When you’re engaged in a sport or a fitness activity for a long period of time, it is very easy to get demotivated. This is especially true if you’ve hit a plateau and feel like you’re not making any progress. I’ve been doing wushu for almost 10 years now, and I’ve gone through many periods where I know I definitely lost the fire that usually have. People who engage in other sports or fitness activities ask how I get over this so I thought I’d share.

  1. Train with people who are better than you.

    This is a really good motivator because it gets your competitive instinct going. It forces you to step your game up so that you don’t lose face. When I was in China training with kids on the professional wushu teams, not only was I awestruck by their level, but I also wanted to show them that this “lazy Westerner” can hang with the best of them. Of course my skill level could not compare to theirs, but just by being surrounded by great athletes made me want it that much more. There is a converse of this: don’t train with sucky people or people who always grumble or whine. This just gets you down. People who are always complaining of their injury or make excuses are also demotivators.

  2. Don’t make it a choice.

    During the peak of my training, I used to practice 7 days a week, 3 hours a day. I kept that pretty consistently for a good year. How does one mentally make that decision to do that? You don’t. If you get home from your 8 hours of work, sit down on your couch and ask yourself whether you should or should not go to train, I bet you probably won’t get off your butt for a significant portion of time. You can’t think about it. You just go. You have to think of it as something you do, much like eating breakfast or brushing your teeth. It just becomes another regular thing you do in the day.

  3. Hear the naysayers.

    Whenever you engage in any activity, just as there will always be people who support you, there will surely be people who put you down. These people for whatever reason find it easier to try to take someone down rather than pulling themselves up. They’ll tell you that you can’t do it or that it’s not worth it or that you’ll never amount to anything. I say hear them, but don’t listen to them. For me, hearing this kind of stuff just makes me want to work that much harder to make them eat their words or prove them wrong. However, don’t listen to these people and don’t let their words sink in and actually discourage you from doing what you love and are passionate about.

  4. Study it.

    In order to get better at your sport or training, practice alone is not enough. As part of your training, you should be studying it. When I was a hardcore wushu nut, I probably watched as much video footage of professional wushu athletes as much as I trained. I found this to be really motivating. Not only that, but by studying it, you will get a deeper understanding of your sport allowing you to get you through your plateau. With the advent of Youtube, you don’t even need to go far to find footage of whatever it is you train in.

  5. Change your surroundings.

    This advice applies especially to bikers and runners. If you jog or ride the same trail or path over and over and over, of course you are going to get bored out of your mind that you could probably do it on autopilot. The same goes when you train in the same wushu hall. Changing your surrounds usually implies a change of people around you as well. Different people may be able to offer different advice and perspective on your training.

  6. Try complimentary skills and activities.

    If you get bored with your training, you may be able to find a different sport or exercise that still works you out in a similar way. Or you might find another training regimen that augments the skills or requisite strength that you need to build for your sport. When I first got back from training in China where I trained twice a day everyday, I was very burnt out. I found that gymnastics offered me exercises to build body ability, body awareness and flexibility much like my wushu training. Even taking that once a week in the middle of the week, added enough variety to get me through my demotivated times. The gymnastics also came in handy as it helped me add some “flash” and “flare” to my routines as well as proving extremely useful for when I did my motion capture roles for the Mortal Kombat video games.

  7. Train under pressure.

    If you train without a clear and specific goal in mind, it’s really easy to lose your enthusiasm after a long period of time. By signing up for a race or a competition, you force yourself to commit to a certain level of performance, but this time, you put yourself out there. I for one will not compete unless I know I will do my absolute best. Putting your reputation on the line is one heck of a motivator.

I hope this post has motivated you to get back into whatever you were into. Also, I would very much appreciate what other tips other people have in staying motivated.

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