A Motivation Story (And Four Killer Tips)

December 29, 2016

About the Author: Daniel Freedman

Guest post by Jack Purdom

This is a fitness motivation story with a twist. It’s about  how an unmotivated client finally got into the fitness habit, once and for all…without the use of a megaphone. It’s a new take on the old problem I deal with in my free eBook Getting Past Busy <<<=== Download Here

Whether you’re a coach or a personal training client, you’ll probably find it resonates with you. It helps solve the perennial problem of motivation to actually getting workouts done. And I’ll top it off with four tips you can use right away.

Liz’s Fitness Motivation Story

It all began with a text from my client, Liz:

“I don’t feel motivated to go to the gym today.”

Now, is this an unforgivable crime against the fitness world or mankind as a whole? Obviously not. I think we’ve all been guilty of feeling this way at one point or another.

Liz’s problem? She sent that text (or one like it) at least once a week.

We tried rah-rah pep talks.

We had discussions on the importance of consistency.

We experimented with positive and negative reinforcement.

Hard-assery, open and honest discussion, anger, compassionate understanding: none of it worked.

Nothing ever changed.

Inevitably, I would receive a text or call a couple of hours before our scheduled session complaining of a lack of energy or motivation.

I was at my wit’s end. So was Liz, she felt l her goals would never become reality.

We both felt helpless.

I was convinced I had failed her and she was convinced she had failed me. Both of us assumed responsibility and wanted to make it work. But we didn’t know how to “create motivation” on days where there wasn’t any.

How Everything Changed

Liz had gone away for a week on vacation. She actually showed up for her first post-vacation session. It seemed like a good opportunity to something new and different.

So I hit Liz with this non-negotiable demand:

“I want you to make your bed every morning for the next week.”

I didn’t demand she change anything else.

It had nothing to do with fitness. It had nothing to do with what she was putting in her body for nutrition. And it had absolutely nothing to do with her goals.

What Happened Next

To cut to the chase: it worked like a charm.

The first week went by and Liz proudly reported that she had stuck to the plan and made her bed every morning. Outside of that, she didn’t feel much different. In her words: “Life was business as usual.”

With a successful week of bed-making behind her, we added drinking a full glass of water upon waking to her morning routine. At the end of the second week, she walked into her session beaming.

Not only had she completed her tasks every morning, but she was bursting to tell me that she felt she had made much better choices when eating during the week.

Over the next two weeks, we added a couple more small items to her day. Liz completed them all.

After a month, Liz had solidified four habits into her daily life.

But that wasn’t the best part…

Liz didn’t miss a workout all month. She didn’t even realize it. Liz had been so laser-focused on completing her tasks every day that she didn’t notice not missing workouts.

The added bonus? Liz also lost five pounds that month. It was a tasty cherry on top.

According to her, “the workout was just another part of my day. I didn’t think about doing it, I just did it.”

And that’s the beauty of habit-building.

The Power of Habit in Fitness Motivation

Allow me to let you in on a secret.

The almighty Church of Motivation is selling you lies and hampering your progress.

– You don’t need to watch another video montage to the soundtrack of The Dark Knight dubbed over with inspirational speeches.

– You don’t need the perfect Spotify playlist with every song synced to a specific section of your workout.

– You don’t even need to be feeling great or having a good day.

Motivation is fleeting and can only carry you for so long.

Habits, on the other hand, work regardless of circumstances and are lasting. Once built, they stick around and actually lead to unconsciously building other habits.

They don’t need to be difficult, they don’t need to be time-consuming, and they don’t even need to be directly related to your goals. (At least at first.)

The Takeaway

Here are four fail-proof methods to begin your own habit-building journey:

1. Create a Morning Routine

There is no more surefire way to increase productivity than by starting your day out with a few easily repeatable actions in the morning. It will lay the foundation for success and frame your goals for the day.

How To Do It

  • Choose 3-4 small actions
  • Ex) Glass of water, 10 minute run, 3 goals for the day
  • Select a “habit trigger.”
  • Ex) Water bottle, running shoes, notebook
  • Review and Adapt
  • Ex) Completed the routine for two weeks, add 10 minutes of reading

2. Prep and Plan

As the old saying goes, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” Set yourself up for success so there are no excuses. Take one hour out of your week before it begins and plan the following:

  • Your weekly meals and the necessary groceries needed
  • When you’ll workout and exactly what you’ll be doing
  • Your wake up and bedtimes (set 15 minute reminder alarms)
  • Your next hour of review and planning

3. Flex Your “No” Muscle

Now that you’ve made the decision to improve your life and designed your plan, don’t let anything or anyone stop you. Identify where potential obstacles may exist and prepare your response. This doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun the rest of your life, but it has to be within reason. Your family and friends will understand and support your newfound decision to create a better life. Examples of possible situations:

  •  Text from a friend inviting you to a late night at the bar
  • Your aunt forcing a homemade dessert on you
  • A lousy night’s sleep leaving you tired and wanting extra sleep instead of the gym
  • Co-workers trying to coerce you into getting fast food for lunch

4. Avoid Throwaway Days

Don’t let one bad meal or a missed morning routine turn into “I’ll just do whatever I want the rest of today and start again tomorrow.” Hit the mental reset button immediately because tomorrow turns into Monday, or next week, or next month, or even the infamous New Year’s resolution. If you feel like quitting because of one bad decision, try this:

  • Repeat the mantra, “One mistake is not enough to knock me off track”
  • Look ahead to the next item on your improvement plan and commit to making it happen
  • Remind yourself that a 90% successful day will still bring you closer to your goals while a 0% day will take you in the wrong direction

What new habits will you add to your day?

And how will you make time for it all?

Find out in my free eBook Getting Past Busy <<<=== Download Here

About The Author

jack-purdomJack Purdom is a Chicago-based trainer and writer who helps busy people lead better lives. He holds a M.S. in Exercise  Science and Nutrition, with additional certifications as a personal trainer and nutrition coach from The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and Precision Nutrition. Jack blogs at Trainer Jax. 



  1. Scott Helmer December 29, 2016 at 9:30 am - Reply

    Great post! Yes, habits are essential to fitness and life success. I like the fact that you didn’t try to “motivate” her into making better decisions. By having her focus on one task at a time, she was able to get her brain out of survival mode, and into a “forward thinking” mode that allowed her to stop with the excuses. Great job!

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