Episode 330 – Jonathan, What Motivates You To Exercise?

Written by Jonathan

I was working with one of my clients the other morning and they were talking about how during the week they had tried to or had good intentions of doing some exercises on their own, but they were unable to ‘drum up’ the motivation to do anything. Before I could get in there to ask my questions, about what they thought they could do differently to make the exercise more manageable or help them find some motivation for the next time, they followed it up with this question – Jonathan, How do you stay motivated to exercise? You seem to be exercising all the time and she punched the air with her fist, for effect I think. Anyways the question caught me off guard and I stood there in her basement staring at her with this dumbfounded look on my face, asking myself, How do I stay motivated to exercise? I really had to think about it for several seconds and ultimately came to this response, I’m not motivated to exercise, I just exercise. This answer even caught me off guard, I mean I must be motivated by something and I am, but the reality is I never or rarely think about exercise it’s just become a habit for me. Now to a lot of people this might sound superhuman, I mean who doesn’t require some motivation to exercise? But I think this is how most people think about motivation, they think if they look at some pictures of other people exercising, they will be motivated, or if they read some inspirational quotes that will get them motivated or watch some video of an old guy giving a speech to athletes training hard and doing exercises, ‘if you want to win, you have to work harder, you have to get dirtier you have to earn every inch’ …you know the videos, every Rocky movie has a scene to the same effect. Ans sure these things may motivate you temporarily, but they definitely won’t over the long term, at least they didn’t for me.
I think that most people spend a lot of time looking for that one thing that’s going to motivate them and sure it may work for some people, but truthfully I don’t think it does for the vast majority of people. The real question needs to be, niot how do I get motivated to exercise the real question needs to be, what do I need to do to make exercise a habit, today I’m going to take you on the journey I went on to make exercise a habit, and I’ll share some moments of inspiration, because that’s what I like to call them, that steered me in that direction.

It all started when I was in grade 6, I was staying overnight at my friends, we were watching T.V, all of a sudden this heavy rock music starts blaring and I hear this clanking together, at first I thought his dad was fixing a car in their basement, but my friend says, no that’s my dad he’s working out, here I’ll show you, we walk over to this dungeon of a room, concrete floor, no windows, cob webs in the corner, cabinets with no doors and there’s my friends dad doing bench press, on this little old bench doing bench press, when he finishes his set, he sits up and says, ‘you guys want to try?’, I was a bit intimidated and unsure, but my friend said he worked out with his dad all the time and it would be fine, in fact he was on pace to try and lift 100 lbs, and tonight might be a good night to do that. So, 100 lbs. Goes on the bar, my friend gets on the bench, he sets up, the bar goes down to his chest, it goes up a little, then a little more, his struggling, his dad tells him to yell a bit, so he does and that bar makes it all the way up. Now it’s my turn, I set up, listening very carefully to the instructions and I try it, pushing as hard as I can with all my might and the bar goes up, with relative ease, so much ease, I think my friends dad helped my pull it up, but at the time and in that moment it didn’t matter, because in my mind I had just lifted 100 lbs. and I was hooked. The next day when I got home and I asked my parents if I could have a weight bench to do exercise, they said sure, for Christmas. That was about 8 months away and I didn’t workout once between that time and Christmas, you could say that in that moment of bench press I was inspired to exercise, but not really all that motivated, because I could have started working out without the weight bench at least a little, but I didn’t and when I got the weight bench that Christmas I worked out everyday for about 2 weeks after, then I stopped for a few weeks then I would workout a bit then I would stop, and that pattern of inconsistency would follow. I don’t remember why I would start and stop or what was going through my mind, but if I had to guess I probably found exercise really hard and ultimately not worth the effort. I do remember one thought that went through my mind, ‘I don’t feel like exercising today, I will start tomorrow’ of course this wasn’t limited to exercise, it also applied to homework and chores around the house. Anything that I deemed as unpleasant.

The following summer, now we’re between, Grade 7 and 8 one of my neighbours Rick, came over and asked my dad, if he wanted to run on Saturday mornings, my dad said he wasn’t interested in that, but that I might be interested to train for my hockey, and I was. That Saturday, I did my first run ever outside of school, we went 4 or 5 miles really slow and it was fine. Rick was easy to get along with, the pace was very manageable for me and it was a really good introduction for me. I was motivated for hockey, I wanted to make the competitive team that year, I started running a few times through the week on my own, shorter distances, but a bit faster and continually did the long runs on the Saturday mornings, between hockey and having Rick as a guide, I was motivated to continue, but as soon as I made the team, I more or less stopped running, I guess I didn’t care about being a good hockey player, I just cared about wearing the jacket.

Somewhere in here the local newspaper ran a story about how exercise wasn’t just for young people, and it featured an 80 year old, barefoot water skiing doubles with his 14 year old grandson, I was 14 at the time and thought that is was too bad that I didn’t have a grandfather to go water skiing with, but maybe if I stay active enough I could go water skiing with my grandson when I’m 80. Of course by now you’ve probably guessed it, but I didn’t become Rocky in that moment and start my incredible training montage, with a life filled with exercise and healthy eating, no I continued to play sports and exercise inconsistently at best for the next 10 years or so of my life. I would go through periods of time where I would exercise consistently either for sports or I would have a friend that wanted to exercise and we would go really consistently for a few weeks then stop and start again over and over, but these little seeds kept getting planted in my mind.

I never consistently exercised until my first job out of University, where, I can say it was actually kind of easy, not the exercise, that’s never easy, my ability to stay consistent, for the first time in my life I had a schedule and didn’t feel overwhelmed with extra curricular activities. I was working at a training facility where we trained elite athletes. Everyday, my shift was either from 12 in the afternoon until 8 at night or 3 in the afternoon and 8 at night. On this schedule I would wake-up first thing in the morning, drink a small glass of water and go for a run, then I would get to work an hour and a half early and do my workout in the same facility with the athletes. After my shift I would come home and go to bed between 9 and 10, wake-up the next morning without an alarm and repeat. Not only was I exercising a lot, but I was also well rested and single, I had no other responsibilities, I was the healthiest and fittest I had ever been in my life and quite possible have been in my life, but I was making a living wage that was officially under the poverty line and after about a year and a half of scraping by, I decided enough was enough, and I started this business. You could say it’s when my real life as a career person started. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was about to face all the challenges regular career people face.

I went back to the bar I had worked at when I was in University because I still needed to pay my bills, the shifts were from 8 or 9 at night until 2 or 3 in the morning, it didn’t interfere with growing the business, which was my primary focus, but I would work really late, go home and sleep for 2 or 3 hours, then wake-up and go train clients in the morning. It didn’t take long for me to get run down and fall back into old habits. This time around I managed to stay more consistent, because I thought it would be hypocritical to be delivering exercise to people but not exercising myself. Eventually I started scheduling my own workouts in between clients and administrative tasks that had to get done, it was the only way I would make time to exercise. I also built an outline or routine to follow for my workouts, so that I wouldn’t waste any time thinking about what I was going to do that day. I had allotted time, a plan and I just did it.

I know it’s not sexy and it’s probably not what people want to hear, I mean sure I can talk about all the times I felt moments of inspiration, watching Rocky, seeing my 60 year old neighbour go for a run, the first time I bench pressed 100 lbs. I could even go a step further and talk about the time I got a chest x-ray with my shirt off and the tech asked me if I worked out, or the first time a girl touched my chest and said oooooooooh, with a surprised look on her face, or the fact that one of the girls at the farm I worked at called me ‘Jonny big and strong’ these are moments of inspiration, seeds that were planted in my brain that have germinated over the course of time and why is it that those seeds germinated and not others, probably because I like the way exercise makes me feel, I like being able to help a friend move and not have to set the couch down 3 times before we get it in the house, I like being able to water ski and be as good or better than when I was 20, I like that it’s easy for me to just play a sport, go to a beach or go on a hike and not have to worry about whether or not I will be able to keep up and make it back, and you know what being able to lift 300 lbs. makes me feel manly.

The sexy stuff, the stuff you see in movies, the stuff fitness gurus will say in an instagram meme, it has an affect on me, but I never wake-up in the morning and say to myself, I need to exercise so I can play hockey or I want to feel comfortable when I take my shirt off, I use those feelings as evidence that I’m on the right path for me. I wake-up every morning and look at the list of everything I want to get done and exercise is on that list, because one day several years ago, I decided that being healthy was important to me and exercise is one of my tools. That’s what motivates me.



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