A friend complained to me that he couldn’t seem to find the motivation to go to the gym. He had been doing really well when he had a personal trainer, but he couldn’t afford the trainer anymore. Without regular appointments on his schedule, he just wasn’t going. He’d gained a bunch of weight and he felt out of control.
“You must not want it bad enough,” I remarked.
Two days after that conversation, he called me. “I couldn’t stop thinking about what you said, that I must not want it bad enough. It made me really mad. Yesterday I went straight to the gym and had this really intense 90-minute workout.” “See, there you go,” I said. “You just have to get back in the habit.”
The problem was, he didn’t go back after that.
Actually, there were three problems. 1. We both believed in the mystical, sparkly, fairy-infused hoo-ha of the fable known as “motivation.” 2. Neither of us understood the nature of habit. 3. Neither of us connected my friend’s chronic bagel consumption to his rapid weight gain. Basically, we believed in unicorns but not in horses.
“Wanting it badly enough” may be enough to get someone to the gym once. Being mad and trying to prove a point can indeed light a fire that will burn around 500 calories, or two bagel-units. What do you do after that? I would have been happy to provide Full Metal Jacket-style “motivational” speeches to my friend several times a week. We all know how that movie ended. If that stuff worked, every gym would have a poster in the lobby with a kitten meme, and every member would work out 5-6 days a week. You could buy a t-shirt with some quote that caused everyone who read it to become a power lifter or ultra-marathoner. Fortune cookies would change lives.
“You will conquer obstacles to achieve success.”
“YES! I WILL!”
There has only ever been one person who ever wanted something badly enough to be motivated to practice every day, and that person was Inigo Montoya. Just think. If his father had lived, he simply would have become a master swordsmith. Fezzik would never have been convincing as the DPR, and then where would we be? But I digress.
Nobody ever killed my father, thank goodness, but that does tend to leave me rather short on compellingly inspirational reasons to work out. The good news is that reality is ever so much more accessible and attainable than fantasy. In truth, I haven’t had a gym membership for the last five years, and it’s been two years since I even stepped foot in one. Keep a meticulously accurate food log for three weeks and you’ll find out everything you need to know about reaching and maintaining a goal weight. Knowledge is power. Whether you find that inspirational or not, at least it’s true and reliable. You can count on it. (See what I did there?) It’s less like a lottery advertisement than an actuarial table, but so be it.
There are three reasons I stay fit. 1. Force of habit. 2. Knowledge of how it’s done. 3. Feeling craptastic and going downhill fast if I slack off past a certain point. If there’s any motivation in there, it’s reverse motivation. I get a migraine and lie on my back crying into my ears, mentally cursing myself. I start getting a pinched nerve in my neck that takes weeks to resolve. Every morning I get out of bed and my joints sound like a campfire, snapping and crackling loud enough to hear yards away. “Better get back on it,” I say, grimly. And that’s a Grim Fairy Tale for you.
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.