If physical exercise is something you don’t inherently enjoy, it can be difficult for you to keep yourself motivated to hit the gym or to watch your diet. What if I told you that there is a way to make the process more enjoyable than most fitness gurus would have you believe. It is not necessarily all about discipline over motivation.
In today’s episode we shall go over some fundamental changes you can make in your approach towards exercise and nutrition. These changes would make it easier for you to enjoy the process of working on your body, which will ensure that you get the results you want.
Let’s dive right into it.
“You will never be motivated. You have to learn to be disciplined.” How many times have you heard that quote or read it over and over in the profiles of instagram fitness influencers?
But it seems no one provides the step-by-step process to build this so-called discipline. Is it just about pushing yourself when you don’t want to? Sure that’s part of the process. But there are also some frameworks that you need in place to help you keep yourself disciplined. Today we shall explore some of them.
What is the main driver for motivation? 🚀
The main driver for motivation is progress. You know this quite well yourself. When you can see yourself get better and better, it make you want to keep going. Think about any activity you enjoy. Is it cooking? Maybe it is painting. Or do you like playing a musical instrument? What makes you want to keep performing the activity?
It is the progress you see happening during the process. When you cook a dish, you can smell the aroma of the spices and taste the flavours shaping up. When you paint, you can see the colours blend right in front of your eyes and form patterns. While playing music, the notes you pluck on the strings instantly provide feedback to your ears. You can tell how melodic your execution is.
But when it comes to exercise, the results that you seek are not instantaneous. The feedback is delayed.
It may take you a year of consistent training and eating well to see drastic changes in yourself. The day to day changes are minimal. And the changes during one exercise session itself are non-existent. This is where the fundamental problem lies if you’re someone who doesn’t even enjoy physical exercise in the first place.
No amount of discipline can fix your dislike for exercise permanently if you don’t fix the problem at its very core. And I’ll tell you what will help fix this. The trouble with activities that rely on delayed gratification is that such activities are inherently unenjoyable.
Saving money is more difficult than spending it because spending lets you enjoy the product instantly whereas the benefits of saving may take decades to show any significant results. So the effort should be to figure a way out to get instant feedback when it comes to your fitness goals and exercise routine. The solution to this? Goal setting.
The most common reason why most people fail to comply with a training plan. 😖
Most people that I have come across in life have had phases when they whimsically got a gym membership and started a weight training program. One of the main reasons why these people couldn’t stick to the program long term was because they didn’t track their workouts. It really is the one common factor.
Ask any person who has an on-again-off-again relationship with the gym and who has made negligible progress in their fitness goals; ask them IF they track their workouts. I can guarantee this 100%, well maybe 98% considering a margin of error on my part, that they would all answer no to that question.
Tracking your workouts is the number one way to incorporate instant feedback into your exercise routine. When you have your exact numbers from last week right in front of you, it becomes a fun challenge to try and beat that number this week. This turns the process into a game. To really enjoy something, it also has to be challenging.
To understand what makes something enjoyable in the truest sense, we have to talk about one of my favourite books on psychology: Flow by Mihaly Csikzentmihaly. He is the one who coined the term flow for the psychological state when you lose sense of time and space and become engrossed in the activity you are performing.
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The state of flow that we all experience during some activity that we truly enjoy, when time just seems to pass by can be created intentionally. The only two requirements are: 1. the activity has to be slightly challenging 2. we must have the skill set to pursue that challenge.
When you track your workouts and have a specific number from last week. Say you did 9 repetitions of Bench Press with 40kgs of weight. It becomes a challenge this week to do 10 repetitions with the same weight and beat that earlier number. Once you have this goal before you start your set, you have already set yourself up to enter the flow state of mind.
Setting these small achievable challenges that also require intense focus and mental push are the characteristics of the most enjoyable activities. When you create such mini goals throughout your workout session, it becomes a game of you vs you. Can you do just one more rep every set for every exercise as compared to last week?
If you can, that is clear indication that you are stronger this week than your last. This means you have definitely built some amount of muscle during this small time period even if it may not be visible to you right now. This is the instant feedback that you need to make you want to perform your next set. This is what makes you look forward to your next exercise session.
Even if you don’t inherently enjoy physical exercise, everyone likes feeling like they are better today than yesterday. Use this feeling to fuel your workouts. And the discipline would be much easier to implement.
Incorporating feedback systems into your fitness routine. 🔄
Since you now have a fair idea of how to use the principle of instant feedback to help you progress in training, I’ll share a few more ways in which you can incorporate this into your life to reach your fitness goals. I’ll also list a few tools to help you out with this afterwards.
The next big thing that you can do is to start tracking your daily morning weight into a weight tracking app. This may seem very basic but I know a LOT of people who are trying to get in shape but who have no idea of what their morning weight after a trip to the toilet is. These people randomly hop on a weighing scale every now and then and are either overjoyed or distressed to see the number. But that is just a pointless exercise.
You have to understand that your bodyweight fluctuates on a day-to-day basis depending on the time of weighing, the clothes you’re wearing, your hydration levels, your sodium intake, the time you had your last meal and so many other factors. If you aren’t tracking your weight daily under the same circumstances, it becomes impossible to see the trends in your weight over weeks or months. And this creates a lack of…you guessed it…feedback.
When you have logged your weight daily over weeks, the graph that shows the gradual decline or increase, depending on your goals keeps you motivated as you can see tangibly how far you have progressed.
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Along with your daily weight, another very crucial factor is taking weekly body measurements. Lot of people want to drop their waist size to fit into smaller pants. That’s fair. But most of them don’t even track their waist measurement during their fitness program. Weekly body measurements of key areas like your chest, arms, waist and hips would provide you with weekly feedback on progress.
How well are your arms responding to those bicep curls you have been doing? Is your midsection getting smaller? You will know for sure and be able to modify your exercise plan accordingly.
The importance of taking progress pictures. 📸
Along with body measurements, another metric of progress that you should be recording is monthly progress pictures. A visual indicator of change over time will keep you going even when progress seems stagnant in the future.
It is important to understand that although progress pictures may seem pointless right now, your future self would be able to use them to derive motivation to get further ahead. Seeing your own self morph visually into a new person is one of the most satisfying things. And you’ll be denying yourself of this satisfaction if you don’t take progress pictures periodically.
So, set a day every month to set up your camera and take pictures of yourself in minimal clothing from the front, back and sides. Keep these as tokens for the milestones you have crossed in your fitness journey.
As you can see by now, the whole crux of motivation behind doing what it takes to reach your physique goals lies in goal setting and getting constant feedback on your progress. Your long term goal may be to build 15 inch biceps but your short term goal should be to do 1 more rep this week in your arm exercises than last week.
Your long term goal may be to get a 26 inch waistline, but your short term goal must be to improve on your waist measurement from last week.
Discipline is what would push you towards those goals. But without goals and without the constant feedback, your discipline has no focus. And it will fade away just as quick as it started.
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Tools to help you set up your own feedback systems. 📌
Let’s talk about a few tools to help you in the process of setting up your feedback system for fitness goals. First and foremost, you need a method to track your workouts. When I was starting out I used plain old pen and paper. I would carry a tiny notepad to the gym with a pen. And I would note down the weight that I used for each exercise along with the reps that I performed in each set. I did this for a long time and it worked pretty well.
But in recent years I have largely shifted to a digital system for logging my workouts. You can use any notetaking app for the purpose. I personally use Notion and I absolutely love it. But I have also used Evernote earlier and even that works fairly well.
Next up is weight tracking. Personally I use an excel sheet to track my own daily weight as well as for my online clients. But I had also used this app called ‘Monitor Your Weight’ for a long time in the past. It is completely free of cost and works very well. There are also tons of other options in the app store and the play store. So just pick one.
Along with the daily weigh in, make sure to take weekly body measurements and monthly progress pictures. Don’t round off your measurements when you record them. Make them as accurate as possible because your changes from week to week will be very small. Put the measurements into a spreadsheet and dump the pictures in chronologically arranged folders in your phone or computer.
To make sure you don’t forget to do these things periodically, use your to-do list app. If you don’t use a to-do list app, you should definitely start using one. It will simplify your life big time. I have been using the app Tick Tick (yeah Tick Tick, not Tik Tok) for quite a while to organise my todos. It has been very easy to use and keeps me on top of my tasks.
So set up daily reminders to weigh yourself, weekly reminders to take body measurements and one monthly reminder to take progress pictures. Once you have automated all of this, just sit back and go with the process.
I hope today’s episode helped you form a better understanding of how to use feedback systems to make your fitness journey more enjoyable and rewarding. If you follow everything outlined in this episode, I can promise you that your experience with exercise and keeping fit would be much better than it has been so far.
Let me know how you used the information to improve your relationship with the gym.
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