I was in the gym a little while ago, minding my own business, when a female client asked my husband why he trained. He turned the question back on her and she said that she didn’t know. It seemed to me like she was lost, lacking motivation, and unsure what she was doing. She’d been working with our exercise physiologist, Tom, to reduce hip pain and he said to her that she was no longer in the “rehab phase” and can now get stuck into proper training – which prompted the deer-in-headlights look because she had no idea what she wanted to do next.
THIS IS NOT UNCOMMON! I myself have experienced the phenomenon of working hard on your rehab, being told that you can now do anything you want, and not knowing what that anything is. It’s disorientating and can often leave you feeling lost, unmotivated, and worst of all, scared of re-injury.
When this client turned to me with that lost look in her eyes, I actually couldn’t think of what to tell her. It’s been so long since I’ve thought about why I train in strength sports. So, to help me explain I reached out to our VALHALLA Strength – South Brisbane Valkyries community, and they did not disappoint!
Some of the responses I received included (please be aware that I am paraphrasing here):
I train primarily to feel good about my body, but not for what it looks like but for what it can do; knowing that it’s powerful.
It’s the one thing that makes me incredibly happy, pushes me beyond my limits and allows me to make accomplishments I didn’t realise were possible. It truly allows me to be myself.
I train mainly for my mental health; physical health is a happy side effect.
Because I now know what I definitely want and strength training is the tool that will allow me to get my dream job. I’m no longer intimidated to walk in there being the smallest person and the excuses are no longer an option.
I find I have this unconditional love with a barbell, an addiction if you would, and the periods that I don’t train I have this low, a lack of confidence in myself and what my body can do.
It allows me to be better at my job.
While all of these responses are fantastic, they were provided by women that have been in the strength training world for a little while now and have experienced the benefits for themselves. Thinking back to the woman that sparked the conversation, I wondered if these responses would be enough to help her discover her own reasons to get herself motivated and then keep her training.
Motivation is often the buzz word that people use when talking about their reasons for training. My husband wrote an article for our gym website that was all about not relying on motivation for training. He argues that motivation is fleeting and will not get you through months and years of consistent training, but rather, it’s the tool that often gets us started and it’s habit that keeps you going. I’m inclined to agree. I’ve experienced that swell of motivation that gets my butt into the gym for the first time in ages, but then it leaves and I have to rely on habit and my other reasons for training to keep me going.
I’m not perfect. For example, 2018 was my worst for consistent training in my 6.5 years of strength training. I could blame it on a number of things, including surgery, work, mental health issues, and all sorts of other things, but the truth is… I’d forgotten my reasons for training. I will say however, that this year, 2019, I have a new goal and even though the original motivation is wearing off, the habit and drive to succeed at my goal is keeping me going (I may write a blog about this later…) Having a reason for all the effort is definitely the number one thing that gets me in the gym; sometimes that reason is just a little hard to come by.
As for the woman that originally asked the question? I will make sure that she knows that she is not the only one that struggles with understanding what her reasons for training are. I will make sure that she knows that most people that have achieved their goal and are unsure of what’s next have experienced the feeling of being lost in the gym before, and that we all need help to realise our reasons for training, because sometimes they’re not obvious. Sometimes, we need a spark of inspiration that becomes motivation to get started, but it will always be the habit that keeps us going.