Sooner or later, everyone who works in or around the fitness industry learns to avoid a certain type of question, one that starts off innocently enough: “I really liked your (book, article, post, podcast) and want to do your workout, but…” I brace myself, because I know what’s coming. Maybe he doesn’t have access to a gym and wants to do the program at home. Maybe he wants to do it at home, but doesn’t have a barbell of dumbbells. Maybe he doesn’t have any equipment at all and wants me to write a new program using bodyweight exercises.
But what he’s really saying is, “I don’t actually want to do your program, but I’d love to have the results.”
I used to have this conversation at least once a year with my brother-in-law. He never followed through on anything we talked about, but he seemed to think that if he just talked about it enough, something would actually click.
Then one year he came to me with a different question: “How do I get motivated to workout?”
I could cite textbook answers about stages of change or extrinsic versus intrinsic motivation. But I didn’t honestly know how to become motivated if you aren’t already there.
Then I thought more about it…
Finding the “why”
As a veteran in the fitness industry, I typically see three types of people:
1. Someone who’s never worked out
2. Someone who used to workout, but stopped
3. Someone currently working out in another gym
The first group will be the hardest to sell, and the least likely to stick around if they join it all.
The third one is the easiest to understand. “Something happened, they’re not happy about it, and they’re obviously looking for something else.” “It’s the same reason you don’t see happily married men on dating websites.”
So the challenge is straightforward: “Find the trigger, the reason they’re talking to me about leaving their current gym.”
A strong campaign phrase to use is: ‘Back In Shape.’ Another one is: Reawaken The Athlete In You.’ It triggers something. They remember how they felt.
But understanding why they want to get back in shape or reawaken the inner athlete is a lot more complex.
I have to find out the reason they stopped. It’s usually time, money, motivation. Is it still a problem? If it is, it’s going to be hard to keep them going until they find a way over, around, or through the roadblock.
My brother-in-law is a recruiting-poster example of the second category. Handsome, good shape, used to turn heads. But then when he lost access to a company gym in his mid-30s, he stopped working out, and over the next 15 years gained 25 kg’s, much of it front and centre on his belly.
Finding a person’s ‘why’ can be relatively easy, if you ask the right questions. These could be:
1. Why do you want to work out?
2. Why is that important?
3. Why now?
4. Why didn’t it work when you tried it before?
5. What’s different now?
6. What changes when you achieve the goal?
7. Why is that important?
8. What happens if you don’t get into shape? What are the consequences?
With the final question, you sometimes gets the truth of the client’s motivation. Say, for example, he is going with his wife to a high school reunion. He is afraid of looking bad by comparison to a former boyfriend, or that her friends will judge her harshly for being married to a man who let himself go.
The Universal Motivators
Everyone wants to be happy, and to be happy, we all naturally gravitate towards things that give us
pleasure and away from things that cause pain. The only times we voluntary seek discomfort are when we see it as a stepping stone to what we really want. So we don’t go to college because we want to take on crushing debt or cram our brains full the things we’ll forget the day after the test. We do it to put ourselves on the path to a happier, healthier, and more affluent life.
Most people walking into a gym understand, at some level, that they’ll have to accept physical discomfort in exchange for the three results they want from their workouts:
1. To move better
2. To feel better
3. To look better
But they’re really all the same goal. Moving better means feeling better, resulting in you looking better.
The Magic Word
Let’s return to my brother-in-law, who had an all or nothing concept of getting back into shape. He wanted to do gym workouts, but he didn’t want to join a gym. He wanted to eat better, but his concept of a better diet is one with protein supplements, which didn’t make much sense for him unless he did strenuous workouts, which he had effectively prevented himself from doing.
Going to the gym was too many changes at once. It’s why all these extreme diets have so little success. There is too big a strain on your willpower.
Which brings to mind a Tony Robbins quote:
“If you want to know the secret to happiness, I can give it to you in one word: Progress.”
Progress, in my mind, means small, sustainable changes. Maybe this month it’s eight workouts. That’s the only goal. Next month it might be eight workouts plus consuming 1.5 L of water per day. By the end of the year it might be 12 changes. Success feeds success. But if you try to do all 12 changes at once, is just overwhelming. You’re destroying your motivation instead of feeding it.
The bigger problem, is that I never got to my brother-in-law’s “why,” the real reason he wanted to be in shape without taking the steps he needed to get in shape.
I suspect it was something he wasn’t ready to admit to himself: he wants to look like the man he believes he should be. He won’t join a gym because he thinks he supposed to look like that man, the one who used to workout regularly, and doesn’t want people to see him as he is now.
It was never going to work until he dug deep enough to admit why he put up so many roadblocks to his goal. Any workout would be ineffective. Any diets would be useless.
Once the “why” is out in the open, I want my client to fall in love with the process, until the process becomes the ’why,‘ and the outcome becomes unimportant. Eventually your identity changes. You’re a member of the gym. You’re an athlete. You’re chipping away at the problem until by the end it looks like magic.
But of course it’s not magic, is just consistent work, something few are willing to take on until you understand exactly why it matters.
Would you like to establish what your ‘Why’ is?
Would you like to create a clear pathway for you to: Move better, Feel better, Look better?