As a coach there are a couple words that I hate to hear from an athlete, words that make me question the long term success of the person who speaks them:  Inspiration.  Motivation.  Sure, both those things feel great but if you’re riding a wave of inspiration or motivation into the gym, you need to be warned that those great feelings only last about 2 seconds and then they’re gone before life and all the world’s demands set in.

I don’t trust anyone who walks into the gym grinning.  I suspect you’re either a bit sick in the head or lying – to me or yourself.  What we do here is hard and very rarely pleasant.  An expression of grim determination, of resigned commitment, is a much more realistic, far more sane approach to training.  You know it’s going to suck, you’re not looking forward to it, but you are determined to get it done because, like cleaning the house or taking your bitter tasting medicine, you know it will all be worth it once it’s finished.

It’s grim determination and dogged commitment that get us through life, not inspiration or motivation.  Do you wait for inspiration to hit before going to work?  Do you refuse to get out of bed until you feel motivated?  How would things work out for you if you relied on inspiration and motivation in every part of your life?  If they’re the fuel you’re relying on, you will not travel far – in fitness or in life.  Because life gets in the way.

It’s Wednesday.  Hump day.  It’s been a tough week.  A long day.  It started at 4am.  It’s now 7pm.  I’m still at work.  I started at 4:40am and I’m just now finding the time to shoe horn in my workout before the 8pm Strongman class starts.  I’m just not feeling it.  My back isn’t cooperating and my energy gauge is on empty.  Never mind that, I’ve a job to do so I load up the bar.  My back won’t bear the back squat so I substitute in the dreaded zercher squat, a much less appetizing option.  Sometimes when I’m feeling blah, inspiration hits once I’m in the workout.  Not today.  Today every rep is a grind.  I get it done, rack the bar and log my performance just as Super Mario and Dangers start up the 8pm Strongman class.  I curse them.  I don’t want to play their torturous game, I want to go home.  But then it starts.  I’m surrounded by the other class members.  I’m suffering and so is everyone else.  And suddenly my fatigue is gone.  Instead I’m feeling rejuvenated.  Forget tired, I’m going to try to beat Gymkata.  No dice.  I come close but she finishes ahead of me.  But now I’m smiling and having a good time.  Super Mario groups me with the monsters: Colossus & The Rock.  I dig deep to try to compete with the big men.  Mostly they crush me and I get a heaping helping of burpees for my failed efforts.  Yes, I’m tired.  I will stagger home and collapse into bed.  But I got it done.  7pm I thought I had nothing left in the tank but I made it through an hour of  zercher squats and then a full hour of Strongman training.  I didn’t want to.  I didn’t think I could.  But I did.  And now I feel great!

Life is going to get tough.  Life gets busy.  Life deals out all sorts of road blocks.  Training will become inconvenient.  Travel will come up, meetings, illness, injury, romance.  There is always a good and ready excuse not to train.  When inspiration and motivation fade there is always a valid reason to avoid the gym.  That’s why only an unreasonable attitude will get you through.  Your determination needs to be greater than any of the obstacles life throws your way.

But here’s the great thing, if you are determined to train no matter what: In CrossFit, there is always a way.  We can adapt WODs in so many ways.  Upper body injured?  We can focus on lower body work.  Lower body injured?  We can work upper body.  Weeks after hip replacement surgery KMT has been consistently in the gym riding the spin bike determined to get back into action.  I’ve seen athletes on crutches, in wheel chairs (yes, we have a ramp entrance) and, even quadruple amputees, training CrossFit, most of them making fewer excuses or complaints than you about their lot in life.  Everybody can do this.  But only if you have the will to overcome.

Remember our model of athletic development?  In CrossFit we can always select a different level to work on.  When I injured my shoulder in Judo months before the 2008 World Judo Masters Championship in Brussels and couldn’t train Judo (sport, at the apex of the pyramid), I turned to CrossFit to stay active and fit by working the lower levels of the pyramid (energy systems, body weight strength, moving external load).  When my back flares up I have to shy away from moving external loads and instead focus on developing my gymnastics strength and energy systems.  And if I was laid up in a full body cast I would get working on refining my nutrition to create the great base of molecular health required to speed recovery and support my progress once I could begin to return to training.  There’s really no reason you can’t be at the gym but, even if there was, there are still things you can be working on.

But that’s not how it goes is it?  People drop out of training because they’ve lost the motivation.  When things get difficult inspiration makes a quick exit.  Folks who come to us fueled by inspiration and motivation are fair weather athletes.  They love the idea of training but not the reality.  For them, all the stars must align and all conditions need to be perfect in order for them to pursue fitness.  But life doesn’t work that way.  The stars won’t always (ever) align and inclement weather is the norm.  If you want to get and stay fit you will need to cultivate a mindset that will get you through stormy weather.  A bulldog determination to get it done come hell or high water.  The grit to adapt to inconvenience and misfortune.  Once you discard reasons and excuses and throw out your reliance on motivation and inspiration, then you can really start to get somewhere!