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6 Ways to Stay Motivated to Train

Do you find yourself losing your head of steam midway through a training program and getting off track? These six strategies can help you stay focused and on task.

Tips for staying motivated on an exercise program and diet

One of the biggest challenges people deal with when following a training program is the ability to stay motivated through its entirety.

Maybe you've experienced this before: The first couple weeks you're excited about a new program, but then you hit a rut. It's not as "fun" as it was at first. Going to the gym several days a week gets monotonous. The novelty wears off and you miss a day, and then you miss two days, and then you're off the rails. Worst case scenario, you drop out of the program entirely and you're back at square one, wondering what you need to do to stay motivated, to keep that fire in your belly, so you can stay consistent and reach your goals the next time your start a training program.

While I can deliver you the absolute best training and nutrition plans to follow, I can’t fill you with the motivation required to be dedicated to the plan every single day. Yes, I hope my daily examples in my Train With Jim series on social media will help you stay motivated, but there are times when, for whatever the reason, the road ahead seems all uphill with potholes everywhere.

So let's tackle the issue of motivation head-on, with real world tools and strategies you can use to maintain your focus and stay on track. Here are my top 6 tips for staying motivated no matter what’s got you down:

1) Join

The nice thing about the Internet is that it allows a convenient way for like-minded people to come together for discussion and support in pursuit of a common goal. Social media communities like my JYM Army Facebook page are a great way to talk with other people around the world about training and nutrition. And not just talk, but celebrate accomplishments, share in the struggles, and support one another through it all.

No matter what program you’re following, you'll get far better results when you frequently discuss your fitness goals and progress (or even lack thereof!) with others, in person or online. When I drop by the JYM Army Facebook group page, it provides the same sense of comradery I used to get training at Golds Gym in Manchester, Connecticut, in the late 1980s – just in a digital enviroment now.

Motivation Tip: Don’t just join a community like the JYM Army Facebook page – stay active on it. The most active users get the best results.

Marianne Kinnard, wife of long-time JYM Army member Kevin Kinnard, is currently doing her master's thesis at California Lutheran University, studying both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in individuals following my New Year's Challenge here on JimStoppani.com. Her research is still ongoing, but we expect the data to point to increased motivation levels due to the higher engagement of doing a formal challenge.

Being part of an online community like the JYM Army, following a challenge, and engaging frequently (daily, weekly) with others doing the challenge on your progress and struggles is about as active as you can get. I'm guessing that those who are this deeply engaged will see better before-and-after results. Coincidence? I think not!

2) Learn

The more you know, the better your results. I can guarantee that! That’s why every one of my programs are not only designed to deliver results in muscle mass, strength, and body fat – they're also designed to teach you something about training, to educate you.

In Shortcut to Size, for example, thousands of people not only got insanely stronger and more muscular in 12 weeks, but they also learned about linear periodization and frequent change in weight and rep ranges.

In Shortcut To Shred, you learned that it's possible to get leaner while getting stronger. And you also learned that cardioacceleration in between sets is not only an efficient and effective way to get in cardio and burn fat, but it can actually improve strength. Each one of my programs is designed to teach you something while you get results from it. When you understand how you’re getting the results you're seeing, it makes for a great motivator in the gym. 

Motivation Tip: Never stop learning. Thanks to the digital age, it’s now easier than ever to find information on training and nutrition. My website, JimStoppani.com, as well as bodybuilding.com, are great digital resources, and so are social media channels like Instagram and Facebook. And don’t forget books, be it bound or digital, like my Encyclopedia of Muscle & Strength.

3) Teach

If you know it, share it. That’s what I call “paying it forward.” Few things are as gratifying as knowing that some tip or piece of advice – whether it pertains to rep ranges, food choices, or something as simple as a change of grip on an exercise – helped someone get closer to his or her goal. That sense of pride and satisfaction from helping a fellow iron warrior can be a big motivator to get you to the gym and crush it.

Plus, if you want people to take you seriously, you need to look the part – that's often my biggest motivator. I certainly can’t expect anyone to take my advice about building muscle seriously if I don’t have any myself. If my knowledge and expertise is so effective, I better be able to demonstrate it on my own body first.

Motivation Tip: There’s a fine line between being helpful and being annoying. Don’t be THAT person who feels the need to correct EVERY other gym member’s form. Share the knowledge you've gained with people you know will be receptive. Friends and family, as well as online acquaintances, are the best place to start helping others. Don’t approach strangers, in person or online, until you’ve gained some respect and recognition in a particular setting that warrants you offering your two cents.

4) Admire

Few of us, including myself and even the current Mr. Olympia, are happy with the way we currently look. By that I mean, no matter how lean and muscular you are, you're always trying to improve upon it. Some call that body dysmorphia. I call it dedication. But in those times when that drive to continue dropping body fat and sculpting more muscle seems to be waning, you can literally look at others. 

Scroll through pictorials like bodybuilding.com's We 'Mirin series for some great inpirational photos they will have you sprinting to the gym to get results like those portrayed. Knowing the sacrifice they made to get in that shape helps me realize that I can stay motivated and be dedicated to making the necessary sacrifice to reach my own lofty goals.

Motivation Tip: Don't let the admiration of others' physiques backfire and make you feel worse about yourself. Realize that everyone is different, we all travel different paths, and we all have different genetics and body types. Also, take age into consideration. If you're 40 years old, a 22-year-old bodybuilder may not be the most applicable role model for you; there are plenty of extremely fit 40-year-old physique competitors to aspire to. Likewise, if you're 18 years old and just getting started lifting weights, don't get discouraged because a 30-year-old at your gym has more muscle than you – that person likely has 10 years or more of training experience on you.

Let other people's physiques provide inspiration, not discouragement. "Success leaves clues," as they say. If you admire someone who's extremely fit, find out what he or she did to get so fit and incorporate that into your own progran and lifestyle.

5) Listen

Not to me, but to your favorite music when you train. Having good music that you look forward to listening to can help you stay motivated to get to the gym. Once at the gym, that music can help you have a better workout.

Research confirms this, including a study I presented at the National Strength and Conditioning Association, using recreational bodybuilders as my subjects. When they were able to listen to their preferred playlist, they completed an average of 1 rep more per set. This may not sound like much, but 11 reps to failure on the same exercise using the same weight as a set of 10 reps is 10% more work performed. Ten percent more reps performed over time will really add up!

Motivation Tip: Listen to your workout playlist songs only when you train. Don’t allow yourself to listen to them otherwise. That way, you have the reward of listening to the music you’ve been craving.

6) Check

Watch one of those Snickers commercials about being a diva and you’ll understand what I’m alluding to. Often in life the things that disappoint us, upset us, and depress us are silly things that add up and make us want to give in and give up. And so the stresses of life add up and derail the fitness plan that was supposed to help derail the stress.

Sounds ridiculous, right?! Sometimes we just need to get over ourselves. There are people battling cancer every day, and others going hungry who have no idea where their next meal is coming from, who would love to have "first world problems" like you and me.

Motivation Tip: Check yourself frequently. Are your worries and anxieties getting the best of you? Are you losing perspective and not being grateful for what you have?

Surround yourself with others who will also help keep you in check and hold you accountable. Real friends will tell you what you need to hear when you need to hear it. Have an open mind and hear them out.


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