Last updated on June 9th, 2016
Years ago, I found it difficult to train consistently in both fitness and martial arts. How do people stay motivated to workout regularly? What’s their secret?
To find out, I sought advice from martial artists, athletes, traceurs and military personnel. I wanted to know how they found the time and will to train without letting responsibilities and commitments get in the way. How did they not get tired of training?
Shockingly, all of their advice shared one common subconscious attitude. This was their secret to staying motivated in any form of training. They regarded their training as a lifestyle that was part of their identity.
Secret Behind Fitness & Martial Arts Motivation – Changing your attitude towards training
Training – whether it is parkour, martial arts, running, obstacle course racing or street workout – is a way of life.
Whether you like it or not, everyone lives a lifestyle based on choices and circumstance. How you see and define yourself, your passion and your habits greatly determines what you choose to do.
You certainly cannot shirk your responsibilities and problems. But you can make do with your limitations to make training happen.
Here’s what’s stopping you – you do not identify yourself or lifestyle with your training. You do not see yourself as a martial artist, traceur or fitness athlete. Because it is not an important part of your identity, you neither make training a priority nor feel motivated to train.
Identity – How you see and define yourself
Martial artists, traceurs and fitness athletes see themselves as martial artists, traceurs and fitness athletes respectively. It is an important part of who they are.
Can you call a martial artist who never trains, a martial artist? Is a traceur a true practitioner of parkour or freerunning, if he (or she) hates traversing obstacles? More extreme – is an alcoholic an alcoholic if they stop drinking.
Your identity is defined by your choices and your actions.
During Sengoku jidai (Warring States period), the samurai’s identity as a warrior was embodied by warfare, training and death. It was their job and purpose as a warrior. During that era, before social classes became rigid, people could become de facto samurai by making their mark in battle. How did they make their mark? By training on and off the battlefield.
In today’s world, training embodies the core identity of a fitness athlete, traceur and martial artist.
They are compelled to reinforce who they believe they are. This sense of identity makes them committed to train.
They make time for it. They prioritise training as a way of life – as important as family, friends and career. If they are bogged down by responsibilities, commitments and problems, they find solutions and not make excuses. They do not play the victim card. They make do with their limitations.
If you want to learn, you will find a way to learn.
– Ando Mierzwa (read his post on training and not having time)
Until you see yourself as a modern ninja or a true practitioner of your chosen activity, you will always find excuses, without even pushing harder to see how you can make your training work.
Passion and Habit – How can I motivate myself to train?
A hobby is something you kill time with. A passion is something you want to do even if it kills you. And habit comes naturally when you’re training in something you’re passionate about.
How can I get motivated to exercise? Many people go about it the wrong way.
What? Your passion is to lose weight? You will reach a limit eventually. Then what? Be thin enough to be a makeshift stick weapon for your sensei?
Losing weight and bulking up are valid goals, but not passion!
The amazing athletes and martial artists I talked to chose an activity that they were passionate about.
When you love what you do and find it fun, it becomes easier to do. You are not forcing yourself into it.
David Belle, parkour’s founder, trained daily from early in the morning till night. Bruce Lee was concerned with the adaptation of martial arts for effectiveness; his training reflected that.
If working out or training scares you off so much (or makes you procrastinate), there is something wrong. Find an activity that you love and identify with.
Takeaway: Make Training Your Way Of Life and Identity
Change your mindset.
It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner. It doesn’t matter whether you are passionate about running, parkour, martial arts, bouldering or other forms of fitness. Let training be a part of your identity and respect it.
Do not treat your activity as mere hobby; it should be a passion that initiates a lifelong habit.
With this key change in attitude – where training become an important part of your identity – you will want to make it work, no matter the challenges.
Here’s the list of advice by martial artists and athletes of various activities.
Remember, your training is your way of the ninja and your warrior identity. Respect it or give up becoming a modern ninja.
Note: This is a major update of Fitness, Running, Martial Arts & Parkour Is a Way Of Life (from back in early 2014).