A friend recently asked me about motivation. It’s hard to say one single thing that got me into all of this running and gym time. The gym came partially because of the encouragement from my boyfriend. He has been full of support and knowledge about a lot of things that I had no idea about. For instance, he was the one that finally convinced me that girls don’t bulk out from lifting weights and educated me on why lifting was so important.
I started looking at resources for women’s lifting and came across videos of girls doing 300lb deadlifts. I was so impressed that that became my goal. I wanted to be as awesome and impressive as these girls. The girls were often young, not bulky, but strong. Oh, to be so strong! So I started lifting. I started with basic lifts with the barbell: squat, deadlift, row. I was pretty weak to begin with, so the 45lb bar was enough for me at first. I slowly worked my way up. Three months in, I hit 100lbs and kept adding weight. That was unfortunately when I think I started to get less careful and ended up with my herniated disc.
I had been seriously into my lifting goal. I was working with my trainer once a week and working out besides. I don’t know when I ended up back at the gym after my back injury. It was actually before I was diagnosed with the disc problem. I stopped the gym entirely when I started physical therapy three days a week. I have slowly integrated the gym back in and am regularly back in it, but I will probably never lift heavy like that again.
So my goal of 300lbs was dashed. What next? Somehow running came about. I wish I could remember exactly how it started. I hated cardio. Why do cardio when you can lift things? Lifting was my favorite and the deadlift especially. But then came running. It may have been that I could do much less of the other things at the gym that I just ended up on the treadmill more and more. Someone at my gym suggested the elliptical since it was lower impact all around, but I really hate the elliptical.
I looked up beginning running programs and found Couch-to-5k. The goals associated with that really helped get me going. Every time I got on the treadmill, it was a new challenge and I had a real attainable goal. There are other beginning programs, obviously, and I didn’t stick with c25k the whole time. I really recommend finding something to guide and challenge you like that. Eventually, I decided that I wanted to do a race, so there was another goal!
You may be catching onto something here: goals. I would say that’s the real answer to the motivation question. Lots of people have the goal of losing weight or “toning up,” but those types of goals might not motivate you. While those things are bonuses to what I’m doing (and let me tell you, I totally geek out over how my arms look lifting dumbbells now), I think finding a really attainable goal that you can have measured incremental success at will probably get you on the right track if the general goals don’t work. Lifting weights was something I could see improvement at every time I went in. I could add a little weight or know that I was working toward it. With running, I add new distances and I’m in a competition with myself for other things like speed. Races are a great goal to have since you have something solid to work toward by a deadline. You also have to pay entrance fees and that can motivate you all on its own. No one wants to give away their money.
My other motivation for keeping up with the gym and running is how I feel. Regardless of the extraordinary feeling of doing something you didn’t think you ever would, it feels good. I am 100% more aware of my body and how it works. Something as silly as going up stairs is a strange new experience because now I’m paying attention to the way my knees bend or appreciating how my body can do simple things like that. You might think that after over year in the gym, I’d be seeing crazy results. I’m not. I have maintained almost exactly the same weight since I started working out. I have been told that’s impressive in and of itself. I can tell some differences in my body(arms!) or the way it operates (those stairs!), but it’s not like my motivations are coming from a drastically shrinking waistline.
My advice when you’re searching for motivation: find goals. Find things you enjoy. If you don’t like working out or can’t find something you like to do right off, you might have to tough it out like I did with cardio until something just catches right (though you may not all of a sudden love running like I do). Ultimately, you have to find your own good reasons for doing it and make sure that those reasons will drive you.