Motivation and exercise – how to keep your drive

Senior Strength and Conditioning Coach, English Institute of Sport
15 December 2017

When it comes to keeping up a fitness routine, the best-laid plans often go to waste. If your motivation has gone stale, then check out the advice from Ryan King, Senior Strength & Conditioning Coach at English Institute of Sport. Here he explains how you can keep momentum in your exercise routine.


What tips do you have for staying motivated?

Revisit your goals, because whatever you're doing the exercise for is to achieve something. You're most likely to get stale if you've forgotten your "why", so revisiting your "whys" is really important. Once you've revisited that and identified it, it's thinking about what's called SMART goals.

So you want a Specific goal; you want it to be Measurable; you want it to be Achievable; you want it to be Realistic and you want it to be Time-phased. If you've got those things in place around what you want to achieve, then you've got something to continue to work for.

Once you've achieved that goal, what's really critical is that you revisit your "why". So if you don't reshape your goal, it's likely that staleness will creep back. So it's a bit of a cyclical process that should help to keep you motivated.

The first thing we would do is we would say your "why" is wrong. Because if you're feeling really stale and you're not motivated to achieve the goal that you've set, then it's maybe not the right goal that you've set for yourself.

But if you still think it's the right goal but you're not motivated to achieve it anymore, then I think the advice I would give that person is to just change it up. Do something different. It doesn't really matter what you do as long as you're being active. I know it doesn't sit within the SMART paradigm, but having a break from your goal, getting away from it. Sometimes isn't a bad thing. And then you may go back to it reinvigorated and ready to go again.

How can people who are already keen exercisers retain their motivation?

For people who are doing a lot of training already, we can begin to think about short-term goals and then long-term goals. And we can have a blend between the two. So in terms of a short-term goal for somebody who perhaps is training for a marathon for example, then it might be to achieve running a distance of 40 kilometres in that week. That's one little chunk of a large cookie that would be running the marathon at the end of that event.

That's quite a nice way to keep people focused on something achievable but also something that's time-framed in the distance, so it sits within our SMART principle we discussed already.

How can someone get motivated to return to exercise after an injury?

So if someone gets an injury the first thing they need to do is re-identify what their "why" is. So it changes from whatever the goal had been to rehabilitating from the injury that they've got. Then they would need to have a think about how they plan to do that to keep them motivated in the short term. Their long-term goal would be to be over the injury and back to exercise. So having a discussion or having a good think about that would be would be a great place to start.

In terms of actually overcoming the injury you've got, depending on what it is, you've got a fully functional body with an injured joint for example. Well there's lots of the rest of the body that you can train. So I think one of the challenges for people when they hurt something is that they think they can't do anything. That's not the case, and it's usually not good advice.

You would be better to remain active rather than do nothing at all, because as soon as you stop doing stuff you start taking from the bank and you begin to what's called "detrain", which means you lose all the gains that you've got and also you stop releasing those happy hormones, those endorphins, which is more likely to mean you're going to have more dopamine, which is going to make you feel sluggish and tired and less motivated to achieve your goals.

Ryan King
Senior Strength and Conditioning Coach, English Institute of Sport

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