How Fitness Professionals Stay Motivated To Train (Hint: We Don’t!)


Have you ever spoken with a personal trainer, and only heard the following…

Hello, my name is Billy the Great and I’m a personal trainer who was certified through (blah blah blah blah) and who has an ENDLESS supply of motivation – AND YOU DON’T! Muahahahaha! But lucky for you, you’re paying me TONS of money to have me bark orders at you in an effort to manipulate you into doing unpleasant things for a whole hour, three times per week. And it’s a good thing, too! You NEED someone like me to help rescue you from your plight of being a fat slob and having ZERO motivation to save yourself. But don’t worry, I’ve got plenty of motivation to spare. In fact, for just a little more money, I can provide you with some extra inspiration you NEED to succeed. So, it’s a good thing you hired me, for YOUR sake, if ya know what I mean! Now, pardon me while I go refresh my cologne and check out my gunz in the mirror.

See what I mean? The holier-than-thou, egotistical shtick aside, there’s this rampant idea in our culture that personal trainers, fitness coaches, and strength and conditioning specialists – among others – have superhuman sources and abundant reserves of motivation to succeed day-in and day-out. Naturally, they’re described as driven people. They just get it done because they’re fired up all the time, and most other normal people just aren’t born this way and don’t have access to this level of motivation. Right?

Well, hold your horses there, hot shot, because that isn’t exactly true – not by a long shot. Sure, it may be somewhat true that most fitness professionals, in general, tend to be more tapped into their sources of motivation than your average Joe, and exemplify character traits like determination, persistence, and self-discipline as a result. But that doesn’t mean all fitness pros are like this all the time. Quite the contrary.

Allow me to use a personal example to explain. I’ve been involved in physical training pretty much constantly since I was 11 years old. Exercise has simply always been a part of my life, and there haven’t been many times that I’ve had an extended break (ie longer than a week off from training). But there have been plenty of times when the motivation to train wasn’t entirely there. And I couldn’t possibly keep track of the number of days that training time has come around and I simply didn’t want to do it. And truth be told, there have even been entire seasons of my life when training was not something I looked forward to. So, yes, my motivation to train has run dry many a time.

But I’ve always stuck with it, no matter what, because that’s what men and women do. They stick with it. They get it done. They do what they have to do because it needs to get done. And it’s as simple as that. Or, is it?

The Cold, Hard Truth About Motivation That Could Change Your Life

You know, I don’t like doing my taxes every year. There are just other things that I’d rather be doing for the better part of a week, and truth be told, I don’t like the idea of giving away some of my hard-earned cash – money that my family could use – to finance certain government initiatives that I simply don’t support. But each year, I do my taxes anyways – mainly because it’s the right thing to do. And hey, I don’t want the IRS knocking on my door – just like the next guy.

And the truth is, most people do things that they don’t necessarily want to do just because it needs to be done. You go to work and show up on time more-often-than-not because you need to make money and you don’t want to lose your job. You do your laundry because you don’t want to look, feel, and smell like a bum. You pay your mortgage because you don’t want to be foreclosed on. And you brush your teeth because you’d like to keep them for awhile longer. You do what you have to do simply because it has to be done – end of story.

Now here’s the kicker: taking care of our physical health can and should be approached in much the same way. So, it doesn’t matter if I don’t feel like it today. I’m still going to exercise because not only is it the right thing to do, but it needs to be done. And as a bonus, its also one of the best things I can do, and will give me an excellent return on my investment – like few other things can provide.

The Subtle Motivation-Robber

The problem is that, unlike paying your mortgage or taxes, there aren’t immediate consequences for not exercising or eating well. Nobody is going to show up at your door demanding that you put in the time at the gym. The actual consequences usually come later. They take weeks, months, and years to develop. And the reality is that most people let these little problems creep up on them, which become bigger problems that people just have to deal with day-in and day-out. And eventually, one of those problems becomes so big that you have no other choice but to deal with it or else! But these things take time, of course, and in the moment, most people don’t correlate poor health choices with future consequences at all. In fact, most people don’t think twice about their health until they’ve lost it, and it’s often too late.

So, there’s a tendency to remain passive – becoming a spectator in life – and accepting life for how you think it is (instead of how it could be). And I think the root cause of this phenomenon is because a lot of people don’t exercise their ability to delay gratification. In our culture, we want it, and we want it yesterday. But that’s not how our body’s work. The pursuit of better health and fitness simply takes a sustained effort and time, which is what most people aren’t accustomed to giving. And obviously, this is a multi-faceted, culture-wide problem that is enabled and strengthened through ignorance, among other things.

But if we could just get this one point, then so much good would come from it. And it’s one of those things that you truly don’t know what you’ve been missing until you experience it yourself. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from someone who dramatically improved their health and fitness that they didn’t even know they could feel this good, have this much energy, or do XYZ. They didn’t even know. And now that they have experienced a new level of living – a higher quality of life – they can’t believe how long it took them to get their act together.

So, the root cause of this problem is an inability or unwillingness to delay gratification that is reinforced through nationwide ignorance. The obvious solution is to bring more awareness to this issue. It’s really easy to hide an elephant in a room when nobody knows what an elephant is. You get me?

Now, another more practical solution is not just to apply this new-found knowledge, but to embody it every day – to live this stuff and set a true-to-life example for others. That’s the real key, in my mind.

Why I Eat Well And Exercise Even When I Don’t Feel Like It

So, sure, a meat lover’s pizza tastes great, and I can easily eat half a pie if nobody’s looking (or even if they are). And personally, if you already live a healthy lifestyle, then I wouldn’t say that’s a terrible thing to enjoy within moderation once in awhile. But I don’t eat junk most of the time because I love life too much, and I see how big of an impact the food I eat has on not only my health and fitness, but also on my happiness and overall effectiveness in life. Plus, I want to live a long time and not be a burden on others for as long as possible. So, I make a concerted effort to eat well most of the time.

And you know, some days I just really – REALLY – don’t want to exercise. Just being honest here. The will is just not always there. But I know that exercise is a necessary part of my lifestyle. It’s the only way I’ll achieve my goals and it just needs to get done – and daily. And so I do it because that’s what men do. They take responsibility. They reject passivity. They lead by example. And they make the hard, right choice instead of the easy, wrong choice. And over the years, I’ve found that if I just keep going, I’ll find a way to make it work even when it gets tough. Understandably, arriving at this viewpoint and actually being able to practice it daily has been a process that’s taken considerable time (ie years, and I’m still working on it!), but it has been well-worth it.

And I guess that’s the crux of my message today. If you want something, then go and get it. We’re adults, and we have the capacity to make the hard, right choice instead of the easy, wrong choice in exchange for delayed gratification – even if we don’t feel like it. It’s all about your priorities. In the same breath, we aren’t robots that can just flip a switch and instantly change our thoughts and behaviors. These things take time and we need to be both cognizant and diligent in the process involved in personal change.

Final Words

I’ve found that motivation must come from within, and true motivation always does. I’ve also found that the best way to motivate most people is to be honest and transparent with them – and also to tell them the reality of their decision and the consequences of each option. So, let’s not forget the significance of what’s at stake here. When it comes to the choices of eating well and being physically active (among other things), we’re literally dealing with life and death decisions. And more importantly, with quality of life. It’s not something to be taken lightly, or you may find at the end of your days that you wished you had done more – that you wish you had more time. And you may realize that you may have if you had taken better care of yourself during the time you were given. Now, I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want that to be me.

Another thing I’ve found is that successful people don’t always rely on motivation to keep them going. They just do what needs to be done just because. And if you think about it, it makes sense, too. I mean, if people only showed up for work when they felt motivated to do it, then I’d wager that there would be a lot more unemployed persons, and a lot of job openings. But that’s obviously not how it goes down. People go to work because that’s what men and women do. So, we just need to follow our own examples and man up, for lack of a better term (ie grow up in other areas of our life).

Now, you know that I’m not one to baby people. So, here’s the honest truth. The reality is that you can choose to be uncomfortable for 60 minutes a day, or you can choose to be uncomfortable for the next 60 years. It’s your choice. And fortunately, one choice is all it takes to begin anew. So, the question is, will you step up and courageously live the life you’ve always wanted to live – the life you need to live? We’re counting on you.

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Health-First Fitness Coach

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4 Responses

  1. Great post John!

    Another thing I have found to help me stay motivated is to allow my activity to change with the seasons. Rather than doing the same thing week after week for the entire year, for years-on-end, having a seasonal change-up really helps too.

    • Absolutely! That’s a great point. For me, there are some activities that change with the seasons, and others that remain constant year-round. The actual fitness program I use changes monthly, weekly, and even daily in some aspects, which also helps me stay more engaged as well.

  2. Well said John!

    Only lazy people blame lack of motivation as the sole reason for not doing something. Putting effort into something is a matter of determination to stick, through thick and thin, to one`s goals.

  3. Wonderful! That’s a great point. Thanks for sharing this article. Keep posting.

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