"What do you do if you periodically feel less motivated than usual in your career as a trainer?"

When I feel my motivation starting to wane, I step back and ask myself why. How can I not be motivated when I absolutely love my work?

The first thing I do is review my schedule. Once I see my monthly schedule in front of me, the red flags are all there. I just hadn’t taken the time to look for them. The most deadly trap I fall into with scheduling is working early in the morning and late into the evening. I believe in giving clients the option of choosing the time to commit to a regular training schedule, sometimes at the expense of my own free time. However, once a client is committed to a regular routine, I will approach that client and explain my situation. Freeing up my schedule may even be as simple as moving a client’s time slot to early morning rather than after work. It’s a win-win situation: The client gets a jump-start to her day, and I get the evening off.

Another strategy that has worked for me is to give myself a challenge not related to fitness or work in any way. It must be of a personal nature. As personal trainers, we all thrive on learning, reading and exploring more, so all of our waking hours can easily be consumed with some form of fitness. Once I have chosen a new challenge for myself, I direct a lot of energy and time toward it. Then I feel I have achieved a healthier balance between work and play which, again, creates a win-win situation.

Moira Gallacher

Owner, One Stop Fitness

Brampton, Ontario

Training, like the rest of life, has its up and down cycles. The first step in addressing lack of motivation is to ask, “Why do I feel this way at this time?”

We can address the symptom (low motivation), but since feeling less motivated is, by definition, a feeling, let’s look generically at what causes any emotional feeling or “state of being” in the first place. What state of being we experience at any moment in time is a combination of two factors: the state of our minds and the state of our bodies.

The State of Our Minds. What we focus on and the meaning we attach to what we experience will make us feel either good or bad about any situation, and that is a primary determining factor in motivation. The solution is to control what we think about and to filter what we listen to from others. We often need to train ourselves to do this.

Three other areas affect our motivation: how we run our daily practice (and the rest of our life); why we do what we do; and how we avoid falling into a rut or routine. Try the following suggestions, and watch what happens:

Take Back Control of the Focus of the Training Session. Instead of letting the client tell you about the horrors of his day, start each session with a motivational thought or quote. This practice can change the tone of the session from the outset. You will feel better all day long, both from reading the quote and from the positive sessions that will result. A side benefit: Although clients like to whine about their jobs, their bosses and so on, they really respect someone who can be strong and take control. (Being respected helps you like your job better and feel more motivated in it.)

Focus on Goals. Remind yourself why you are a personal trainer. The reason why we do something is always the motivation behind it. Take regular time to relax and update your goals and the reasons why you want to achieve them.

Shake Things Up. Sometimes we get into routines that end up being boring for us and our clients. Run outside with clients and do a body weight circuit, or have clients dedicate each exercise to someone they care about. Remember, the more powerful the reason to do anything, the more motivation there is to follow through. You and your clients may both become surprisingly remotivated.

Know That Emotional States of Being Can be Triggered by Set Stimuli. Imagine you have a “switch” to turn on motivation, confidence or any emotional state of being. Any good NLP (neurolinguistic programming) practitioner can help you find your switch and facilitate this process for you.

Take Time for Introspection. If you are feeling extremely unmotivated, give yourself a rejuvenating break and look at the level of balance in your life. Try taking a day or a weekend off: Rest on a beach, go camping, run some trails, dive into a cool lake, mountain bike or just rest and have fun. In the process, consider how fulfilled you are in these six primary areas of life.

  • Physical: Do you get optimal exercise, rest, nutrition and sleep so that you feel vibrant and energetic?
  • Mental: How well do you manage to keep your focus on things that make you feel good? Are you learning and growing? Do you make good, logical decisions that move your life forward?
  • Emotional: What feelings would you like to experience on a daily basis? What do you need to do to feel this way?
  • Social: How much do the people in your life support or hinder your progress in life?
  • Spiritual: Do your daily life and practices support the values and principles you believe in?
  • Career/Finances: How much do you love your work? How well does this career fulfill your life purpose? Are you conflicted about what you do and how you are compensated for it?

This whole-istic look at life can show areas of stress that lead to low motivation. Create a simple plan to either maintain or improve each area, and you’ll likely return feeling refreshed.

The State of Our Bodies. It is so easy to work hard at helping everyone else. If you are up early, work like crazy all day and don’t schedule time to train, eat and rest properly, your body will not be able to express the energetic quality of the positive, motivated trainer you truly intend to be.

Dennis Price, LMT

Personal Trainer and NLP Practitioner/Life Coach

Optimum Human Performance Inc.

Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

The times that I have felt less motivated are truly rare. I love the “personal” part of personal training, in which you genuinely listen to what your clients are telling you about how they feel about their workouts, bodies and lives, and to what they aren’t verbalizing but are saying with their bodies. This aspect of personal training is like an art form, and I find it incredibly motivating.

There are times, however, when I just don’t have a “spring in my step.” They usually occur when something in my own life is out of balance. For me, the best cure is to focus on my own workouts. I get back to healthy eating and make time for a good workout, yoga class or run. When I feel better in my own life, everything else just naturally looks brighter and I am able to give a lot more.

The other thing that always motivates me is when I do something related to fitness outside of my job, like go to a workshop, take a great exercise class or read a fitness magazine (like this one). It keeps me fresh, and if I come away with even one new idea or something I can share with my clients, I am motivated and energized. The idea doesn’t have to be earthshattering, just something that makes today different from yesterday.

Our clients look to us and often spend a lot of their hard-earned money on us because they believe and trust us to motivate and empower them to a healthier, and in some cases, happier life. I remember this when I’m working. Clients don’t have to be there. No matter what is going on in their lives, they show up and they pay me. I feel a sense of responsibility and appreciation for this, and it motivates me not to take my clients for granted!

Dayle Webber, MS

Personal Trainer and Fitness Counselor, Frog’s Club One

Solana Beach, California

When I am unmotivated, I employ one or more of these methods:

At times, just visiting a nearby club where I don’t have a membership is helpful. Even if I’m doing a familiar routine of core lifts, the new environment is stimulating and helps me avoid skipping my workouts. Other times I’ll shorten my workout—perhaps doing a functional circuit with shorter recovery periods. The goal is to keep focused and avoid dwelling on anything else. A shorter session makes it easier to accomplish that.

On a more anxious occasion, I’ll do an aerobic workout to focus on the issue and think things through. Then it’s back to work. I find I can focus better on my clients, having set aside that time to address whatever was causing the anxiety.

I also keep a folder that contains uplifting letters and cards from former and current clients. I use it to remind me of the influence and positive effects I have on my clients. I also keep a file with two memos from a previous career. These memos remind me of a less than fulfilling, stressful job. After reading them, I remember that no matter how monotonous things can get now, they’re never as bad as the previous career!

Ellie Ciolfi, NSPA-CCS, NSCA-CPT

IDEA Elite Personal Fitness Trainer

Founder, Strength In Numbers Inc.

Principal, Fitness RX Studio

Baltimore

It is our responsibility as trainers to continue to stay motivated, grow and be able to offer new “tricks” to keep our clients guessing. I take as many different types of classes from other instructors as possible. I manage to learn something new from even the simplest kind of class. I also listen to other trainers on the floor when I am training myself. I constantly try to fuse different mediums by flowing from a downward dog to a series of push-ups to a downward dog to a Pilates roll-up. In this way I am constantly reshuffling the deck and keeping myself interested.

Ellen Mullman

RESHAPE

New York City

Fatigue, boredom, burnout. No matter how long you have been involved in a profession, you are bound to feel less than enthusiastic at times. The solutions are generally in proportion to the severity of the problem. For me, the answer usually lies in continuing education.

The simplest and most readily available source is reading. My monthly reading list includes [several] periodicals as well as a number of e-magazines and newsletters. Articles and research updates give me information that I can share with my clients, and when I’m well informed I feel I’m a more effective trainer.

I also enjoy attending workshops and conventions. Even those conventions geared mostly to group fitness have evolved to include sessions targeting personal trainers, since many fitness professionals are involved in both. There are also more specialized conferences. I attend no fewer than two of these events each year, and they recharge my spirit and enthusiasm! Over the last decade, I have come to know some of the world’s most respected authorities in the fitness industry, as well as many wonderful fitness professionals who share my passion for this business. Every year I look forward to spending time with these people, plus learning the most up-to-date information available. There is nothing like spending a weekend with hundreds or thousands of like-minded individuals to boost your motivation!

Doug Slobodien

Personal Trainer, Riverside

Health & Fitness

Mansfield, New Jersey

If you have a question, send it to IDEA Fitness Journal via regular mail (see “Your Membership” page); e-mail (websters @ideafit.com); or fax (858-535-8234). Include name, company, city, state/province and phone number.

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January 2006

© 2006 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

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