Welcome to the layman’s corner of the Athlete’s Rx Blog. You may be wondering what some random surgeon in California is doing writing on this site full of highly qualified experts. And to you I say, “Good question.” I have not extensively studied exercise physiology, nutrition, or any of the other interesting topics that my fellow contributors will be writing about. But what I have done is dragged my sorry behind to the gym, or my basement, or a swimming pool, or running trails day in and day out for most of my adult life. My goal with this blog is to talk about things in the fitness world that are interesting to me from the perspective of the average (or hopefully above average) athlete. My plan is to delve into my own history to share things that I think would help others on their path to fitness, in whatever shape that might take. I will endeavor to keep things interesting, and I hope that over time this can be a positive forum for people to discuss their own passions and goals. I thought as a good kick off I would start by talking about what I think is one of the most important aspects of any training regimen: motivation.
No matter who you are, an elite professional athlete, a rec league has-been, or a fitness junkie, you have some reason to want to stay fit. Maybe you are part of a team, and the team’s goal is your goal. Maybe your doctor told you that you needed to lose weight. Maybe your high school reunion is coming up, and you want to look amazing. If you look around at the gym, everyone has a reason for being there. Where is that motivation coming from? How strong is it? Will it last? Motivation, it seems, is an elusive thing. It’s easy to go work out when you feel good and things are going well, but it’s a different story when you didn’t sleep well and your legs are toast from that plyometric workout and your mom/wife/girlfriend is pissed at you and…you know the story because you’ve been there. How do we keep going, even when we don’t feel like it? Let me talk about what has worked for me in the past, and what works now.
Back in high school, motivation was easy. I was on swim team, and we were good. My freshman year we won state in a dominating fashion. I didn’t make the state team, but damned if that didn’t motivate me to make it as a sophomore. My HS coach was one of the best team builders and motivators I have ever seen. He knew how to form us into a cohesive unit, even in an individual sport, and then use that loyalty to drive our motivation to compete and succeed. Once he had that buy-in, the rest took care of itself. He pushed us to our limits, and we went there, because we knew the guy next to us was doing it too. And more importantly, we were doing it for each other. We were passionate. If you have this in your life, consider yourself lucky. Cherish it and remember it, because it is never forever. Use what you learned in that time to push yourself. Remember that feeling of being at the edge of your ability and capacity, because eventually the only one who will push you there is you. I am forever in debt to my coach for teaching me how to push myself, and how to learn to embrace life outside of my comfort zone.
After finishing my competitive swimming career after college, I struggled to find motivation. I went through a stretch of a couple years where I didn’t really work out at all. I think to some degree my body and brain needed that break. But when I went back, I floundered. I wasn’t motivated to get into the pool, because I had no reason to be there. I went to the gym to lift weights, but had no real goal in mind. So I wasn’t very successful. Then one day, after putting together my son’s new swing-set, I went to go down the slide and my butt didn’t fit. Boom! Motivation! I was only 23 years old, and already I was badly out of shape. My dad had cardiac bypass surgery at the age of 52, and I knew I didn’t want that to be me. It was time to commit.
I won’t lie to you and say that staying motivated for health purposes is as strong as team motivation, but it can be effective. It’s not as immediate, and it comes and goes for sure, but it has kept me pushing for the last 16+ years. There are times when I get bored of the workout I’m doing, and there are times when life has gotten in the way (i.e. surgery residency), but being fit and healthy has become rewarding in and of itself.
So what is your motivation? The only one who can answer that is you. Ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” If you don’t have a good answer, try something different until you find the activity that ignites that passion. Because once that passion is there, it will fuel your motivation. And you are going to need it. It is what gets you out of bed 2 hours before work to do that damn workout when all you want to do is sleep.
Find your passion, set a goal, write it down, and then go grind. Some days it’s easy and fun. But when it’s not, think about what makes you passionate, go back and read your goals. It will get you through the door, and the rest will take care of itself.
Let’s do this.