Staying committed can be one of the hardest things about going to the gym. Sure, missing a day here or there isn’t going to hinder your progress too much, but missing a week can easily set you back more than just that week’s weights. Fortunately, there are a lot of good ways to stay motivated. Most people benefit from employing a few different strategies at once.
Track Your Progress
Tracking your progress is one of the best sources of motivation. You can keep a log for your sessions on paper or electronically, take regular body measurements, or document your aesthetic changes with progress shots. When you’re having a rough day of lifting, a look back through your training log will show you’re repping out a weight that was a struggle to hit for doubles a few months ago.
Similarly, it’s difficult to see growth and change when you’re staring at yourself in the mirror every day, so it’s helpful to have a record of how your physique has changed via progress photos and videos. A lot of times, even when you feel like there has been no change or improvement, an outsider would be able to see your growth easily. Progress shots help give you that outside perspective.
Accountability is invaluable. When you need to combat your own unwillingness to get into the gym, external motivation can be just the trick. This can take the form of a friend who hits the gym with you, sessions with a personal trainer, a forum to log your sessions onto, or someone online that you check in with from time to time. Motivating yourself can be hard even when you love the activity, and reporting to somebody else can keep you going.
A good goal is a concrete target to aim at and grind towards. It’s much more exciting to rip two plates off the floor than to put in weeks of ramping light weight, but if you’ve got a well-defined goal in sight you’re more willing to put in the work. They give you something to drive towards through the monotonous stretches. Goals should be concrete but flexible. For example, if you want a stronger squat, you don’t just set a goal of getting a stronger squat. A good goal gives you something to shoot for; for example, you could aim to increase your squat 1RM by 20lbs within two months. This goal should remain slightly flexible, so that if you plateau at 1.5 months you don’t give up entirely. Instead, reset your goal to hit that weight in 2.5 months instead.
Use social media to find other women who are chasing down the same goals as you. It can be extremely motivating to have concrete evidence of what the female body is capable of – what your body is capable of. Try not to use these examples as a measuring stick for yourself, but as an exercise in finding other women who are on the same team as you, fighting the same fight. Use their photos and words to draw inspiration for yourself.
Choose a program that you enjoy. If you want to get big and strong, but the powerlifting program you’re using right now just isn’t fun for you, it’s okay to mix it up and spend a while doing strongman training, bodybuilding, or even something unrelated like bouldering or swimming. If you don’t enjoy the process, then it will be near impossible to stay motivated no matter what you do. Make sure you’re training in ways that are fun and exciting to you.
Practice self-care so you have positive associations with your training. After a long day of challenging your body, reward yourself with a hot soak, or spend an hour sinking into your couch with your favorite show on. Try to recognize that healthy, nutritious food is a reward for the hard work your body and muscles have done. Don’t drive yourself into the ground until you burn out – take time to relax and appreciate your efforts.
When you’re really stuck in a rut or lacking motivation, try to remember that everything counts. Going for a walk with your dog counts. Biking to the farmer’s market counts. Consider the bits of physical fitness that are just part of your everyday routine as progress in and of themselves. Maybe you’re not throwing around the big weights today or even this week, but if you can make an effort to get out there and do at least something physical, you’ll be further on your way to rediscovering your motivation. Don’t give up just because you’ve missed a few days, or a week, or a month. Do a little bit of what you can, when you can, and keep going in whatever ways work for you. Then, when the time is right and you are able, get back in there and keep kickin’ ass.