You know the old song and dance about motivation, right? Sometimes you’re killing it, hitting all four or five of your weekly workouts, nutrition dialed in, leaping out of bed to seize the day. And then you slip up a bit. Maybe it’s an injury or an illness. Maybe you just take a break. And instead of jonesing to get back to your training, you find yourself seriously lacking the motivation to do much of anything. But guess what? You’re probably missing something critical about motivation. So read on, already!
Motivation is – drum roll, please – an emotion. And just like it’s impossible to be sad or happy or pissed off all day, every day, it’s impossible to stay motivated all day, every day. So what do you do when you know you can’t rely on that fickle emotion to meet your fitness (or any) goals? You create good habits, and you fall back on those.
When you have good habits, reaching those goals becomes automatic. You just do your thing – your daily routine – and you’ll get where you want to go. How awesome is that?
There’s a theory about habits – they’re comprised of three elements:
- The cue, or the thing that sets your habit in motion. Cues are things like the time of day or something someone else does or doesn’t do, or even an emotional state.
- The routine, or the steps you take when you act after being cued.
- The reward, or the “why” of your habit. This is the reason you do what you do.
When you understand these elements, you can take mindful action to change bad habits and build new ones. Start small – just changing little things about what cues your actions and the routine that follows is a good place to begin. Good habits mean you don’t have to go hunting for more motivation – you just start building good habits for yourself instead.
A University College London team completed a study that it takes 66 days to form a habit. It seems like a long time, but that’s basically two months of hitting three to five workouts a week. That’s definitely doable. So do it. Figure out which habit will benefit you in terms of your fitness goals. Then gut it out for two months. And you’ll put yourself in the position of enjoying the fruits of your labor next time you’re low on motivation.