hockey, or run marathons, hike the backwoods or power lift…it doesn’t matter, as long as you find that passion that makes going out and doing it and building on the habit of doing it easier.

Shit Happens; Don’t Forget Your Coping Helmet

Seriously.  You had a few beers, maybe some nachos and…OH NOOOOOO I ATE TOO MUCH ONCE THE WORLD IS OVER.

Pump the breaks.  How awful was it that, once in a month of good behaviour, you let loose once?  You aren’t going to re-gain those 5 lbs. you lost over the last 4 weeks because of ONE night.  Take a deep breath and learn to put these sorts of problems behind you.  Even when you have a holiday weekend that goes a little awry, ask yourself if you’re really going to let that balloon up into a week and a complete disregard of the good progress you’ve made.  Don’t dread holidays, social outings or missteps.  Account for them, assess them, and move on from them.  If you fuck up 30 times in a 365 day span, what are the odds that will hold you back from your goals?  Barring you having some professional incentive in it, you likely won’t notice the effects of the hiccup a week later, let alone a month or a year later.

So, if you have a fuck up, don’t let that hold you hostage and blow up into a complete collapse of miserable bingeing and self-flagellation over it.  You need a healthy approach to your fitness journey just as much as you need to eat sensibly and exercise.  If you don’t develop the mental fortitude along with everything else then you’re missing a critical piece of the puzzle.

My Dirty Little Secret: All Of The Above IS Motivation

I know, I just beat it into your skulls that motivation sucks.  It still does, but that’s because, as I alluded to already, external motivations suck.  Building those good habits and having clear goals and a clear path to get there SHOULD be motivation enough.  Even when you’re sick, miserable or overwhelmed, the internal motivation drives you to make it happen.  Draw your desire in and fuel your own inner fire rather than seeking sparks elsewhere.  Even if you move your workouts around to accommodate injuries, life events, sickness…never let yourself SKIP the workout, talk yourself out of your goals, or let outside forces dictate your direction.  If you draw anything from the external world, it should be with the explicit end goal of becoming or re-enforcing the inner drive.  Get a little selfish and think about yourself and what YOU want first, and how you’re going to get there.

If you can master that philosophy, and walk the walk to get there, you’ll never need the bandwagon, a motivational poster or “just the right song” ever again.

-Andrew Crickmore


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