Answered by Alexander Perkins (follow the author here @alexanderperkins)
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Q. "In what ways can an individual keep the best approach to training, in regards to physical, mental and emotional strength and motivation?"
This is a really important question and I’m sure one with many answers to be drawn from the schools of psychology and philosophy, neither of which I am an expert in. However, I’ll do my best to add a well-thought out point of view.
I believe the best approach would be under-pinned by purpose and meaning where fulfilment is achieved in both the process and the end product. I think four key “principles” need to be applied in order to achieve this: mindfulness, honest self-auditing, specificity and balance.
Let me try and explain what I mean.
To begin with, I think you need to have a sound idea of why you’re doing what you’re doing and what you want to achieve (goal-setting is key here*). This is where mindfulness comes in. You may not have clarity here to begin with and that’s ok. Initially some people think they just want an ideal body, but it usually goes deeper than that; underneath an individual’s desire to look good there are often feelings of insecurity, low self-worth, existential problems and overall poor mood. Try to really understand how you’re feeling and why that might be the case. Be honest with yourself about how those thoughts and feelings may impact your actions (this will take honest self-auditing). Because whilst attaining a good physique can help with some of these issues it doesn’t cure the root problem.
For that reason never put your sole-worth on what you achieve in the gym or what your body looks like; it’s temporary and if you befall an injury or a hard-time you’re really going to struggle with the physical changes. Without going too “mumbo-jumbo” – for a student of science anyway – try and find meaning and happiness in everything you do. With developing your health and fitness (like any type of self-actualisation), the end rarely justifies the means. If you can’t find happiness and joy in the process, you will be left feeling under-whelmed and unfulfilled by the end result.
When deciding on your training regime (or any regime for that matter) it is crucial to apply specificity and balance. There is a dynamic relationship between the two; what is a balanced training schedule for one individual may be over-extending for another. The generic story of the newbie that signs up to the gym in January, trains 6 days a week to begin with, and quits come February, is all too true. In fact, commercial gyms rely on these customers. Over-extending yourself saps motivation and is unsustainable. Find a training regime that’s specific to your goals and is balanced enough to allow time for your other pursuits in life; yes, there can be more to life than lifting weights – I hear some of you saying “yeah, like eating, and dreaming about lifting weights.”
Whatever it is you like doing and no matter what you want to achieve, ensure the motivation and meaning comes from within. If you’re relying on external factors to drive both then you’re setting yourself up to be largely disappointed.
I would love to hear everyone’s own answers to this question. How do you stay motivated?