So much of weight loss is about mindset - but it's difficult to both get motivated and stay motivated to lose weight. Luckily, with some guidance, it is possible!
What You Need To Know About Motivation:
- Motivation isn’t as simple as we may think, and it can come in many different forms.
- There are countless forces that impact our feelings of motivation - some we can control and others we can’t.
- Motivation can be experienced either internally or externally.
Let’s Face It: Getting Motivated to Lose Weight Can Be Hard
Your bed is comfortable, it’s still dark out, and your alarm is going off. You groan and hit snooze. The gym can wait until tomorrow.
If you’ve ever tried to workout in the morning, this sounds all too familiar.
Similarly, the after-work crowd has to deal with crowded gyms and being tired after a long day, prolonging the amount of time that they have to be away from home.
Why is it, though, that so many people still make the time to hit the gym before or after work? Better yet, why is it that so many people try but can’t seem to make it happen?
Well, for the morning workout crew, I’ve got a hunch that coffee helps. But there’s certainly more to it. Let’s take a look at 3 easy ways that you can take to get motivated to hit the gym.
We’re going to skip the worn-out, overused and often incorrect motivational quotes, and instead use real-life examples of things that have been proven to work.
The Foundation: Those Austrian Psychologists Might’ve Been Onto Something…
Famous psychologist, Sigmund Freud, has two very important theories when it comes to understanding what encourages us to do what we do:
First: The Pleasure Principle - the instinctive seeking of pleasure and avoiding of pain in order to satisfy biological and psychological needs.  Example: Your bed is perceived as more pleasurable than going to the gym in the morning.
Second: The Reality Principle - A psychoanalytic concept, originally proposed by Sigmund Freud, that compels people to defer gratification when necessary due to the obstacles of reality. The reality principle is governed by the ego, which controls the instant-gratification mentality of the id.  Example: Getting out of bed and experiencing momentary discomfort with the hopes of a positive outcome later on.
If you’re like me, it’s very easy to think back to a recent time that you experienced either principle. So, how do we use these principles to our advantage? How can we make exercise pleasurable…. or at least see the long-term payoff? Here are three methods on how to get motivated to lose weight and hit the gym.
1. Get Clear On Your ‘Why’
Here at Ladder HQ, we recently had Dave Nelson give us the pep-talk of a lifetime.
In August of 2005, just days before football practice would be starting at Lafayette College where Dave was captain of the football team, he was stabbed in the heart while intervening in a fight in downtown Boston.
After dying in the back of a cab en-route to the hospital, he was revived 7 minutes later and miraculously back at practices just 2 weeks later, and winning the championship within months.
When he spoke about his incredible recovery, what got him through wasn’t grit, determination, or luck.
Instead, after years of reflection he learned that it was purpose. His ‘why’. He wanted to get back to his team, to help them succeed and return to his sanctuary on the football field. 
How this applies to you: Maybe you aren’t recovering from a near-death experience, but the lesson stays the same. Having a strong enough ‘why’ allows us to endure and accomplish more than we thought we were capable of.
Try taking a moment to go deeper with your goals. Understanding the ‘why’ behind your goals helps us use the Reality Principle to (both literally and figuratively) get out of bed a little early.
According to Whatley and Schrider (2005), future hopes may motivate people to exercise. For example, if your ‘why’ behind going to the gym is to have more energy for your future grandchildren. 
Take a few minutes, and think about your goals. Why are they your goals? What are you looking to experience as a result of reaching those goals?
2. Do Something You’re Good At
Research shows that people love to feel like they’re good at something. Feeling a sense of mastery drives intrinsic (internal) motivation and is exactly what many of us need when we’re in a motivation slump. 
If you’re someone who has exercised regularly in the past, there’s a good chance you have a few exercises that you know you’re pretty good at. Personally, if I could do one exercise for the rest of my life, I know it would be deadlifts. I’m good at them, they feel great, and for those reasons, I love to do them.
The next time you’re struggling to get motivated to hit the gym, think this:
- I get to do ___ exercise today!
- If I go to the gym today, that means I’m one day closer to doing that exercise I really like.
Especially when you’re just getting started, it can be extremely hard to feel like you’re mastering exercise. This is where having a coach can be incredibly helpful to get motivated on losing weight. Their positive feedback as you perform an exercise helps build confidence in your abilities!
If getting an in-person coach isn’t on the menu for you, getting a virtual fitness trainer matched to you on Ladder may be the perfect fit. Through our chat feature, you’ll be able to send ‘form check’ videos to your coach and receive feedback.
In a 2002 study researchers found that self-efficacy is the primary factor associated with sticking to an exercise program. Self-efficacy is a person’s confidence in her or his ability to do exercise and be consistent with workouts.
So if there is one thing that you should prioritize if you’re looking for motivation, it’s finding ways that you can increase confidence in the gym.
3. Shift From ‘Have To’ to ‘Get To’
Not surprisingly, many people struggle to become motivated when they feel like they ‘have’ to do something. Yet when they ‘get’ to do something, there is a wave of motivation and excitement that comes with it.
A classic example of this comes from Tom Sawyer. Tom is sent to whitewash his Aunt Polly’s fence, a tedious chore that no young boy would enjoy doing… Until Tom realizes something:
“Ben Rogers, another boy Tom’s age, walks by. Tom convinces Ben that whitewashing a fence is great pleasure., After some bargaining, Ben agrees to give Tom his apple in exchange for the privilege of working on the fence. Over the course of the day, every boy who passes ends up staying to whitewash, and each one gives Tom something in exchange. By the time the fence has three coats, Tom has collected a hoard of miscellaneous treasures.” 
Tom learned a very important psychological trick that many of us could use when it comes to getting motivated to hit the gym:
If you feel like it’s a chore that you ‘have to do’, you’ll never want to do it.
Internal motivation comes from having a sense of autonomy, a choice and control over your own future. Researchers Edward Deci and Richard Ryan break intrinsic motivation into two groups:
Autonomous motivation deals with intrinsic motivation and types of extrinsic motivation in which people integrated a value of an activity into their sense of self.
When people are autonomously motivated, they gain self-support and self-advocacy through their own actions. On the other hand, controlled motivation comprises both external and introjected regulation. 
Put simply: Autonomous motivation means that you ‘get’ to do something because it allows you to feel like you’re doing something good for yourself, while controlled motivation means that you’re required to do something in order to receive approval from others.
How to Use This On Yourself
While starting to exercise for external validation is an extremely common experience (Post-break up ‘revenge body’, looking good at a wedding or on vacation, etc.), it’s important to use exercise as more than just a means to that end. When you have to exercise because others expect you to look a certain way, it becomes more of a chore than an act of self-compassion.
While I am all for doing tough workouts, try to find a more meaningful purpose than just beating yourself up or tiring yourself out. Some workouts may be time a practice mental toughness like for example, running a Spartan race, precision learning a new kettlebell exercise or mindfulness like practicing mind-muscle connection during push-ups. Try finding an experience or lesson within each workout. You ‘get’ to practice moving with precision, rather than you ‘have’ to practice learning a new kettlebell exercise.
Where Coaching Comes In
Here at Ladder, we believe that there is nothing more powerful than having someone on your side 24/7 to help you reach your fitness goals. In many ways, having someone help you find ways that you can feel successful provides a huge boost to feeling confident in the gym.
How can you get motivated to lose weight? Find out for yourself. Join Ladder here and get a free 1 week trial!
Snyder, C. R.; Lopez, Shane J. (2007). Positive Psychology. Sage Publications, Inc. p. 147. ISBN 0-7619-2633-X.
Fournier, G. (2018). Reality Principle. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 14, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/encyclopedia/reality-principle/
Nelson, Dave. “Our Story.” Milestone Mind™, www.milestonemind.com/ourstory/.
Whaley, D.E., & Schrider, A.F. 2005. The process of adult exercise adherence: Self-perceptions and competence. The Sport Psychologist, 19, 148–63.
Deci, E. L. (1971). "Effects of externally mediated rewards on intrinsic motivation". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 18: 105–115. doi:10.1037/h0030644.
Trost, S.G., et al. 2002. Correlates of adults’ participation in physical activity: Review and update. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 34 (12), 1996–2001.
Vansteenkiste, M., Lens, W., & Deci, E. L. (2006). Intrinsic versus extrinsic goal contents in self-determination theory: Another look at the quality of academic motivation. Educational psychologist, 41(1), 19-31.
SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.” SparkNotes LLC. 2003. http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/tomsawyer/ (accessed May 16, 2018).
David L, "Self-Determination Theory (Deci and Ryan)," in Learning Theories, July 16, 2014, https://www.learning-theories.com/self-determination-theory-deci-and-ryan.html