After several months of lockdown, it is fair to say that most of us are well out of our usual gym going routine. While some may be foaming at the mouth to get back into the weights room, others may be struggling to find the motivation. In this article, we will take a look at some top tips for getting back into the gym and enjoying your time there.
Tip #1 Train with a Friend
This one is a bit of a no-brainer, if you have a friend who absolutely loves training then find them and leech some of that motivation off them!
Just kidding, a super-motivated friend may not even be the best option, as they will be training at an intensity that may not suit you.
However, finding a friend who you know has the ability to stick to a plan and is also starting out can really help keep you motivated. Where you falter, they can keep you on the straight and narrow.
One mistake to avoid is training with a friend who is going to derail your progress. If your personal motivation is strong, then by all means help them. But if you are already on shaky ground, do not train with a flake. Their lack of motivation can rub off on you!
Tip #2 Gamify your Workout
This may not work for all personalities, but it is an absolute gamechanger for some. How do video games work? You have levels, achievements, competition, and the more effort you put in, the better you perform.
This is one of the reasons why video games are so popular.
The great news is that you can apply this to many other things. Duolingo has done this for languages, breaking down a complex goal (learn French or whatever) into a series of smaller tasks, giving you rewards for achieving tasks, competing against your friends and the community, and playing games.
The exercise world has also begun to dip its toes into this method. The cycling/running app Zwift will track your progress, give you rewards for achievements, allow you to race against your friends or the community, and level up.
This turns a very boring task (using an exercise machine) into a game. Now you are not only motivated to lose weight, but you are motivated to set a new speed record, or hit a new elevation, or compare your time cycling around a track to your show-off brother in law.
Zwift is not the only app doing this, there are loads out there. You have also got websites such as Nerd Fitness that have applied similar principles but focused more on community and communication.
The Zombies Run app is another amazing concept. It is an interactive audiobook, that gets you to run away from zombies. The more you run, the more the story will progress.
Gamifying your workout can help you to stay on target by shifting your focus from what you’ve not achieved (i.e. where are my abs?) and giving you small wins and a more entertaining session.
Tip #3 Make your Workout a Routine
If you think about it, brushing your teeth twice per day is a bit of a drag. The task is boring, it takes up precious time, and the results are not noticeable (you are maintaining your teeth, not improving them). Yet we all do it, day in, day out.
Why is that? Mainly because it has become routine. We don’t even think about it anymore. You can do the same thing with exercise, though obviously it is a lot more difficult.
The trick is to at first prioritise turning up over how good the session is. Let us say that you decide that you are going to turn up at the gym at 6pm three days per week. So long as you turn up you are winning.
Even if all you do in one session is three sets of bad bicep curls. The fact is that you turned up! You got into the routine of finishing work, grabbing your gym bag, swiping your card at the turnstile, finding your favourite locker, etc …
Do not underestimate the importance of this. It only takes a few weeks, but soon your gym sessions will become part of your weekly routine. You’ll stop thinking about them as an unexpected task, but as something that you do. “Oh, it’s Monday! That’s gym day”.
This method will not work in a vacuum. You need to combine it with the other methods, but it is the single most powerful thing you can do. Once you have been going to the gym three times a week for six weeks, you will start to notice the results, and then motivation will come from that too.
Tip #4 Reward Yourself
This is another tip that combines well with the others on the list, but isn’t particularly strong when done alone.
The idea is to create small goals for yourself, and assign rewards for when you achieve them. Now, these rewards should not be counter-intuitive. Buying and eating an entire birthday cake on your own because you managed three push ups is not a great system.
But you get the idea. Here are some good examples of goals and rewards:
- If I attend the gym three times per week for the next three weeks I’ll buy myself the new FIFA game
- If I don’t skip a session in September then I’ll buy that new outfit I loved
- If I increase my bench by 5kg I will take the kids to Thorpe Park
The trick is to be strict with yourself, and not just reward yourself anyway. You also don’t want to create rewards that are unrealistic. You probably can’t afford to book a holiday to Vegas every time you add 0.5 inches to your biceps!
Tip #5 Plan Out a Proper Program
Going into the gym without a program to follow is a little like going to war armed only with good intentions. It can be done, but it is foolish to attempt it. Yet every day, somebody walks into a gym without any idea what they are going to do.
Don’t get us wrong, as we pointed out before, just turning up is half the battle. But having a set of exercises that you are supposed to do will really help keep you motivated to succeed.
Find yourself a good training book (Max Muscle Plan by Brad Schoenfeld for example) and just do that workout.
The workout has a set timeframe, it tells you all you need to do, what reps, what sets, and what exercises. All you have to do is make sure that you follow it, and adapt it where necessary (squat rack is busy, can I swap it for leg press?).
The benefits of following a proper program is that you are more likely to get results, you don’t spend half your time planning out what to do when you’re in the gym, and you won’t waste time on bad exercise choices.
Better results and less stress? Clearly, this is going to make finding motivation easier.
Tip #6 Invest in Success
Find it difficult to stay motivated? Pay someone to do that for you! Hire a personal trainer. They are there to do exactly that. If you’re paying someone to get you in shape then you are basically paying them to keep you in the gym!
Of course, hiring a personal trainer can be expensive. But there are other ways to invest in success. Pay for classes, bootcamps, or get yourself a CrossFit membership.
Buy some good gym shoes, or a really decent weight belt.
No, we are not saying that spending a fortune on running shoes is going to motivate you. But investing in the process can definitely help, provided it is combined with the other tips on this list.
You don’t need to invest a fortune, but just enough to feel like you’ve got some skin in the game, rather than one foot out the door.
If you are mastering the other five tips, then you can get away without spending a penny. But this is a really great way to help increase your motivation further.