What Happens When You Lose Enthusiasm?

by Robert Maxwell

When I was 21 I came to one of the most important crossroads of my life. I had some gym experience, but had let laziness creep in over the previous several months, leading to a complete hiatus from training. I was small, weak, and despite being on the skinny side, had a high body fat percentage. Even worse, I felt my confidence slipping away day by day. I knew I ought to get back to training, but I couldn’t seem to muster the drive to start. All I could think about was the pain and suffering that comes with the gym, and how long it would take to see any results. I knew exactly the steps needed to improve my declining body, but lacked the motivation to start. This mental weakness led increasingly to physical weakness, which showed itself every time I walked by a mirror. I began to hate my body. Saying that sounds strange. As a man, I’d never thought I’d be susceptible to body image issues. I figured it was strictly a female problem. Now I felt it, strong and unrelenting, in my own mind. After months of laziness, I realized I had a choice. I could continue along the destructive path I was on, or face the hard but rewarding reality of exercise and good nutrition. I refused to bow down to the idea of accepting all body types as equally desirable, including my own weak, skinny-fat body. I decided I needed to change. That same day I downloaded a free weight training program from bodybuilding.com and started getting serious about training and health for the second time in my life. Many things have changed since then. The most significant is probably my reasons for training. I’m no longer so fixated on body image. Having a big, powerful looking body is still nice, but I’m now far more concerned with strength and health. Looking good is just a fringe benefit. I’ve learned many things since my days of struggle all those years ago, but the most valuable lesson is how to keep going when my enthusiasm disappears. Here are 3 strategies I use when this happens that can help you, too.


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"Strength Wars" on YouTube. Visit https://www.youtube.com/user/BodybuildingRev
"Strength Wars" on YouTube. Visit https://www.youtube.com/user/BodybuildingRev

Even if you love something, it’s natural for enthusiasm to shrink or even disappear occasionally. Ask anyone who’s invested enough time to become really good at something, and they’ll tell you motivation comes and goes. It’s been said that whoever finds a way to bottle motivation will become the richest person on Earth. I don’t doubt it. If this ever happens, no one will need to read this article, but until then, concentrate on finding your own “bottled motivation”. Most people have something they can watch or read or listen to that gets their blood pumping and strengthens their desire to train (or do whatever). When it comes to training, my secret source of enthusiasm is the Strength Wars YouTube series. Watching super strong European athletes compete in the very exercises I know and love never fails to rouse my desire to hit the weights, even if I’m in a motivational slump. For you, it might be reading a certain inspirational quote, listening to a particular song or watching a movie. Whatever gets your enthusiasm engine revving, find it and do it (as long as it’s not an illegal, harmful substance – don’t be stupid). 



Find a trusted friend or family member, and give them permission to ream you out if they see you slacking. In fact, have them promise they’ll give you a hard time. Better yet, find several people. When your motivation runs dry, there’s nothing quite as effective as a swift proverbial (or not) kick in the butt from someone close to get you up and running again. There’s a certain level of shame that kicks in when you’ve asked someone to keep you on track, and it proves necessary. This embarrassment may well be enough to get you back in gear lightning fast, even if you don’t feel like it. You’re also less likely to let waning enthusiasm throw you off the rails in the first place, knowing your trusted accountability partner is waiting with soft words and a big stick.



I’m not opposed to using scare tactics to convince people of the truth. When it comes to health and fitness, I’m not opposed to using them on myself. You shouldn’t be, either. It’s not hard to find abundant examples of the effects long term abstinence from exercise bears. Obesity, muscular atrophy, weakened bones, weak heart and lungs, and poor circulation, just to name a few. Looking at folks suffering these effects has always helped give me some perspective on my own lifestyle. If I give in to my lack of enthusiasm when it comes, I’ll end up like them. Far better to put up with the pain and inconvenience of training and eating well than to suffer through my later years with a weak and failing body. This might sound arrogant, and I’m ok with that. People who don’t exercise scare me with what they’re willing to let happen to their bodies. If I can turn this fear into motivation to keep myself strong and healthy, at least some good has come of it. 


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