fitness, health, lifestyle

Positive Reinforcement: Staying Motivated During Your Fitness Journey

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This past year I’ve managed to build a decent amount of muscle and lose a good amount of fat due to consistent weekly weight training mixed with HIIT and some cardio, and a balanced, flexible diet – primarily consisting of unprocessed food with room for occasional treats. But staying on track with my workouts and diet occasionally requires a lot of mental energy, some weeks much more than others. Motivation comes and goes quite often, so I wanted to share with you all a few things I do to get out of a funk and back on track in the hopes that it might help someone else who may feel like their goals are out of reach even though they’ve been working their ass off for the past few months.

I personally find myself getting de-motivated in my weight loss journey every 2-3 months for a week or two, and during these weeks I feel lazy, extra hungry, depressed, and find myself feeling like I’ve made no progress even though I’ve worked so hard to look this average. These weeks usually come at a time when I’m really stressed out, like this past week (which is why I thought it might be good time to write about this topic).

For me, getting RE-motivated after a week or two of feeling like all my efforts have been for nothing, requires a LOT of self-reinforcement and reminding myself of:

  • The progress I’ve made so far
  • What I am capable of
  • What my goals are and why I am putting so much effort into my fitness goals
  • The fact that fitness itself is not an end goal but a journey that requires continued investment. 

That being said, here are 4 tips for motivation during your fitness journey:

Tip #1: Take progress pictures so you can celebrate how far you’ve come

I first started documenting the beginning of my fitness journey with pictures around January 2016, and since those first pictures were taken I’ve made a lot of progress. I only lost around 23lbs and am nowhere close to “fitness industry fit”, but my body composition changed SIGNIFICANTLY since then (fat loss, muscle gain) and more importantly my strength and endurance increased SIGNIFICANTLY. I can now do a barbell squat with 4x the amount of weight I was able to do when I first started lifting and I can now deadlift over 3.5x the amount of weight I was able to in January 2016! I can also now do 7 chin ups on a good day – in January 2016 I couldn’t do one AT ALL. I can also now run over 5-6 miles without stopping on a good day – in January 2016 it was an accomplishment to run 1 mile without stopping.

Documenting my journey’s progress with pictures has helped significantly in reminding myself how far I’ve come in my weight loss and overall health and fitness goals (which are really the most important). When I find myself doubting that I am making any progress, it’s really helpful to look at those pictures and remind myself that change doesn’t happen overnight. The below pictures were taken two years apart, and I STILL have so much progress to be made, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t appreciate the progress that I have made so far. If I didn’t remind myself every now and again, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to motivate myself to keep going, and I wouldn’t have made the changes that I did.

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The pictures on the left were taken in January 2016 (@ 154-156lbs) and the ones on the right were taken this week, February 2018 (currently fluctuating between 133-135lbs). I really debated whether or not to share the above progress picture because I know that showing too much skin ultimately leads to judgement and general disapproval, and I am a little embarrassed about the fat I still want to lose in my midsection (I always wear high-waisted leggings because of this).

However, I wanted to stress that even after 1.5-2 years of eating healthy and training consistently (5-6x a week) I’m STILL not even at my “goal physique.” I think this is important to note because many people view fitness and weight loss as this “end state” that they can achieve in 4, 6, or 12 weeks. And they think that once they get to that “goal weight” their life will change and all their insecurities will just disappear with the weight loss. As a result many tend to approach fitness very unhealthily (ironically) and with a restrictive mindset because they want it to happen FAST and NOW – this is no thanks to the constant bombardment of magazines and other “fitness media” that promote this kind of approach to weight loss, which doesn’t work most of the time. Why? Because if you are restricting calories during your temporary diet to lose weight fast and then start eating normally as you were before as soon as your diet is “over” (especially without making any other changes in your life such as regularly incorporating weight training into your weekly routine to build muscle) you WILL gain back the weight. It takes SO much more time and patience to see lasting results if you are approaching it as a lifestyle change vs a temporary goal, which is why I am okay with the fact that I still have pudge, because I know that if I just continue to do what I have been doing for the past 1.5-2 years, it will go away with time.

Anyway, that was a bit of a ramble, but PROGRESS PICTURES WILL KEEP YOU MOTIVATED!

Tip #2: Try to hit a new personal record when you’ve been spinning your wheels

When I am feeling like I’m just running through the motions rather than feeling inspired to reach my fitness goals, I’ll try to reach a new personal record. In the past few months, I’ve hit new PRs on squats, deadlifts, sprints, and endurance running, and each time I’ve left the gym feeling way more excited about my next workout than I did going in. If you’re lacking motivation after a few months or weeks of consistent training, I highly recommend trying to hit some sort of new personal record to get you excited to train again. Seeing what your body is capable of because of the hard work you’ve been putting in is so rewarding and definitely helps with regaining motivation. Recently (within the past two weeks) I dragged myself to the gym and told myself that I would do at least 30 minutes of cardio and then a HIIT workout – I ended up running almost 7 miles for a full hour which is farther than I’ve ever ran in my LIFE without stopping. Seeing what my body was now capable of was so motivating that I’ve started incorporating more endurance runs into my weekly workouts lately which has really helped with leaning out!

Tip #3:Remind yourself of your overall goal – and why you are working towards that goal

When I am feeling demotivated during weight loss, I try to remind myself that my OVERALL goal is to be healthy, STRONGER, fit, capable, and HAPPY. Weight loss at this point is just an extra added benefit of achieving health, strength, fitness, capability, and happiness. Reminding myself that my reasons for wanting to get fit are a lot deeper than ONLY wanting to look good in a bathing suit makes the journey much more rewarding and the hard work worth the effort because the changes will benefit me long-term and enhance the quality of my life. During the weeks where I am not feeling motivated and I try to focus on strength gains over weight loss, I also allow myself eat at maintenance calories instead of “cutting” calories to get my body and mind feeling nourished instead of restricted again so they can have a chance to “reset” without all my hard work going to waste.

Tip #4: Remind yourself that you should just strive to be the best version of yourself – and not this idea of “perfection” that you may have in your head from someone else’s accomplishments

This past year I have found liberation in working to build myself into the best version of MYSELF and not someone else. I think it is fine to look at others for inspiration when you are working towards fitness goals but if all the work you do is for the purpose of trying to look like someone else, I promise you will never be satisfied because you and that person likely do not share the same genetics or body type. And in my experience that has lead to demotivation.

Within this past year I’ve finally accepted the fact that I naturally have an apple shaped body (heavy on top, slender lower body) and rather than wasting time wishing I was born in a different body like I used to, I embrace it now. I’ve always had broad shoulders, and I used to hate them. But now that I’ve accepted the fact that I will always have broad shoulders, I’ve chosen to enhance and tone them through weight lifting – and now I happen to like my big ass shoulders a lot and get a lot of compliments on them! I also tend to carry a lot of extra weight around my middle, so I work on training and building my back muscles to create the illusion of a smaller waist. I was also born with the unfortunate Asian Flat Butt, so since I started weight lifting consistently I make sure to work on my lower body at least once a week –  lifting heavy to build muscle and balance out my proportions so I can look like the best version of me. It’s much easier to see progress and find motivation within yourself when you start accepting and learning to work with what you have, instead of fighting it. 

If all of the above was TLDR, my tips for staying motivated are taking progress pictures, trying to hit a new personal record if you feel like you haven’t made any sort of progress, reminding yourself of your overall goal and WHY you want to achieve it, and staying focused on building the best version of yourself rather than trying to look like someone else.

This blog post was a little different from my previous ones, so please feel free to leave any feedback that could help me improve the next fitness-related post for you guys!

My next blog post will be a step-by-step recipe for Gluten-Free Pan Fried Tilapia with Avocado Mango Salsa and Jasmine Rice (featured weekly on my Instagram page). Looking forward to sharing it with you guys – in the meantime feel free to follow me on Instagram or Facebook to see more Cook2Lean posts. Until next time!

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