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The Fit 5: Finding Motivation

Our fitness expert answers your questions about finding motivation.

For all of our fans who shoot us questions on our Twitter and Facebook Page, this one is for you. Each week, we will tap into our pool of editors and experts to help with any questions or challenges you are having with your fitness regimen. This week, Marc Perry, C.S.C.S., ACE-CPT, and founder of Built Lean, answers questions about everything and anything related to finding motivation, and keeping it.

1) Dealing with Age — asked by Max Brill How do you handle mentally aging and the need to reduce the weights you train with? Being 47, my shoulders are garbage and all my pressing weights have gone down.
“First, regarding your concern about losing strength, strength is only one of many facets of physical fitness, which include muscular endurance, flexibility and balance to name a few. In addition, the pressing movement is only one of many human movements, so when you look at the big picture, not pushing as much weight is not a big deal at all. If your shoulders are 'garbage,' my guess is you've never fully taken the time to warm up and recover properly after your workouts. When you workout, you are essentially beating up your body so that it can grow stronger. Recovery is equally as important. For every minute you spend exercising, you should spend one minute doing recovery whether it's stretching, massage, foam rolling (myofascial release is absolutely essential), or corrective exercises for your shoulders for example. If you take care of your body properly, there is no reason why your joints won't feel great well into your 50s even lifting heavy weights. If you think of fitness not just in terms of pure strength, but overall health and well-being, you will be able to age gracefully and enjoy life to its fullest! ”
2) Mental Practice — asked by Tristan Enright Is positivity just a mindset that needs constant practice?
"I believe the answer is 'yes.' We are constantly bombarded by sensationalism and negative news stories by the media, so it can be very difficult to maintain a positive mindset. Some studies show that more than 90% of our approximately 60,000-70,000 thoughts each day are negative, and most are the same as the previous day. You can snap this negative thought pattern by becoming conscious of your negative thoughts. Stop to think why you are feeling them, or what situations are causing them. Then step back and think about the things you are grateful for in your life. We tend to analyze everything and everyone around us, but seldom do we analyze ourselves and better understand our own thoughts and actions. An old proverb states, "He who conquers others is strong, he who conquers himself is mighty". Staying positive definitely takes consistent practice!"
3) Conquer Cravings — asked by @acrequiem How do you keep control of desiring different type of foods and occasional "treats"?
"Controlling cravings is tough for everyone, but learning more about food, how it affects your body, and creating negative associations with treats such as brownies, cookies, and candy can be very helpful. If you look at the nutritional information for let's say Entenmann's cookies, you'll notice that there is 22 grams of sugar in only 6 small cookies and 300 total calories. If you are not aware, 22 grams of sugar is equivalent to 5 teaspoons of sugar (4 grams per teaspoon). Then picture a large bag of white sugar in which you scoop up and eat 5 teaspoons of pure sugar. The thought may make you sick, or disturbed, which can help create a negative association with sugary foods that are often "empty" because they contain no vitamins, or minerals. Cravings and more generally hunger is a complex topic worthy of an entire book, but you may also consider adding in 1-2 cheat meals, or snacks per week, or even a cheat day. Maybe every Friday evening you have one big cup of ice cream, which is the one treat that helps you control your cravings for the other six days of the week."
4) Mental Breaks — asked by @BenMears_5150 Are breaks from the gym good or bad for motivation, and if they're good, how often?
"Breaks from the gym are absolutely OK as long as you don't mean a break from exercise. Most of us have largely sedentary lifestyles, so in my opinion not exercising is not an option...even for a week! Whether it's going for a long walk, a jog outside, doing a 10-minute body weight workout in your home, focusing on stretching, or playing sports, some form of exercise is essential on a consistent basis. You don't have to workout at the gym to stay strong and fit, so the frequency with which you take a break is really a personal preference. Maybe it's one week a month, or one week every two months, something around there sounds reasonable. You should also consider getting a workout partner, trying a new exercise routine, or decreasing lifting frequency to let's say three times per week in the gym instead of five to six times if you are going that frequently. Doing the same workout routine over and over again five times per week can get very stale fast."
5) Long Term Motivation — asked by @Moreno_92 How do I stay motivated during a long period of training?
“Setting a very compelling goal that is specific, measurable, realistic and time-bound (deadline associated with it) can get you started in the right direction. Then establishing the reason why that goal is important to you is the most important determinant of your success toward reaching your goal. If you think about the times in your life when you were most successful, the chances are you didn't have a Plan B. Instead, you had a very motivating reason why quitting was not an option until you reached your goal. The "reason why" should be deeply emotional and tug at your heart. For example, a father who is completely out of shape with lower back issues may set a goal of running one mile in under seven minutes by a certain date. His reason for completing this goal is that he wants to play sports with his kids and be active with them. The thought of being that father who can't play with his kids simply because he neglects his own physical health makes him extremely upset. Fear of loss tends to be a greater motivator than desire for gain."

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