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What to do when Motivation Isn’t Enough

By Matt Cavallo

The older I become the harder it is for me to participate in physical activities. During the past two years, I have let myself go. I could blame quarantine, but the truth is that I could have been more disciplined about exercising even if I wasn’t able to go the gym. I am paying for it now. 

About a year ago, I felt my right hamstring start to stiffen. It wasn’t a typical stiff feeling because no matter how much I stretched; I couldn’t get it loose. It was more of a tight, spastic MS feeling and I became afraid to use my right leg for anything more strenuous than walking. Now, after all of this inactivity, I have a mild limp. I thought I was the only one who noticed it, but others have pointed it out to me asking what is wrong. 

I went to a physical therapist to see if he could help me walk normally again. He started with stretching and then went into strength and conditioning. He spoke about the importance of exercise to make sure that these types of issues don’t get worse. For a while my limp was gone, but little-by-little I returned to my sedentary lifestyle and the pain, and the limp has returned.

It is funny what motivates people. You would think the reality of not being able to walk normally would get me back into the gym, or at least, riding my bike every day. It hasn’t. I feel like I am in a rut where I am overtired and lack the motivation to do anything besides rest, even though I know that pushing myself is the only way to overcome this problem. 

My wife really likes working out. She could be on a treadmill for hours. For me, working out is torture. I have never really liked doing it and I don’t get the same positive endorphins she feels at the end of a workout. And I really want that positive feeling.

So, if walking isn’t a motivating factor, what will motivate me? That is the question I am trying to answer. Being there for my family is another big one, but I can provide for my family even if my walking isn’t great.

What I am realizing is that it isn’t motivation at all. It is mind-set. I have always had the “can’t do” attitude when it comes to physical health. I also have a million excuses. I can’t exercise because of quarantine. I can’t hike because I don’t have the right shoes. My bike seat isn’t comfortable for long rides. I can’t diet because it’s the holidays. I can go on and on with why I can’t do something.

The fact is that the motivation is inside me, but it is pushed down by my negative mindset. The only way to overcome a negative mindset is to just do it. It takes accountability and sacrifice, but it is worth it in the end to make these positive life changes.

To kick off the new year, I am going on a medically supervised diet. I need to lose 40 pounds to get back to my healthy weight. To do so, I have had to tell my friends that I am going to have to make some sacrifices during the next couple of months. Most have been really supportive, and some have said they will try it with me. Having accountability when trying to make a change is huge. 

I also joined a gym. To stay accountable with my membership, I am working with a personal trainer and my wife and kids are joining me, too. My commitment is that I will sacrifice an hour a day for three days a week until I start to feel positive about working out. So, when motivation wasn’t enough for me, I had to change my mindset, make sacrifices and ask for help and accountability from others. I will stay accountable to you and report back on my progress. If you are feeling stuck, what can you change to achieve the results you want?