It was August 2008.
I was sitting on my couch, nursing my just turned 2-month-old baby, watching the story about Dara Torres on NBC’s coverage of the Summer Olympics. I always loved watching the Olympics—I have for as long as I can remember, but I was transfixed by Dara Torres’ story.
I remembered Dara from another Olympics much earlier in my life, her face familiar, but she wasn’t someone that I’d paid much attention to in the 1984, 1988, 1992 or even the 2000 Olympic games.
That changed in 2008, when sitting in my thoroughly postpartum body, living life as a SAHM and support staff for my husband as he made his way through helicopter flight school at Fort Rucker, I bore witness to Dara daring to compete again in the Olympics at age 42, after taking time off from swimming competitively and having a 15-month old child herself.
Her story inspired me. I didn’t really understand the rigors of her training, or her need for an extended warm up plus soft tissue massage (by means of two small, trained male masseuses walking on the backs of her legs and working on all her other limbs–completely fascinating!), but I recognized her drive, that she had to want it more and work harder than her younger counterparts. I recognized that she was still—at her ripe old age of 42—capable of incredible accomplishments.
Dara inspired me to think that more was possible; it wasn’t ‘over’ because I was 34, or had two small children, or lived in rural Alabama, or was married to the Army and its whims.
I started to believe that if I was willing to have heart, to put the work in, I could build a strong body capable of incredible things, too. Maybe not the body or the accomplishments of an Olympian, but that I, too, could reach more of my own human and athletic potential.
Dara Torres’ 2008 Olympic story and performance were heady and so motivating, even as I sat, hormonal, tired, my body soft, stretched out of shape and thoroughly postpartum, on my living rom couch.
The thing is, motivation is often a fleeting thing.
That fire that burns so hot at first when we start a new project, dedicate ourselves to a new run plan, choose a special event or occasion to prepare for, or that new diet, can be dampened pretty quickly by the rigors and demands of just plain old daily living.
Sleepless nights, long days filled with sometimes tedious, but necessary to-do’s, caring for the emotional and physical needs of others, navigating the tricky waters of the workplace—these can all knock the best of us off-track. And they have!!
Which is why, at 34, after rehabilitating my back for a year before having baby #2, and witnessing Dara Torres’ Olympic experience, I cut a picture of her from the local paper and kept it in my fitness journal, where I recorded my workouts and post-partum strength progress, so I could see it regularly.
Over the years, when I felt ‘old,’ or discouraged, or felt like throwing in the towel, or that maybe what I was doing (focusing on fitness) wasn’t that important after all, I’d look at that photo and keep trying.
It’s one of the techniques I’ve learned/cultivated to create lasting motivation in the face of struggle, injury, failure, feeling disheartened, or having obstacles thrown in my way—because real life offers plenty of these things!
At these times, it would be super easy to just throw our hands in the air and say ‘I give up until after this passes/until life calms down/until summer’s over/ until after the holidays, until January 1….’ BUT fostering a sense of purpose instead of relying on feeling ‘motivated’ can keep us positive and proactive instead of hopeless and overwhelmed.
There are five key things I do to create and maintain my ‘motivation’:
- Identify my deepest PURPOSE(S).
I put them into words, write them down, and reflect on them often.
- Get real with my schedule every week.
I identify when and where I will be getting in my workouts (I ‘sharpie’ these into my schedule), and then create my Plan B’s for those days in case my best laid plans go awry (thank you Army for teaching me this skill!)
- Keep motivational, inspirational and purpose-oriented quotes around the house where I can see them in the morning and evening.
These are words that have deep meaning for me, that resonate with my current challenges that redirect my thinking to the positive even when I’m feeling frustrated or unsure. They are up on my medicine cabinet, on my fridge and above my computer—kind of hard to avoid them! That’s where my photo of Dara Torres hangs out these days, too.
- I seek out a community of like-minded people—people who can relate to where I’m at in life, to the goals I’m pursuing, who are experiencing some of the same feelings and challenges as I am.
Community support—in the form of running buddies, fellow trainers, people who attend the same classes, and experts I can learn from all contribute to keeping me on track and moving me in a forward, positive direction.
- I learn a new skill.
Losing 5 pounds or looking better in a bathing suit lost their allure for me a few years ago—what was initially ‘motivating’ no longer held meaning for me.
Over time, I’ve discovered that learning a new skill, a new sport, a new technique or a new training approach keeps it fresh for me.
Learning and acquiring new skills is exciting, and mastery of a skill is fulfilling and confidence-boosting. Plus, it’s easy to see the fruits of your labor and harder to get bored!
“In every great act, there is a challenge. In every challenge, there is a reward. In every reward lies the product of our efforts. In every effort lies new beauty to be born.”
~ Mohammed Onotu
If you’ve been struggling with motivation, then give these 5 tips a try!
Identify your deeper/deepest PURPOSE for exercising/working out/eating better.
Search your soul a bit. Sit quietly with your feelings. Ruminate while you commute….Then write it all down. Don’t edit yourself, don’t judge, just write it down. Solidify that purpose in your mind and deep in your gut.
Get real with your schedule.
Map out where your time must be spent throughout the week, then map out where you WILL spend your time acting on your purpose (exercising). ‘Sharpie’ it in. Then make your backup plans. Bend if you must, but don’t break. Find a way to make something work.
Find and post quotes where you can see them easily morning and night, and maybe even in places you’ll see them throughout the day—in your office, in your car, in your wallet….
These are those galvanizing reminders of your PURPOSE for exercising. They should be strong, positive and purpose reinforcing. A couple of fun apps you can use to make your own
Find a workout buddy, walking partner, running buddy or just an accountability buddy.
- Find a fitness class or group you really enjoy where the other participants are right up your alley. Check out other gyms if yours isn’t cutting it.
- Start a neighborhood exercise ‘tribe’ if you don’t belong to/have access to a gym.
- Hire an online coach/trainer for guidance, support and accountability.
- Take part in an online fitness community with like-minded people.
- Do whatever works best for YOU but find that support, because social support is a great predictor of long-term adherence, even for the most independent of us 😉
Try something NEW.
A new class at the gym, a new piece of equipment (kettlebells, TRX, and sandbags can add some spice into any strength training regimen), set a new goal.
Try paddle-boarding or indoor rock climbing, join a community sports team or running group, take kickboxing or karate or tae Kwan do—take on a new challenge which forces you to engage your body and mind in the process of acquiring that new skill, so that the aim isn’t so much to reshape your body as to just get better at something (your body will respond, no worries!).
“If you can learn to motivate yourself, you can always tap into an abundance of energy that will drive you to the success you dream of.”
~ Rachael Bermingham
Now I’m the one who’s 42, and it’s my turn to inspire others to believe, with drive, hard work and a positive focus, that great things are possible for them, too.
Want to be a part of a group that will keep you positive, motivated, and purposeful?
Check out the Real Life Fit, Happy and Healthy Facebook group!
- Connection with other like-minded women
- Support from a group of strong, motivated and positive women
- The chance to ask any nutrition or fitness question you want/need and get a straightforward, no gimmicks answer
- Recipe and nutrition resources
- Free, done-for-you workouts
- And much more!
We are dedicated to fostering positivity, grit, personal grace, personal growth, believing in ourselves, and helping other women believe in themselves, too.
We might be spread all over the globe, but we don’t need to feel alone!
==> Click here to check out Real Life Fit, Happy and Healthy