Yesterday afternoon I was in the middle of a workout with our social media director, Travis (profile on him to come tomorrow!) and we were talking about motivation in a workout. The context of the conversation was that we find the final set of a workout to always be much easier than the first. Theoretically that doesn’t make any sense as you should be tired on set five and fresh on set one. Wouldn’t it follow that you would be able to push harder on your first set than your fifth? It got me thinking that your mentality during a workout determines your motivation and sets you up for either success or failure. In our situation, the reason we are able to push harder on set five is that the motivation is to finish the workout and stop the suffering – pretty good motivation if you ask me. But if we’re able to push like that at the end, we are not working hard enough at the start. It is not that we are slacking off to begin a workout. I know every time I start, I have a goal in mind and I am trying to chase that down. Mentally it is just easier to push at the end because I know I will be done. However, this means that I have lost progress by going at 90% in the first few sets instead of the 100% that is demanded to reach your peak. Just imagine if you could work at your largest capacity all the time? GAINS WOULD BE HAD. Obviously that is a dream land. There are days where workouts will be better than others; that is true whether you are a professional athlete or an average Joe. But, with a couple strategies, you can at least limit the amount of less productive days.
First, you need to have a defining “why” for coming into the gym and grinding day in and day out. This cannot be something imposed on you by an exterior force. This has to be internal motivation. Also, it does not always have to be the same thing! I have found that often my why changes from day to day. For example, the past month I’ve done a few Hero WODs and I’ve found they give me a big motivation boost. When it gets tough I find myself thinking about the person the workout is named after, and it really helps. Other days, I just want to be healthier and look better. The “why” doesn’t have to be some intensely deep idea. Anything that pushes you past that dark point in the workout when you want to quit.
Second, it helps to keep a workout journal with your times, weights used, and workouts completed. If you get into a habit of logging everything you do in the gym, your motivation partially begins to come from the want to continue doing your habit. Also, it is a really cool moment when you look back and see how much more weight you are able to do on a specific lift, or how much faster your workout times have become. That in and of itself can be a huge factor in keeping your motivation up.