How to Stay Motivated for Weight Training
I often wonder about myself and the handful of other guys who always seem to be at the gym when I'm there, what makes me put myself through this pain, stress and soreness? Why don't I succumb to laziness and just stay home?
Why is it that those of us who are out of school, and on our own to train can sometimes motivate ourselves to find the time to train and maintain a training schedule, and other times not? Sometimes we can get into the exercise habit and other times not? How can we make training part of our schedule?
By now most of us have probably hit the "summer training dilemma". You've been working hard all winter and now it's time to go to the beach, spend time with your girlfriend, party at the cottage and go to clubs and concerts. Who needs to train anymore? Right?
To be motivated to do something means to be persuaded that there is some gain in it for you. Presumably, you should convince yourself that there some gain for you in training even though it may be too hot or you may have a million other more enjoyable things to do. Think over what you have to sacrifice to have the time to train. A movie, dinner with friends, sex with your partner, late night TV, time with your family? It seems impossible to keep up right?
How can we avoid this?
One type of motivation is called Visual/kinesthetic synesthesia. This is the process by which the brain transforms a visual image into a feeling. In the case of lifting weights, the feeling is in the musculature. There, a pattern of neuromuscular firing that ultimately coordinates the movement of the body is developing. This type of motivation usually involves watching a videotape or looking at pictures of either you or others and then mentally picturing yourself performing that exact task.
Visualization and imagery are strong psychological tools. Imagery is based on two theories. The psychomuscular theory suggests that vivid imaginations of muscular movements or events can result in nervous responses similar to those produced by the actual movements. Thus through imagery, one can strengthen the neural pathways and raise or lower heart rate response. The symbolic theory states that imagery can increase an athlete's performance by coding his movements, creating mental blueprints that produce familiar, fluid and autonomic movements.
Another way to keep motivated to train is to warm up slowly - increasing your weight in a natural progression. Your body gradually prepares for the energy production that is required for strenuous exercise. Give it time to give you the energy you will need to feel strong and concentrated as you develop strength. Set your own pace. Be sensitive to how you are feeling. You might already know that one day of training will be invigorating, and another day it will just make you tired. You body needs rest to realize gains from your efforts. If training becomes a period of suffering that you endure in order to increase your one rep max, you may find it difficult to motivate yourself. Or, if on the other hand, training becomes an escape from problems or responsibilities, soon it will become associated with guilt. In this case too, it becomes difficult to motivate yourself to go to the gym.
A question to ask yourself. What do you like about weight training? Most people will say "I want to be better than other people" or "I like to push myself; and see each step in improvement and reach my goal". But what would happen if you achieve your goal? Would you stop training? Keeping yourself constantly motivated involves giving yourself a new goal to reach each time you enter the gym. If you have no goals you'll have no reason to train and eventually you'll stop training. Goals are what give our entire lives meaning. Goals highlight what is important to you, provide direction and act as a standard for evaluating progress. Because goals reflect improvement, they can be used to increase motivation and confidence while simultaneously decreasing anxiety and frustration.
This article is intended only to touch on the subject of mind over body. The subject goes much deeper than I care to go, yet this should give you something to reflect upon the next time you feel like skipping a workout or if you just feel too drained and unmotivated to workout. For the best thing ever written of the subject of the mind over the body read "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health" by L. Ron Hubbard.