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Crank Up Your Workout Motivation

A 30-step plan for maximizing your bodybuilding inspiration and success.

by

CHRIS LUND

It’s not enough to merely psych yourself up. There are proven techniques for cranking your workout motivation up to 11. From months in advance to when you set the barbell down, we present the 30 best steps to boost your drive to grow stronger, bigger, and better.

1. SEE A SHOW

From a local NPC event to the Olympia, a bodybuilding contest is the best way to witness firsthand what’s possible. As a side benefit, you can interact with like-minded people, reinforcing your aspirations.

2. MEET A CHAMP

Olympia Week features “Meet the Olympians” on Thursday evening. Throughout the rest of the year, champion bodybuilders also appear at fitness expos and sometimes stores and gyms. Make the effort to shake your favorite champ’s hand and, perhaps, ask a question, closing the gap between two-dimensional photos and 3-D reality.

3. PICK THE RIGHT GYM

If you have options, choose the gym that best meets your workout goals, one that is uncrowded, well-equipped, and populated with members simpatico with your goals. Be aware that atmospherics—decor, music, temperature, the behavior of others, and much more—can affect your mindset in ways you may not even be conscious of, so trust your instincts during a tour or trial run. Even if the right gym is twice as far from home and $200 more annually than the wrong gym, it’s probably worth it.

4. KEEP RECORDS

To get to a destination, you need to first know where you are. And so it is with bodybuilding. You can record sets, reps, and weights in a journal; you can snap progress photos; and you can note your body weight and body-part measurements at regular intervals. All such accounting will help you better plot a path forward, and, when short-term gains inevitably slow, having a record of long-term progress can reinforce your belief that you’re on the right path.

5. SET A LONG-TERM GOAL

Find a purpose for the next six to 18 months, and set a date for fulfilling that purpose. Maybe it’s an addition of 10 good pounds or a subtraction of 15 bad ones, or maybe it’s earning a trophy in a men’s physique contest. Whatever it is, write down specific marks to hit along the way to arrive on time at the final destination.

COURTESY OF WEIDER HEALTH & FITNESS

6. WATCH VIDEOS

YouTube has more training and posing videos than you could probably watch in a lifetime. Some of them are specifically edited— replete with fist-pumping soundtracks—to motivate. In addition, there are innumerable videos that have nothing to do with flexing muscles that are nonetheless uplifting.

7. READ ARTICLES

The words and photos in FLEX are perpetually inspiring—but you already knew that, obviously.

8. TAKE A BREAK

Sometimes when your motivation is waning, the best thing to do is nothing— literally. Stay home. Don’t go to the gym. Don’t even think about dumbbells for at least a week but no longer than two. Afterward, you should be physically and emotionally recharged and raring to duck under a squat bar again. People often have their best workouts just after a layoff.

9. LEAVE YOUR COMFORT ZONE

From asking out strangers to skydiving, do what makes you uncomfortable. What does this have to do with barbell rows and walking lunges? Stretching your personal limits builds confidence by proving to yourself that you can do things you couldn’t or wouldn’t have even attempted before. In turn, that lesson can, consciously and subliminally, fuel tougher workouts.

10. OVERCOMING OBSTACLES

In her book, Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation, psychology professor Gabriele Oettingen, Ph.D., explains that it’s not enough to visualize success. You also have to identify and remove obstacles. These might appear elsewhere on this list but in a negative sense—the wrong workout partner, a stale routine, lax focus, etc. They could also be stress triggers that are harder to pinpoint. Truthfully evaluate your relationships, lifestyle, and frame of mind for anything that might be holding you back. Then make the necessary changes to eliminate any hindrance.

 

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