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Finding motivation can feel like finding your headphones in a bottomless gym bag. You blindly dig and dig — you know they’re in there somewhere — but keep coming up empty. So we asked those seemingly effortless exercisers, the ultramarathoners, trainers, dietitians and exercise physiologists, who seem to have motivation on speed dial, how to hack it, hone it and own it. Turns out, motivation is not only way easier to find than those earbuds, but it’s also easier to untangle. Read on for their advice.
Everyone Needs A Kilimanjaro
“I hit a lull in my mid-40s. I was training Jessica Biel for The A-Team movie, and she was signed up to hike Mount Kilimanjaro for her charity. I hate outdoors stuff, but I signed up. Turned out, I so needed that moment to get me back on track. It pushed me in the gym in whole new ways, and when I accomplished it, I was empowered to try more unusual things. It got me on the road traveling and doing retreats, and now everywhere I go, I try something new, whether it’s camel riding in Egypt or a dance class. If you’re really feeling like nothing’s working motivation wise, you have to step into that ‘I-could-never-do-it-but-I-could-do-it’ zone and amazing things will happen.”
—Ramona Braganza, celebrity trainer and creator of the 321 Training Method
Success Feeds Motivation
“I live by the motto ‘something is better than nothing.’ Yesterday was a great example: I was planning to do a long workout that ended up not happening because of meetings, but I still jumped into the gym and did 15 minutes. It counts because 15 minutes of physical activity is better than sitting. It also counts because it means I didn’t skip a workout, it means I exercised regularly this week, and it helps reinforce that habit and routine. Doing exactly what I committed to do boosts my mood and motivation to continue. I am on track, in control and making progress, and it feels good. No matter what, I can make it work if I follow this motto.”
—Chris Jordan, director of exercise physiology at the Human Performance Institute and creator of the 7-Minute Workout
The Ultimate “Prescription” For Motivation
“No. 1, get off your couch. No. 2, start moving. No. 3, smile. No. 4, keep moving. No. 5, keep smiling. No. 6, repeat daily. The truth is that being active is a behavior pattern: Once you start it, you keep going and going, and then it just feels wrong to stop moving.”
— Dr. Jordan Metzl, M.D., sports medicine physician, fitness instructor, 32-time marathon runner, 12- time Ironman finisher and author of Dr. Jordan Metzl’s Running Strong: The Sports Doctor’s Complete Guide to Staying Healthy and Injury-Free for Life
Silence Sticking Points
“Bolster your willpower in tough times. A lot of research shows that if blood-sugar levels dip, willpower takes a severe nosedive. That’s why when you go too long without eating, you’ll over-consume whatever is around you. Curb this by having a piece of fruit with nut butter or Greek yogurt with fruit. The same thing has been shown with a lack of sleep. That’s why I try to get enough sleep, and on those days I don’t, I make sure I start out the day right with a protein-rich breakfast to help reduce those sweet cravings.”
— Julie Upton, MS, RD, athlete and co-author of The Real Skinny: Appetite for Health’s 101 Fat Habits & Slim Solutions
Don’t Give That Negative Voice The Time Of Day
“You have to have tunnel vision and not think sometimes. Like the other day: I really didn’t want to go to the gym, but I knew if I went through the motions, I’d eventually get there. I just have to get up, get moving and get my stuff together, and if I can make it to the car, I think I’m good. We all know how to put ourselves on autopilot, so get out and do it!”
—Toni Carey, co-creator of Black Girls Run!
Give Yourself A Pep Talk
“Some of the hardest moments for me are being out at mile 87 of 100 miles. My legs hurt and all I want to do is lay down. What gets me across the finish line? A lot of self-talk: Holly, pull it together, you can do this! Look how far you’ve come! When you believe in yourself, the motivation comes second nature.”
— Holly Miller, personal trainer, coach, yoga teacher, stationary cycling instructor and ultramarathoner who has completed two Ironman triathlons and has run more than 50 marathons
Change Your State, Change Your Life!
“When I’m unmotivated, feel bad about my body or not proud of myself, if I make myself of service to somebody else — How can I support you, how can I lift YOU up — I hear myself saying all the things I need to hear. I change my own state. Even when you feel low, if you can go and offer help to someone else, if you can be of service, that is the quickest way to change your state.”
— Kiya Knight, creator of Weightless and Air Bar, certified personal trainer and fitness instructor
Check Motivation Off The List
“I’m a check-it-off-the-list kind of girl! I write everything I’m planning to do that day in a little book: Work out, take SLT, go to yoga. That’s a great motivator because I don’t like going to bed without almost everything from the day crossed off.”
— Amanda Freeman, founder and owner of New York City boutique fitness studio SLT (Strengthen, Lengthen, Tone)
To Err Is Human, To Forgive Is Motivating
“If you stray, whether it’s eating something you shouldn’t have or skipping a workout because you’re tired, be forgiving. When you start being hard on yourself, it takes the fun out of it, which is a sure way to zap motivation.”
— Katie Warner Johnson, dancer and Physique 57 trainer and co-founder of activewear site Carbon38