Ahhh, willpower and motivation – the cornerstones to remaining dedicated and consistent to your fitness journey, right?

It’s an interesting concept, and I hear this so often:

    • I want to look like this, but I don’t have the willpower.
    • I know I can do better, but I’m just not motivated enough.
    • I’ve always eaten the same things, how can I change it now?

As a fitness professional and a qualified Personal Trainer, I’m going to let you in on a few secrets that you might not have heard before.

We ALL struggle with willpower! You don’t think a bodybuilding pro wants to ditch the protein shakes, chicken and broccoli and hit it hard with a four-cheese pizza, tub of ice-cream washed down with an ice-cold milkshake? They do – trust me, they’d like nothing better.

The secret is this: People who are achieving their goals, making progress, hitting targets have the same challenges, battles of will and struggles as everybody else. BUT they know that it’s all about forming habits, understanding yourself, and being practical about implementing lifestyle changes that are viable over the long-term.

Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years that might help you form a better relationship with your willpower, and understand how to balance the angel and devil on your shoulders.

1. Grasp Hold of Your Willpower

Each and every single person has the same amount of willpower as the next person.

If you want to achieve something, you need to find out what fuels you, what drives you, what taps into your psyche and pushes you to make a better choice.

Say you try to drag yourself to the gym three times a week, after work when you’re tired. Your willpower will be at an all-time low, and it’s easy to find a great reason to shrug it off and head home.

    • Work out in the morning, at the weekend, at home, anywhere and any way when you have the time, energy and focus on getting the job done without distractions.
    • Don’t leave yourself room to negotiate with the devil on your shoulder; get your running kit out the night before, plan your day around your workout, do your meal prep or shop only according to your nutrition plan. If you don’t build in a get-out clause, you won’t be tempted to use one!
    • Do things you genuinely enjoy. If you hate running, you’re never going to go regularly once the initial enthusiasm has died down. Try different things – there’s a world of options out there – or work with a PT or online coach who can create personal plans based around the things you like to do.

The best way to grip your willpower tightly is to create a schedule without room for compromise (unless you’re genuinely sick or injured of course) and give yourself a break by making it easier to achieve the things that will ultimately make you feel much healthier.

2. Creating Healthy Habits

Ok, so breaking out of bad habits is notoriously tough, but if you go about it the right way, you can make eating and living healthily a habit that you won’t have to think twice about.

Fitness isn’t about deprivation and despair – it’s about valuing your body and your health, and making great choices to support that.

Here are a few things to try:

    • Break into it gradually. Sudden, extreme changes are difficult for the most dedicated people to adapt to, so don’t try to shock your system.
    • Decide on one thing to work on at a time. If you try too much too soon, your mind will revolt, so pick your battles, and move on when you’ve succeeded.
    • Reward yourself for a job well done. If you can stick to your new habits, make sure you’ve got something planned to look forward to.

Once you start to do the same things regularly and make it manageable and sustainable, you quickly get used to it.

When you reach for the apple instead of the Mars Bar, or head out for a run instead of hitting the snooze button automatically, you’ve created a habit for life!

3. Just Get Started

As with everything else I’m talking about here, the first step is usually the toughest one to take. It is so easy to imagine ‘everybody else’ finds running easier, or enjoys the gym more, looks better, feels fitter. Don’t let comparison and doubt take away from your motivation.

Even if it’s one small step every day, that is a step closer to your goal than you were yesterday. Had a bad day? Shrug it off, and try again tomorrow.

A lot of clients I work with start off with a block of Personal Training sessions because they find the gym an intimidating place – where machines look complicated, they don’t know how the equipment works, or perceive that being a newbie is a horrible thing.

The opposite is true; the fitness community celebrates those who decide to take positive action to improve themselves, and with or without a PT, you’re always going to find someone to give you a helping hand.

If you’re unsure, don’t know what exercise to try, or feel intimidated, check out a local gym that offers an introductory package, sign up for an online coaching session, or chat with a PT who will guide you through how everything works so you’ve got the confidence to get out there and give it a go.

Take one step, and then the next – if you keep putting one foot in front of each other, you’ll look behind you and be amazed at how far you have come.

4. Stay Accountable

Another massive challenge is around accountability, and with so many meal apps and step trackers, it feels comfortable to sneak in a few extra treats or shortcut that workout (because nobody’s watching!).

You need to be accountable; and it’s crucial to have a support network so that if you fall off the plan, or need someone to boost your morale when you’re feeling low, you get the help you need.

    • Train with a friend, a PT, a coach, a group, a class – commit to it, and you’re halfway there.
    • Use digital coaching for check-ins and progress reports if you’re exercising alone.
    • Let people close to you know what you’re trying to achieve, and ask for their support.

Changing your life can be hard, but equally rewarding, so make sure you build in an accountability structure to keep you on track when you need it.

5. Understand Your Responses

I’m not going to get too technical, but most of the feelings we have from exercising or living well are all down to hormones; and if you get a grip on that, you can often deal with habits much easier.

If you’re feeling low, it becomes easy to translate that into a lack of motivation and write off a day or even a week because you don’t feel like it. Don’t let that eat into your motivation!

Remember that endorphins are the magic hormones that make you feel good, including things like dopamine that you’ve probably heard of. That endorphin rush after a great run? Feeling amazing after a challenging workout? It’s all hormones rewarding you for a job well done.

If you’re not in the mood for being healthy, eating something nutritious or working out will do wonders for your motivation, and release these magic natural hormones that can turn a bad day on its head.

I hope these tips have given you an insight into how to improve your motivation and make fitness habits and healthy eating an integral part of your routine! If you need any support or advice with your training plans or nutritional guidance, I’m always here to help – get in touch here.