Those that have followed me, my articles, my website, blogs, and coaching logs for any length of time know that I typically follow the road less traveled. I don’t necessarily do this on purpose; I do this because the road most traveled sometimes seems to be congested with illogical ideology, antiquated concepts, and thinking that makes me shake my head. Typically, these ideas are focused on nutrition, supplementation, and training. However, today I am touching on a topic that has been an issue for me recently and I know has been for a lot of you as well: motivation.
Cue the predictable line I have used for a very long time: “I have trained for decades...”
But it needs to be said because, over my three decades of training, I have rarely struggled with motivation. That being said, it is a relevant topic because it strikes most all of us at some point in our training or competitive journey. The longer you train, the more likely it will impact you. If you struggle to find motivation and have been training for only a handful of years, I would question your passion for training. If you struggle to find motivation after training for 20 years, I feel ya.
I have struggled for short periods of time in the past — a week or two here or there. Hell, I used to find off-season training to be the worst, because even though you can track progress and evaluate whether you are growing, I just hate not being in shape. I hated it when I was competing consistently and trying to advance as far as I could in the sport, but I hate it now just as much. I thrive on the structure of dieting or contest prep, and I love being in excellent condition. Ego? Possibly. More so these days, being in shape makes me feel (and look) younger than I am. That is another article, though, about how old I am, so I digress.
The most popular response you will get from your hardcore brethren and from those on social media is that you just need to suck it up, buttercup. No one wants to be a bitch and no one wants to appear anything less than passionate about training and living the #beastmode lifestyle (yes, I know I sound old using an outdated hashtag, but I AM old so I will do it — much like I feel cargo shorts are still a fashion statement). My response to a period of time that lasts longer than a week or two of lacking motivation is quite different than, well, the road most traveled.
Don’t fight it. Get out of the gym.
Staying in the gym when you aren’t all-in mentally is a recipe for disaster. It is even worse if you have spent any real length of time training and beating the shit out of your body because you likely have chronic or borderline chronic injuries. If you force yourself into the gym for fear of being labeled a pussy and you have a bad back, you could end up with a lengthy layoff from the gym, of which you will have no control. My advice is to stay in control; take the time off and come back when you are ready to come back.
When will you be ready? What if you lose all of your gains?
You’ll be ready when you’re ready. I know, pretty vague, right? You are going to “lose gains” if you take time off, that’s a no-brainer. Guess what motivates you to train and get back at it above all else? That’s right, losing gains and/or getting fat.
“But Skip, I will then have to work twice as hard and twice as long to get it back.”
Yup. Thing is, no one ever gets a pro card because they took two months off training. You likely aren’t going for a pro card anyway, so what are two months in the grand scheme of things?
I have been training longer than most, so two months to me is pretty much nothing. Even if you have been training for only a handful of years, two months off is still nothing. I use two months as an arbitrary amount of time so it could be four months, one month, six months, etc. That is up to your individual situation and how unmotivated you are. If you truly love training and you are passionate about it, it isn’t that you won’t come back. It is more an issue of how long it will take before you get motivated again.
Life happens. Life happens, even more, the older you get. If you think your life is stressful at 22, wait until you have a mortgage, a family to feed, a career (instead of working at GNC part-time and bouncing at the coolest pussy palace in your college town), kids who need to be run to everything from sports to court (don’t ask, it’s a long story), family medical issues, or even a death in the family (and when you get older, it seems everyone around you is dying, trust me).
Stress can sideline motivation faster than anything else I can think of other than your own health issues.
I struggled quite a bit this year with quite a few obstacles and it finally got to the point that I had to unplug. I decided to take time off. How much? I didn’t know, and I was smart enough to not add another stress to my already stressful situation by giving myself a set amount of time. I took it week by week and it ended up being eight weeks. I might have been ready to get back at it sooner, but didn’t want to set myself up for a situation where I came back and in two weeks was unmotivated again. I knew when it was time to come back because I didn’t like how I felt and I didn’t like how I looked. More importantly, though, I simply missed being in the gym. The latter is the most important factor. Not liking how you look and feel doesn’t always motivate you to want to get back at it for the right reasons. Missing the gym and missing the structure is something that makes most people feel they are missing out on a part of their life — part of who they are.
I do not let bodybuilding define who I am and it doesn’t give my life “purpose.” I have many other things in my life that give my life purpose. At the same time, it is something very important to me and it grounds me. It gives me time each day to focus on something that keeps me feeling young and builds my self-esteem and confidence. It gives me “me time.” I can only go without something that is important to me and makes me feel good about myself for so long.
Plus, my wife will only work out and diet if I do, and that bitch is getting fat. It’s time to plug back in. Just Sayin’.