Commander's Fit Tip: Motivation: keep your eyes on the prize and get results

  • Published
  • By Col. Michael Panarisi
For most people, sustaining a challenging workout regimen can present some challenges over the long term.

Many of us have suffered from the "morning achies," felt like the effort just "isn't worth it" or otherwise had a hard time just getting to the gym.

It happens. But armed with a little data and taking a few moments to reflect on why you've chosen this endeavor, you can re-stoke the fires and get after it with renewed energy.

Perhaps the most important element of keeping motivated is "listening to your body." The vast majority of workout programs get abandoned, not due to lack of results, but due to the inability to keep going.

If you find yourself struggling with this, you might just be "overdoing it."

In our zeal to get results quickly, it's really easy to push too hard and eventually "cumulative fatigue" will get in your way. It can be very disappointing to accept the fact that you just need to back off a little, but here's another way to think about that.

Have you ever missed a workout or two due to a trip or some other unexpected scheduling conflict?

Think about how good you felt in the first few minutes of the workout when you were back in the game. That renewed "spring in your step" is a clue that you needed a break and a reminder that Napoleon was right ... "No plan survives first contact with the enemy!"

Your body will give you the clues you need to adjust your intensity, frequency, content and duration of your program.

Another crucial weapon in your arsenal ... feedback.

Remember what the trainer asked you when you started this venture? "What are your goals?"

If you we're very specific (something like "get in better shape") you'll have a more difficult time knowing if you are making progress and that will present another challenge.

All this effort has to be taking you somewhere ... but you can't hit a target you haven't aimed at.

So refresh your goals and, if necessary, tighten them up a little.

If weight loss is in your plan, select a target weight and date and know how many pounds per week that means.

And keep it executable. It's well understood that anything more than about two pounds a week is a real challenge. Don't take on more than you have to. But identifying your goals is only the first step.

You have to get real feedback along the way.

That's why I'm such a proponent of recording heart rate monitors. You get mountains of "proof" that what you are doing is working, and that proof can be all the relief you need when you need a shot of motivation.

Here's an example from my own program.

I've been rebuilding my fitness after a knee injury, and my plan includes riding my bike into work. For those that have been around the base, you can appreciate the challenge Pumping Station Road represents to a cyclist.

In my plan, I need to spend at least half of my training time below 70 percent of my max heart rate. It's counter intuitive, but spending too much time at higher intensities will slow your progress. But just this week, I got to Wattendorf Highway not only faster than ever, but I was able to maintain 10 mph or greater up those hills while keeping my heart rate below 135.

Comparing the data from a month ago, I couldn't get up those hills at all without my heart rate blowing through 150. Knowing that it's working is huge.

But the best motivator I can think of is going back to why you chose this lifestyle in the first place.

For the military members, it's a mistake to think that "because it's in the regs" will carry you very far. Go a little deeper.

Go A LOT deeper. What's my motivator?

I have a few, but here's the big one. Both of my parents passed away (from preventable heart and lung diseases) before Michael Jr. and Reanna were born. They never saw their grandkids.

Maybe more importantly, now that Michael's finally arrived, he's totally dependent on Rebecca and I.

I want to be there for them, and I know that my workouts are the key to pulling that off. If you focus on yourself in this effort, you might come up short. Think about who gets the real benefit of your time on the treadmill, and you'll find getting to the gym a little easier.

We've all struggled with motivation during a workout program. It's totally predictable. But with a written plan, data to track your results, and a little reminder of what's really important in your life, you can break through these phases and keep the fires burning.