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With February coming to a close you are probably noticing fewer people at the gym. I’ve worked in the industry for over fifteen years, been a member of and worked at over a dozen gyms, and one consistent factor is there is always a huge drop off in attendance in mid-to-late February.

Suppose this person is you. Why do you quit at this point in time? One theory is that people tend to stop caring after Valentine’s Day. Perhaps you’re dating someone and no longer care what you look like. Perhaps you are not dating someone and you just stop giving any fucks, while wondering if you are doomed to be miserable walking alone forever on this planet, wondering if  monogamous relationships are for real, wanting to punch the next person in the face who tells you that life doesn’t start until having children, sitting on the couch eating ice cream watching The Holiday and going back and forth between hating this horribly predictable movie and crying every time Jude Law opens his beautiful British lips…

The other theory (likely more accurate than the one I just described) is that you have lost willpower and motivation from setting a New Year’s Resolution with too-high expectations. I like to think about willpower and motivation (two separate, yet related attributes) as a gas tank. It’s not an infinite resource; it needs refilling from time to time. No one on the planet can go 100% all the time. We all need to recharge, reassess our goals occasionally, and reevaluate why those goals are important. Even the most driven people will experience doubt or want to quit at points. This is completely normal and actually expected for someone attempting to make a serious life change. Imagine the difficulties encountered when someone suddenly attempts to make it to the gym four times a week and eat cleanly when they’re used to going to happy hour every day. It’s important to cut yourself some slack and realize this is an ongoing process that will have some bumps and difficulties along the way. The only way you fail is if you stop trying and quit.

How do you never quit? I say this all the time but one of the biggest keys to success is having a plan in place - a plan that works! Most people, myself included are not going to keep doing something if it is not producing results. Success breeds more success. Think of when you were younger. What activities did you like most? I bet these were activities you were good at, areas in which you saw progress because you enjoyed the positive feedback and success. If you know you can get great results you will probably keep going, but with that comes setting realistic expectations. I had a member come to my office upset she wasn’t losing scale weight fast enough. She had lost 6 lbs in three weeks which I explained was great progress but she was still upset. We took her measurements and it turned out that she had lost 2.5 inches in her waist in those same three weeks! This was amazing progress and proof the plan was working.

Another aspect to motivation is having a support system. This support can help improve results by having someone to go to when times get tough and have them cheer you on when you are doing well. Your results can also be largely impacted by the people you choose to be around. If the five people you spend the most time with have low body fat and are in great health chances are you will as well. If the five people you spend the most time with are broke, fat, unhealthy, and have negative attitudes, guess what? - you most likely will too! Surround yourself with people who support your goals and make it fun to pursue what you want.

You have to ask yourself, “What’s holding me back?” In my last blog I talked about the difference between barriers and excuses. The latter you have control over because you know how to overcome them and how to move forward. Barriers, on the other hand, you may not know how to overcome. If you encounter a legitimate barrier you can find ways to overcome it. Search for someone or something that can help you. You are only limited by what you believe you can do. If you keep pushing you can break past any barrier with a good plan and support system. Not looking for a solution to these problems will cause frustration and eventually turn into an excuse. That’s right, not working on overcoming barriers is just another excuse. How do you overcome excuses? Take action. Do something today that will improve yourself tomorrow. Any action is better than inaction. Even if you try something that doesn’t work at least you have learned something and can go back to the drawing board stronger and more informed than before.

Some of you may know I recently hurt my knee in a sparring session in jiu jitsu. I was in the middle of a great program in which I was focused on getting stronger, while training jiu jitsu on the regular, making huge improvements, and taking care of my body so I can train longer and be healthy as I get older. I had a good plan in place but suddenly I had to improvise due to the injury. This happened almost two months ago and I am almost back to 100% but I’ll admit I used the injury as an excuse at times. At first it was a legitimate barrier - I couldn’t do any leg workouts for almost a month so I had to adjust the plan. Then at other times I used it as an excuse and I didn’t workout when I should and felt sorry for myself. However, with the support of my team at work, my jiu jitsu teammates, and my chiropractor, I was able to see through the tough time and I returned to my plan and recovered!

No one is perfect and no one magically has this iron willpower (Iron Will is a great movie, by the way) that is just given to them at birth. We all build this up over time by finding ways to get stronger, developing systems that work, and surrounding ourselves by people that support us. We all have setbacks, but we can learn to grow stronger from them. The only failure is quitting on yourself and not pursuing your own potential to live out your dreams and goals.

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