When Motivation Fades
Written by: Coach Slater
I received this anonymous text last week, “Thought to ponder. What do you do to motivate an experienced CrossFitter who is doing it for fun (not with a goal of seriously competing) who has lost motivation? I was talking to someone on this situation. I’m curious if it just becomes hard to stay motivated when you’re not seeing big improvements or new milestones.”
I immediately had some thoughts on the matter, but realized that the correct answer totally depends on the person. So, here’s my $0.02, covering a wide range of possibilities. Maybe one item hits home for you, personally.
Appreciate the Minutiae
The reality is that training slows for an advanced athlete. Personal records are no longer set by the 10s or 20s of pounds. They come in small 2.5lb increments, over the course of six months, a year, or two years. Maybe they’re improvements not in pounds, but in increased range of motion or a honed skill. So, appreciate the minutiae, but don’t miss the forest for the trees. Meaning: don’t ignore the big picture. Look at how far you’ve come and appreciate where you are now. Then, focus on the small improvements which you’re continuing to make. Maybe you haven’t PR’d your deadlift in awhile, but you’re PR-ing WODs we retest at the end of cycles.
How Hard Are You Really Working?
You can’t become so overwhelmed with the act of “trying” that you sit around and complain. Instead, get up and work. “I am working,” you say. Are you? How’s your nutrition? How’s your stress levels? How’s your sleep? Hate to tell ya, but you’re not 22-years-old anymore. We need to spend as much time recovering as we do training, if not more. As we age, fitness is more than lifting weights in the gym. Working on those things outside of the gym is important for you to continue seeing progress inside the gym. Don’t want to work on those things? Then, accept the reality that you’re going to plateau or regress.
You Might Be Overtraining
On the flip side, maybe you’ve lost your mental edge because you’re overtraining. Not working out is worse than working out a little, but working out too much might be worse than not working out at all. Maybe you need to dial it back a tad so you find more energy and drive on the days you are at the gym.
It’s hard to mentally recover from an injury. There’s anxiety from wondering if you’ll heal fully, fear of re-injury, and depression or low self-esteem from feeling “left behind” by other athletes potentially surpassing you. Luckily, there are some well-documented ways of coping with the mental effects of an injury. Here are three. 1. Social Support. Reconnect with your social crew to help you get thru this mental sticking point. Become a cheering spectator for others so you stay socially connected. 2. Journal & Set Goals. Be open with yourself about the negative emotions you’re feeling, then set realistic goals for recovery, which may just be increased flexibility for now. 3. Be Patient. Allow yourself to heal. What’s two weeks in the long run? Nothing! Going half-speed for a couple weeks or taking time off is okay.
Discipline Over Motivation
Maybe you’re looking for motivation, when you should really just be developing discipline. Just gonna quote Jim Wendler here: “Discipline always trumps motivation. Motivation is about emotion and too many times, we rely on emotion to raise our performance. Unfortunately, this can quickly wear you down and if you aren’t motivated, lead to lackluster or missed training sessions. Discipline doesn’t care how you feel, what the weather is or if you’ve had a bad day. Discipline will carry the strong. Discipline will drive success. Discipline doesn’t need a *hype* video or loud music. Discipline over motivation.” TLDR: Train because you’re disciplined to do so, not because of a fleeting motivational meme you saw on Facebook.
Forget Setting a Goal. Focus on the System
This one is related to the “discipline” bullet point. Maybe setting a goal of cleaning a certain weight, or snatching a certain weight, or hitting a certain number of consecutive pullups no longer excites you like it did when you were new to CrossFit. So, instead of setting a new goal, focus on the system. Rather than the performance, focus on the practice. You’re an experienced CrossFitter, so maybe you’re no longer interested in setting new PR’s. You’ve hit some big numbers in the past and you’re fine with all of that. You just wanna enjoy your life nowadays. So, forget the goals and commit to a system which says “on these days of the week, I workout.” Then just do it.
Live. Learn. Pass On.
Find joy in helping someone else. I picked up an important goal from Dave Tate at EliteFTS. His personal motto is “Live. Learn. Pass On.” Transfer knowledge, energy, and advice for the greater good. Your gainz may have slowed but what’s stopping you from putting someone under your wing and helping them or reveling in their successes? Maybe seeing the fire sparked in someone else’s eyes will relight it in yours. Maybe it’ll shift your focus from “woe is me”, and remind you how fun this can be. Get out of your own head and have fun with others around you.
Public Accountability & Accountabilibuddies
Go public with your goals, your frustrations, and your desire to help others reach their goals, then be amazed at the positive reaction that will ripple thru Derby City when you do so. There’s nothing as surprising and inspiring as someone declaring their own accountability. It immediately creates a solidarity with others who will help you reach those goals. So, go public and get the help of a like-minded community around you. Then ask others to be your Accountabilibuddy. “Hey, text me to drag my ass to the gym.” Done. Or, talk some casual, friendly shit to someone in your class or another class to give both of you something to shoot for. Use the community to help get out of the rut. You’re not in this alone.
If It’s Important, You Will Find a Way to Make It Happen
Maybe, it’s time to forge a new you. Yes, we all need support and you must look for help when needed; however, at the end of the day, everything is on you. There are thousands of people meeting their goals by prioritizing what is important and making it work. If that means waking up early, if that means skipping a post-work happy hour, if that means working out on a Sunday, then you make it happen. If you have to make certain sacrifices that many others don’t have to, then do it. Making excuses that you can’t find the time to train, or work on your mobility, or eat well makes you sound like a loser. If meeting your goals by fitting training into your busy schedule means you have to give up watching a Netflix show, then throw away your TV and get to work. You have to make time for it. No goal was ever attained by thinking about it. Maybe this fade in motivation is your gut check, here and now in front of you.