Workout Motivation: The Humbling Truth


Every time I go online I see workout motivation slogans, videos and speeches that are designed to psych you up.  The videos always contain the same type of narrative.  They show clips from movies when the character is down on his luck and then magically the music picks up the pace.  We then see our fictional hero hit the gym with all of his might sweating bullets and lifting till he drops.  On top of all of this there is somebody making a speech telling you to “win at all costs” and “settle for nothing less than victory”.  Whew! I think I just motivated myself. 

Now on a personal level I see nothing wrong with any of this, but I find it kind of funny that nobody ever questioned whether or not these motivational tools really worked.  Are they necessary?  After all they are free to watch, so what harm could they pose? 


Workout Motivation Doesn’t Equal Success

I decided to check this out for myself and see what the facts were.  Motivation is very similar to the behavior of habits.  We all know that a habit is an automatic reflex response to a particular stimulus.  For example, I feel bored and depressed (cue) so I watch a motivational video (routine) and then I feel happy (reward).  What I just described is called the habit loop. 

Habits form in our subconscious with each repetition of the habit loop and before you know it they become automatic.  If you really study a person’s life you will eventually see that this person’s entire life is nothing but a summation of all of their habits (both good and bad).  The more we repeat these habit loops, the stronger they become and the harder it is to break them. 

So how does all of this relate to workout motivation.  Well, if you get an athlete who continually watches these motivational videos before every workout and gets all psyched up before hitting the gym he will continue to become dependent on them.  Getting all psyched up is not always the way to make progress in the gym.  If you get too psyched up too often you will expend too much mental energy before you even hit the gym. 


The Inverted U Theory

Energy, whether mental or physical, is like anything else.  Too much of it is bad and too little of it is bad.  The key to getting the best possible performance out of yourself is to find that majestic middle ground.  This is the essence of the inverted U theory. 

Is it now possible for you to see how watching motivational videos will lead to a fall in performance?  Those videos can be just outright addictive.  That feeling is what a cocaine addict chases on a regular basis until one day they overdose.  The same happens for athletes and lifters who just mindlessly consume motivational videos until one day they overdose. 

The body and mind need a break sometimes and for you to deny that is to try to have permanent daylight with out nightfall.  It just doesn’t work.  The body needs rest.  This was well documented by Soviet Sports Scientists when the trained the USSR Weightlifting Team in the 1970’s.  Every 3-4 weeks the lifters would need a break from heavy lifting to freshen up their minds and bodies. 


Why Do People Watch Workout Motivation?

Let’s face it we live in a pretty f***ed up world.  When we were young children we were ignorant to the ways of the world.  We used to hear stories of corruption and wrongdoing and ask ourselves “how can people do that?”  Then when school ends and people are thrust into this great game we call capitalism where it is every man for himself, fear gets the best of us.  We get so caught up in ourselves and we forget that it is just a ride. 

Well this is where motivational videos come in.  When your mind is trapped in negative self talk you need some kind of “divine intervention”.  This pulls the mind out of the internal chaos that YOU created.  None of it is real, but your perception of it sort of makes it real.  Motivational videos, whether workout motivation, business motivation, etc., help us to remember that it’s just a game.  No matter what happens it is going to be fine because after all it is just a game. 

One of the best ways to prepare for a competition or meet is just to realize this.  You are not saving the world, you are just lifting weights and having fun.  Every other thought you have in your mind is just a well staged play you convinced yourself was real in order to take your mind off of the mediocrity of everyday life.  Mediocrity is what causes this anxiety and bitterness.  So if you want a cure all for any motivation, follow this simple advice; any time you feel you need motivation, just do something that will get you closer to your goals.  If you try this you will notice that those negative thought and feelings will slowly start to dissipate. 


True Workout Motivation

Action is the surge that pushes you into positive territory.  You need to just take action.  The easiest way to do this is to get a good training partner.  Not a competitor, a partner.  Someone to share the journey with you.  Most people seek out a trainer or coach.  Let me tell you something, trainers and coaches are not the “permanent solution.”  Number one your spending money and number two trainers have tons of clients per day that they give different workouts to, for them it’s just business.

A training partner will make grueling workouts positive.  They will keep you going even when you start to question yourself.  This is even backed by research.  A 2013 study by the Harvard Business Review performed a study with groups of individuals performing planks and other abdominal exercises.  One group exercises by themselves, the other group had partners.  Of the group that had partners some of the partners were yelling motivational slogans at their exercising partner and the other group had silent partners.  The group that had partners performed better than the groups that had no partners.  Even more interestingly, the group that had silent partners did better than the group with vocal partners. 

The study suggests that having a partner forms a bond between you two.  It make you feel indispensable and work harder because others are depending on you.  There you have it.  Your only motivation you need is a good training partner.  That is true workout motivation!                  

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