Do you know your why?

Motivation is a tricky little devil.

For some people, it lives in the scale. 

For others, it lives in the prescription bottle of blood pressure medication.

My dad's answer to any question that began with why was always the same: to make you ask questions. Works, doesn't it?

My dad's answer to any question that began with why was always the same: to make you ask questions. Works, doesn't it?

And for others, motivation is in the eyes of your four-year-old nephew who wants to do chin ups off of your arm after playing football in the yard for an hour before snowboarding on the X-Box Kinect for two hours.

And you just want to make it to the end of the day in one piece :)

When I was in junior high, I found motivation every time I watched Rocky. The story was cliche, but I thought it was magic. I’d watch the montage of Rocky chasing the chicken and sprinting along the river in Philly and the next thing I knew, I was out running hills in my rural Pennsylvania town.

Thank God my parents didn’t have chickens…

I feel fortunate that I’ve never really struggled with motivation to work out, even through long bouts of depression. For the most part, the high I got from exercise was always enough to get me in to the gym or on a run.  

Until recently. 

With an impending shoulder surgery less than five days away, I found myself re-racking my weights last week and struggling to get through the next set. Tuesday wasn't much better, and by Friday I was walking on the treadmill just to feel like I did something. 

I was, and still am, consumed with an inner dialogue that I can't seem to turn off. All I hear myself saying over and over again is "what's the point?"

I've lost a handle on my "why." 

Why train hard now only to put myself on the shelf for the next six weeks if not longer? I generally strength train and run with the intention to build each workout off of the last. Suddenly last week, I didn't feel like I was building on anything and man did it get harder to put on my workout clothes.

And I WORK in a gym. 

Intellectually, I have plenty of reasons to work out. I know I should be as strong as possible heading into the surgery so that I can heal better afterwards. 

But I am not connected to my why. I'm just not feeling it. 

And that's a difficult place to be. 

If we're not connected to our reasons to do something, the struggle to build and maintain the habit can feel not just difficult, but monumentally so. 

The reason behind your goals. Maybe you work out to lose weight, but what's the "why" behind that? Do you have an emotional connection to that why? What will happen when you lose that weight?

You'll fit into that dress.

And what will happen when you fit into that dress?

There are so many layers to motivation. It's like Shrek says - onions have layers, ogres have layers, and motivation has layers. 

What emotion is tied to the goal?

There's a reason so many people use a high school reunion as motivation to get back into shape or into better shape; high school is often filled with a lot of pain. Teenagers can be cruel - you were made fun of for the way you dressed, the way you looked, or who you hung out with.

If you're busting your hump to get in better shape for the reunion, your motivation is pain. And pain is an incredibly effective motivator.  

As many of you have read, when I first started running, I was battling chronic depression. My why for working out was a desperation to feel better, and quite honestly, try to out run my pain and sadness. 

The transition into strength training came from a similar place. I was struggling so hard with my career, wondering what I was going to do with myself and scared that I'd never find my place in this world - but I gradually came to find my place in the weight room. I got hooked on deadlifting because I needed so much to feel like I was good at something. 

Now I have to re-visit my motivation - so my plan today is to sit down with a pen and paper and act like a toddler. 

And if  you don't know your why either, perhaps you can sit down today and do the same.