"Why do you train?"
This is a simple question with a seemingly simple answer; to get into shape. Duh.
If I asked 100 guys that question, most would say something along those lines. Sure there are variations like wanting to feel better, wanting to look great, or to live longer, but it's actually far from that straightforward.
When I ask my clients that question and get that standard response, I know it's just a surface answer. So I dig a little deeper. And then deeper. You see, what I’m looking for is the real reason they are exercising, eating well, and taking care of their bodies.
“Getting fit” is a half-assed answer and tells me very little about their motivation and also doesn't help them understand their true reasons for wanting to get in shape.
This is important to understand for a few reasons:
- Your commitment level will be based on your underlying motivators
- Your "why" drives your actions
- Understanding your "why" allows you to be inspired, not just motivated temporarily
And when it comes to getting fit, motivation, I mean deep, emotionally driven motivation, is critical. As a coach, if I don’t understand your intrinsic motivations, I can’t help you as well as I can and if you don't understand them, your chances of long-term success are diminished greatly.
Certainly you can make progress in the short-term by using short-term motivation tactics like signing up for a 60-day challenge or competing in a marathon, but you don't want a short-term solution.
These things fade with time, which is why so many people jump from program to program or diet to diet. They get pumped up about something, do it for a short while, and lose interest. They have no real "why" they are doing it.
Do You Know Why You Want to Get Fit? Honestly?
To help figure this out, ask yourself these 3 questions (in order) and answer them as honestly as possible. If you don’t take at least 10 minutes to think them through, you are just pacifying yourself with bullshit.
- What's the worst case scenario if I don't get/stay fit?
- What is the best case scenario if I get into the shape I want?
- What impact will these have on my life?
If you answered them honestly, then you probably have a good starting point for what your intrinsic motivation to get fit is. If you are still coming up with answers like the following, dig deeper. It's there somewhere..
- To look better
- To feel better/have more energy
- To reduce stress
- To live longer
- To be able to keep up with your kids
- To have more confidence
- To be more attractive to the opposite sex
All of these are fine answers and it's not a question of right or wrong. They are neither. But they are still surface answers that say very little about the real motivation behind your desire to get fit.
If you want to look good naked, Romaniello has a ton of stuff for you to read. But why? You don't want to look good just to look good. You are driven by something deeper. If you think it's just to get laid more, think again. Why do you want to get laid more? Is something missing in your life that you feel the need to be a man whore? Did you have a poor relationship with your parents that is causing you to seek attention? This rabbit hole can go VERY deep.
If you want to live a healthier lifestyle by focusing on primal nutrition principles, Mark has you covered. Why do you spend so much time cooking, preparing, and eating healthy foods? What's your relationship with food like? Did you have a sister who was bulimic? Or maybe you saw a loved one die from an obesity related illness.
If you want to be strong as fuck, Jason can help a brother out. Do you want to be strong because you want to be a bad ass? Maybe it's because you were bullied in junior high and felt helpless in that situation. Or maybe you never went to prom because you had no confidence as a 98 pound weakling.
The key is to understand what pushes you at the core level. What gets you out of bed to drive to the gym at 5am before a long workday? What drives you to spend all day Sunday cooking, preparing, and portioning your foods for the week? What causes you to train day after day?
The answer is almost always tied to some emotional attachment you have to a specific event, time, place, or person.
Stop Lying To Yourself
When I was running a gym a few years ago, one of the jobs I had was to turn walk in prospect into members. And one of the most important things I did to do that was take an interest in them and why they were looking to join a gym.
I would spend a few minutes building rapport, talk about their goals and exercise history and then I would ask them a very important question: “what is the single most important thing you want from a gym membership”?
They almost always said things like:
- Flexible hours
- Group classes
- New treadmills
- Helpful staff
All crap answers. They were crap because they were just surface answers. They weren't intentionally deceiving me, nor were they lying. They just didn't know how to answer the question because they didn't really know.
It was my job to help them figure it out. So I pushed, sometimes pretty fucking hard.
My goal was to get them to make the connection between their desire to join a gym and the emotional attachment they had to why it was important.
And it wasn’t easy and I didn’t have success 100% of the time. But when I did, I often saw complete shifts in their body language and expressions. I saw a-ha moments, revelations, and even a few tears.
That’s how I knew I found the answer.
This is relevant to you because it's the same basic principle. I'm not trying to sell you a gym membership, but I am trying to get you to understand why you are spending your precious time and energy training, eating well, and trying to get fit.
Your answer is going to be your ticket to continued success in regards to your health and fitness level.
The Power Of Why
Just imagine if you knew the underlying reasons why you did what you did each day.
How powerful is that? This doesn't have to be fitness related and can be applied to every action you take. For example, why are you spending so much time on trivial tasks at work? Possibly it's because you are avoiding the hard things because you have a fear of failure. And that in turn is caused by your parents getting divorced and you thinking you caused it.
This can be a very scary and eye opening thing.
Here's an exercise that I have done with many of my clients and it's very powerful if answered honestly. I've seen grown men fall to tears after being completely open and honest with this.
Here is an example of this exercise, called the "why" exercise.
This is a real conversation I had a few years ago with my client, Tim. He was in his late thirties, was 50+ pounds overweight (and had been for many years), and stressed out beyond belief. He had high blood pressure, low confidence, and was feeling really shitty about himself in general.
We had just started working together and met at his house to discuss his plan going forward. And after covering the basics, I started asking him some hard questions.
Here's how it went:
Me: So now that I know some of your background and what struggles you're facing, tell me why you decided to get into shape and hire me.
Tim: Because I feel like shit and am worried about my health.
Me: I understand that, but why now as opposed to last month or a year ago?
Tim: Because I felt like it was the right time to make a change.
Tim: Just ready.
Me: Why are you ready? What's changed in your life recently that prompted you to take action?
Tim: A friend of mine who I went to high school with just died of a heart attack.
Me: OK, and you're worried that something like that might happen to you if you don't change your lifestyle?
Tim: Yes, very much.
Me: It seems that you've beaten your body up pretty good over the years and it took a tragic event like losing a friend to wake you up. The fear of dying is pretty far fetched for most people and usually there is something else that more scary than the thought of possibly having a heart attack. I mean, the statistics how that the chance of you having one are extremely slim, so let me ask you another question: what do you have to live for that's so important?
Tim: My family
Me: Your parents? Brothers or sisters? I know you don't have kids right now.
Tim: No, but I really want to have kids one day and if I'm in terrible shape or worse, I may never get that opportunity.
So you can see how this conversation is going, right? This doesn't include the 20 minutes of bullshit and runaround answers he gave me to get to the end result. He was avoiding the harsh reality of possibly being able to have kids and he was scared. That's normal of course and it took some pressure from me to get him there.
I kept pushing until he told me why he really wanted to change his life. It had little to do with "getting fit" and everything to do with raising a family. That was his "why."
I shared this with you so you can have these conversations as well and hopefully understand your own reasons you do what you do, in fitness and in life.
I'd love to hear your thoughts after you do, so please share them in the comments below or on Facebook.