Staying Motivated - "How Skippy Got His Groove Back"
Written by Skip   
Saturday, 23 February 2008

ImageIt's happened to all of us at one time or another. You started off really excited about your weight training / exercise regimen. You'd go to the gym faithfully for days, weeks, months, even years, and then somehow... you don't know how or when, but you just lost the motivation. Your drive to get to the gym fizzled like a dying flame. Although the desire to get out and exercise was still faint within you, something seemingly insurmountable was keeping you trapped in a never ending spiral of non-activity. This is what happened to me a few years ago (2006). I never thought it would happen to me. I've seen it happen to my friends and family, but I never thought I'd have problems staying motivated. I've been consistently weight training since I was 17 years old. By the time I'd reached this 'slump', I'd been weight training for almost 22 years . I used to say to myself, 'Man, I'll never quit! I'll lift forever! It's in my blood!"

Ah... but then something happened, and it was so gradual that I didn't even notice it happening. I would skip workouts, saying I'd 'train tomorrow', or I'd put off working out for a couple of days to 'rest', but when the time came to workout, something would keep me from getting back into the swing of things. This would go on for days. Then the days eventually became weeks, and then weeks became months. Occassionally I would make it to the gym, but my workouts were sporadic, and when I did workout, they didn't have the fire and gusto they had in the past. My strength wasn't what it once was, and I seemed to have a hard time developing the 'pump' that us bodybuilders look for as a sign of a successful workout. I would say to myself, "What's wrong with me? Have I finally burned out?" Where did my passion go? Why can't I seem to muster the energy and the drive to get back into the gym?"

ImageI would get so depressed. I could see my body gradually changing. I'd see pictures of what I looked like just a year ago, and I could tell I wasn't as toned as I was before. Even in my body, I could feel that wasn't as strong as I once was. My muscles had lost that tight, full feeling that I enjoyed so much. Even my clothes didn't fit me quite as well anymore. My shoulders and chest got smaller, my legs shrank, and my abs vanished.My workout partner tried to encourage me, but the passion I had for working out just wasn't there. It was like knowing that you have a problem, but you don't see a way of resolving it. I'd start finding excuses for why I wasn't motivated anymore. Thoughts like, 'maybe I'm growing old', 'maybe it's something that's inevitable', were constantly drifting through my mind. I couldn't let this continue. From my years in the fitness industry, I knew that if I let this pattern continue, I'd get to a point of 'no return' (or at least it would feel that way), where no amount of encouragement would get me moving again. So if I was going beat this, I needed to find the source of the problem and attack it head on.

The Top 4 Reasons We Fall Into a Slump

I realized years ago, that the way we look and feel is a product of our habits. If we have good habits, we'll look and feel good. If we have bad habits, we'll look and feel bad. So at some point during my journey, my good habit pattern became interrupted, allowing a bad habit to creep in. That bad habit of course was "inconsistency" with my workouts. Why were my workouts inconsistent? Well, most of the time it was because I was tired and would rather get home than go to the gym. So, once I figured that out, my next task was to find out the source of my fatigue, because by discovering the cause, therein would be the solution to my problem.

Reason #1: A major lifestyle change

This is a major motivation killer for most people. Whenever something changes in our lives, we have to adapt to compensate for it. It's like water flowing down a hill. If a log were to fall and interrupt its path, the water will create a new path around it. The same thing happens to us. When we have a major lifestyle change, for example:
  • A new job (or loss of a job)
  • Moving to a new home (or city)
  • Having a baby (ie. a new addition to the family)

... or anything that radically causes your daily routine to shift, you have to restructure your routine to compensate for it. Sadly, exercise is one of the first things that falls by the wayside. Unless daily exercise is firmly engrained into your routine, the slightest change in your life will relegate exercise to the 'expendable' or 'luxury' category.

Solution: Prioritize Your Day

To resolve this issue, you must prioritize. If you truly want exercise to be a regular part of your life, you must intentionally plan your daily activities around it. Stephen Covey, author of the "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" gave a great illustration of prioritization of tasks. Imagine that you have a glass jar, and your task is to put as many stones, pebbles, sand and water into that jar as possible. If you put the water in first, then there will be no room for the stones, pebbles and sand. However, if you put the big things in first (the stones), then the pebbles will fill in the space around the stones, the sand will fill in the space around the pebbles, and so on. The same is true for our lives. If our priorities are God, our family, and our health, we must arrange our day so that our tasks reflect those priorites.

One strategy I use is to either go to the gym BEFORE I get to work, or go to the gym IMMEDIATELY AFTER I get off work (or school, if you're a student). I used this technique when I was a senior in college and it worked very well. If I carried my gym clothes with me to school, then I vowed to go to the gym on my way home, the chances of my having an effective workout were increased tremendously. If I didn't do this, and went home first, I would often get caught up in the chores, homework, etc. that I needed to do, and I would find it almost impossible to leave the house. This is doubly dangerous if you're tired at the end of the day. It takes considerable discipline to visit the gym after you get home. You almost have to make a covenant to yourself to workout consistently. Having a home gym is a great option, but even then, it requires a great deal of discipline to use a home gym. Often the distractions around the home can be overwhelming and as a result, many home gyms are transformed into glorified 'clothes racks' or 'dust collectors', and unless we use them routinely, our investment is wasted.

Solution: Pre-determined Workout Time 

Another strategy that I use is that I schedule my workout time for the same time of day, on the same days of the week. That way, I develop a pattern of success. For example, if you visit the gym every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 5:00 PM - 6:00 PM, you'll notice 2 things:

  • in a month, this routine will become 2nd nature to you (a new habit)
  • you'll recognize the same people (regulars) at the gym on the days/times you're there

People who workout regularly at the same time of day, and on specific days of the week are more likely to exercise consistently than those people who visit the gym sporadically. When I first began my weight training journey, I was taking it as a college course. Having to attend a weight training class every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning from 8 AM - 9:15 AM gave me the discipline early on to structure my workouts into my day. Therefore, I continued that habit for the rest of my life.

So if you ever have a major lifestyle change, it's imperative that you integrate your workouts into your daily/weekly routine. For example, if you move to a new city, or into a new house, during that first week you're looking for where you'll buy groceries, where you'll buy gas for your car, you'll look for the nearest church, barbershop/hairdresser, etc. You should also find the location of your nearest fitness center/gym. If you can find a new gym and integrate a consistent workout schedule within the first 14-21 days of your new lifestyle change, chances are much greater that you'll maintain your workout habits and stay motivated.

Reason #2: Feeling of failure (lack of accomplishment)

Patience is virtue, especially when it comes to changing your physique. When we begin a workout program, we have to realize that it will take time to see results. As a friend of mine once told me, "Rome wasn't built in a day, but then again... neither was the city dump." We didn't get into 'bad shape' over night, and we won't get into 'good shape' overnight either.

Solution: Be patient and stay encouraged.


Success is easy to find. It's 'down the street' from Discipline and 'around the corner' from Consistency.

It takes time to build an athletic and aesthetically pleasing physique, just as much as it took time to 'develop' a physique that we want to improve. We have to give ourselves a realistic time frame to accomplish our goals. A personal trainer can give you a fairly good idea of how much work it will take and how much time will pass before you can expect to see significant results.


Reason #3:  Injury and Recovery

Injuring yourself (particularly if it was done while exercising) can be one of the most discouraging of the 5 factors listed here. Not only are you not able to workout while the injury heals, but you will sometimes (depending on the severity of the injury) have to go through therapy in order to recover your mobility. For bodybuilders this is even more frustrating because as you're not using a particular muscle group (due to injury), it begins to atrophy (shrink), causing your body to lose it's symmetrical proportions. This symmetry returns once you begin training again. However, recover is dependent on how severe the injury. The worst possible injuries to experience in the gym (or anywhere else for that matter) are:

  • a muscle tear
  • a broken bone

Solution: "Listen to your body" to prevent injury 

Here are some suggestions of ways where you can prevent injury:

  • warm-up your muscles before performing strenuous activity
  • don't force yourself to train beyond your known capabilities (ie. don't try to bench 315 lbs. if you know you can't bench 275 lbs. for 1 repetition).
  • listen to your body (pain is a sign that something is wrong). If an exercise you're doing hurts (beyond the normal muscle soreness and burning) especially if it's a sudden sharp pain, stop immediately.

Reason #4:  General Depression

Depression is a difficult emotion to break out of, especially if it's tied to your inability to workout. If left unchecked, you can easily get caught up in an endless spiral of sadness and negativity. Some symptoms of clincal depression include:

  • feeling sad or irritable.
  • losing interest in activities you used to enjoy (exercising, for example).
  • eating much less than you usually do and you've lost weight, or you're eating much more than you usually do and you've gained weight.
  • sleeping much less or more than you usually do.
  • no energy or feeling tired much of the time.
  • feeling anxious and can’t seem to sit still.
  • feeling guilty or worthless.
  • having trouble concentrating or finding it hard to make decisions.

Sometimes depression can be caused by a serious medical condition. To find out more about combating clinical depression, visit

Solution: Positive Surroundings

One solution to getting yourself out of the rut of depression is to surround yourself with positive people. You are who you associate with. Having an encouraging workout partner, who is positive and willing to help you get back into the swing of things can be extremely valuable. I was blessed to have a workout partner like that. My friend Daniel Thedja encouraged me to workout on days when I was feeling depressed about my lack of consistency. He also held me accountable. When I didn't want to workout, he would remind me of the goals I had set for myself, and encouraged me that I could achieve them (but that I had to make the first step). That level of accountability is important, and that's why people who have workout partners (and/or personal trainers) are more likely to maintain consistent workout behavior. Furthermore, developing relationships with people in the gym (be it in your group fitness class, or even with the people who work at the front desk of the gym) can be a very motivating factor.


Me after finally getting out of my Losing motivation is something that happens to all of us at one time or another.  The important thing to remember is to never lose hope.  If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.  With a little bit of planning, focus and support, you can be back into the swing of things in no time!  So get back into the game, and be strong! Laughing

Last Updated ( Sunday, 19 December 2010 )