Lifelong Fitness: A Path to Sustainable Motivation for 40+ Guys

“I need to get motivated.” I’ve said this a thousand times over the years.

Once or twice in a big-picture sense when I wasn’t exercising enough, or eating well enough. Many, many times in a next-five-minutes sense. As in, “if I don’t change clothes and start a workout in the next five minutes, I’ll lose my available time window today.”

But it’s been years since I’ve had any big-picture motivation challenge, and I don’t even feel the next-five-minutes version that much anymore.

So what changed for me, motivation-wise?

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“I need to get motivated.” I’ve said this a thousand times over the years.

Once or twice in a big-picture sense, when I wasn’t exercising enough. Many, many times in a next-five-minutes sense. As in, “If I don’t change clothes and motivate to start my workout in the next five minutes, I’ll lose my available time window today.”

But it’s been years since I’ve had any big-picture motivation challenge, and I don’t even feel the next-five-minutes version that much anymore.

So what changed for me, motivation-wise?

I hope what I’ve learned helps you refine your own view of motivation, brother, and how to make it work for you.

Defining “Motivation”

First, “motivation” isn’t a single, uniform feeling. There are different types.

“Motivation” can mean incentive to…

1. Avoid negative long-term outcomes. This fear- or threat-based motivation is to avoid things like weight-related diseases and conditions, heart issues, etc.

Said starkly, it’s “exercise and eat well so you don’t develop life-limiting health issues, or die before your time.”

2. Achieve positive, non-immediate outcomes. Examples: be active enough to enjoy being a parent or grandparent. Or, have your physical appearance become / stay “good enough” to serve romantic goals.

Experts call these positively-oriented incentives “developmental” motivations.

3. Achieve positive, immediate outcomes. This is the feeling of a workout being refreshing in a clear-your-mind way. Or of an outdoors walk or run letting you appreciate nature and feel happy you’re part of it.

This third type is referred to as “intrinsic” motivation.

The Best Kind of Motivation

Experts agree negative-avoidance is the weakest form of motivation.

As in “yeah, I need to start getting in shape and eating better to avoid a bunch of long-term negative health consequences. But I can start on that tomorrow.” Or next week, or month, or year. This is the New Year’s Resolution dynamic.

By contrast, positive motivation is much better. Research show positive goal-seeking is a much more powerful incentive than negative-outcome-avoidance.

The best kind of motivation? It’s the intrinsic kind. People joke about being “addicted” to exercise. I don’t want to make light of a serious word, but in one sense, this is in fact what we’re trying to reach or sustain. The feeling that we “need” physical movement on a daily basis.

The secret to “getting more motivated” isn’t only  teeth-gritting resolve. Rather, it’s charting a path to change how you feel initial incentive to behave certain ways. And then how you feel rewards that reinforce those behaviors.

Feeling incentive to exercise because you want the great feelings it brings, that very same day…that’s powerful motivation, man.

How to Reach the Better Kinds of Motivation

The big question is:

How to move ourselves along this motivation spectrum, toward the more powerful and sustainable kinds?

Hopefully one or more of these tactics will help…

⇒ Think explicitly about positive goals you’ll achieve by getting, or staying, in tip-top shape. This can span the self-less (“be there for my family”) to the self-oriented (“keep on looking my best”). The more positive reasons, the merrier!

⇒ Use “grit the teeth resolve” short-term to force new behaviors. These can, over time, create appreciation of intrinsic benefits you didn’t feel before. This is at least a three or four-month endeavor. Not a “30-day miracle” thing, dude. You’ll be literally re-wiring your brain to associate positives with exercise, and that takes a little time.

⇒ Create accountability. Commit to a fitness program with friends or family Or, pay for something (fear of having wasted money is a motivator). Plan an adventure that requires getting into better shape.

⇒ Take small steps first. Try a new “tiny habit” you can get into without big motivational hurdles. This can then snowball in a positive way. I wrote about these types of small steps here.

⇒ Experiment with new forms of exercise. One or more of them might “grab you” with immediate positive rewards, in a way that other activities haven’t.

⇒ Make exercise a respite from the world’s craziness…a “you time” source of mental relief and refreshment. This, together with physical “endorphin release” effects of exercise, is a big part “positively addicting” yourself. This likely means sometimes getting yourself out of the gym, man.

⇒ Use good nutrition to help reinforce an exercise habit. As in “I’ve been eating so well…I can’t ‘waste’ that benefit by not exercising, too.” Or the reverse: “I can’t let my good exercise get undermined by eating poorly!”

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Gents, I hope this helps you think about how to best motivate and manage yourself as the second half of your life rolls slowly by.

One last idea for “extra credit” readers. We tend to use “motivation” and “inspiration” interchangeably, but they mean subtly different things.

“Inspiration” is literally related to the idea of “in spirit.” So really, the ultimate OlderBeast goal isn’t motivation at all. It’s inspiration. This is where fitness, nutrition and Wellness are vital to you at the “soul” level, at the foundation of who you are and why you’re here.

If you think this would be useful to others, please help spread the word about OlderBeast by sharing this post with the social media buttons below. THANKS, MAN.

“Still I look to find a reason to believe.” (Rod Steward, Reason to Believe – click to listen)

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Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you have much to be thankful for this year, man. Even while you gratefully make note of all that, this is also a good time to think ahead.

What would you additionally like to be thankful for next Thanksgiving?

What if on Thanksgiving 2018 you could take a personal inventory and conclude:

1. I’m staying more motivated for fitness – and avoiding major backslides

2. I’m eating better (not perfectly, but better)…and I feel better for it

3. I forgive myself for not always following my fitness plans…but I hold myself more accountable to usually do so

4. I’ve varied my fitness routine, so I’m in better all-around shape than I was a year ago

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6. If needed, I overcame aches-and-pains to do these things – instead of letting 2018 be a year of narrowing possibilities

Dude! That would be an incredible “thanks” list. So enjoy the coming weeks of 2017 wrap-up and holidays, yes. But I invite you to also make this time a springboard into a meaningful 2018. (Don’t wait for the cliched New Year’s Resolution.)

Here’s the why-and-how of six actions you can take, starting now, to add to your “thankful for” list for next year.

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Why “Solitude + Exercise” is a Key Wellness Formula

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I’m willing to be the Oracle of the Obvious sometimes (just ask my wife or kids) But I won’t belabor the “why exercise?” question here.

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This At-Home, Full-Body Strength Routine Will Keep You Heroic Past 40 (and 50, 60…)

I’m always surprised at how focused the strength workouts are for guys doing traditional weight training as their main fitness thing. “What are you working on today? My left bicep.”

OK, I exaggerate. But old-school “lifting” does often focus on 1-2 things per workout (like chest, legs or back) while assuming you lift 4-5+ times per week.

But what if you’re a 40+ guy trying to balance strength, endurance and flexibility? (And not as fixated on getting Hulk-like as maybe you once were?). In that case, you aren’t well served by old-school strength training patterns.

Yeah, bootcamp-style classes address this need by working all-over strength in single sessions (strength-focused HITT does too). But at $10-20+ per session, each decade of training this way twice a week is a $10-20K+ proposition. I like attending such classes from time to time, for learning and for variety. But I’d rather spend my $10-20K per decade somewhere else, man.

So. With non-strength fitness/wellness needs rightly occupying part of your week, you need to work more body parts in fewer strength-focused days. And you need a long-term-sustainable strength routine you can do on your own, without driving and paying every time.

Put these needs together, brother…and you arrive at a key pillar of OlderBeasthood, regardless of whether you’re coming from a strength-focused, endurance-focused, or limited-fitness starting point. The full-body, at-home strength workout.

Here’s my take on a practical, adaptable routine you can do at home with relatively little equipment.

2 Comments
  1. Marty OKeefe 2 years ago
    Reply

    Excellent summary Mark..hits the mark. I’ve can check of many versions of these motivators..depending on where I was in my life. Its a journey….but you need to start and find your way.

  2. […] “WHY” is a question of underlying motivation, man. It’s the bedrock of OlderBeast resolve to “double down” on fitness, nutrition and Wellness for the second half of life. We began discussing motivation in this earlier post. […]

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