T Nation


I ask - does your motivation to lift (workout) change as you age? If you are 35 - is you motivation and drive to lift the same as when you were 18? I know at 34, working ~70 hours a week and having a child, my motivation or energy for that matter in the gym is way different than when I was 25. Do you experience this? Why do you think motivation and/or energy levels change if you try to remain just as active? Is it age, joint pain or what? Thoughts…?

You’re not getting younger.

Expect ‘damage’ and it’s effect on motivation.

I have a real hard time accepting each new age-related ‘discovered’ limitations.

Specially that I am supposed to be in my prime.

I won’t mind the ‘trading age for a bigger bank account’ phenomenon as I age, though. Fuck, one has to have added security somewhere to compensate for degrading ‘mechanics/engine’ fatality of biology.

In the meanwhile…just expect it.

Sure, training will slow the phenomenon. Maybe your genetics will help you leave others in the dust in the agin department. Age has its price, for everyone.

my motivation when i first started was strictly to be able to beat the shit out of people, now its more sports specific goals and the fact that i keep growing is secondary. in a few years i’m sure it’ll change to ‘not turning into the lardass over there on the stairstepper’

Great question!

I read a book years ago called “The Biomarkers Of Aging”, I forgot who the Author was, sorry.

In that book it was determined that as we get older it is not always our bodies that give out, but our will! this slows down because of the very things you mentioned, outside obligations!

We get married, have children rise in responsibility in our job or business. And a host of other things which occur to each of us that literally pull us away from what made us feel so good about ourselves: Training.

I have tried to make training a priority through the years. You do this by attaching the importance to it that it really deserves. It may not be important to most 48 year old guys to do more Chin-ups or put more weight over their heads. To me it is a priority, so I continue to strive for new goals. In doing so I garner a great amount of energy for other important things in life.

A simple rule, whatever we focus on has a great chance of improving. Whatever we ignore has a great chance of receding.

The point is, give your body (and your health) the priority that it needs. If you do it will serve you well! Place your training just below your bowling or poker night in importance, and you will lose your desire to lift more weight, and your ability to do so will also flee!

There are a few reasons I can think of:

  1. As we age during our working years, the acquisition of more life-related responsibilities and obligations become major factors in managing our time and energy;

  2. Aging lends itself to perspective and a tendency toward searching for balance and moderation in our lifestyles;

  3. For those who have fulfilling lives and relationships, the vanity factor tends to become less motivational than health and functional fitness factors; and

  4. The recognition that maintaining decent health and functional fitness require less time and energy than the pursuit of “hoogeness” provides flexibility with regard to structuring our work-outs.


That book was written by William Evans, PhD (Bill). Bill is a great guy, good teacher and knows how to translate science into understandable language for the masses.

I’m in my 30’s, and if I was working 70hrs/wk my first priority would be finding another job.

I’ve seen too many people (friends) sacrifice their social lives, their marriage, their families, and their health to put in long hours at work.

All so they can afford more “stuff” or get a promotion.

Happiness does not come with abundance of possessions, the happiest people I’ve met are those with their eyes focused on interpersonal relationships, and becoming a better person rather than stuff.

It’s important to have balance in your life, and I have yet to see anyone working more than 50 hours/week who can maintain balance and happiness in their life over a period of years.

Personally, I find it infinitely more rewarding to invest my time in my family than to stay late and make another buck for the company.

Once you slow down, shed the excess stress and find balance I think you’ll find you have just as much motivation today as you did ten years ago. I lift with greater intensity now than when I was in college.

Sorry if I was sermonizing here, but I’ve seen too many people burn out and crash.

Contrary to Cardinal’s # 3 reason, I have a fullfilling life and relationship. The vanity factor now is that my wife and I don’t want to be the fat, lazy slob that is weighing down the other. We hit the gym together 5 days a week. She does her thing and I do mine when we get there but it’s so we stay looking as good or better as the years go by. Besides, when I’m looking in the mirror, it’s nice to be able to marvel at my accomplishments and see which areas I need to work a little harder on. So, at 36 the vanity level has not slowed.

RICHM: You almost sound like your livelyhood depends on it. Seems awfully important to you.

Dan C,
I guess it is pretty important to me. Call me crazy but I just like looking good. I also feel better. We have our diets dialed in and some days the gym is a great stress reliever. Fortunately my livelyhood doesn’t depend on it but my sense of well being does.

RICHM: Sorry for the poke. Something in me warrants similar questions when I see such a strong/clear reaction.

Blame it on ‘evidence questioning training’ for my job. ;p

Happy New Year!

Dan C,
No harm done. Have a Great New Year.

my motivation is career oriented. As someone toiling in the music business iI knowhow much looks mean. And lifting makes me sing better

Hey RichM - notice I said the vanity factor becomes “less” a motivating factor (and it’s all relative!), not “zero” as a motivating factor. :slight_smile:

Actually, I agree with what you are saying although our semantics differ.
Honestly, I still get a slight rush when folks mistakenly peg me at 10 - 12 years younger than I am. Who wouldn’t, right?

I’m 47 y/o, and at my age (heck, at any age really), I believe by focusing on good health and fitness, it’s almost automatic that healthy individuals generally look better (i.e., more fit, more muscular, etc…) than those who don’t focus on health and fitness. I also agree that looking and being fit for one’s partner, family, etc… can (and should, IMHO) be a motivating factor, but obviously a huge segment of the population disagrees based on what we see, read about, and hear about daily.


Apparently you know Mr. Evans. Please tell him I enjoyed his book, and will continue to tout it’s laurels!

Zeb and all,

Great posts here and nice insight revealed by some into their own experiences and that of observing others!

From the vanity to the joy of self accomplishment - these are all factors in my motivation in training as well as transfered athletic abilities (baseball for example). I am excited for the day when I can start my son on training and lift as well as do other sports with him. There are days I am sure that when the alarm clock goes off and it is still dark outside the motivation to go back to sleep rather than do sets of squats is the internal battle.

To a great New Year for all!

I have the same level of motivation to work out as I always have. I’m not that old yet so who knows what my 50s will bring. My hunting partner is in his 50s and he still stays in damn good shape so I know it can be done.

The vanity thing is something to think about. When you’re 23 and in shape you don’t really stand out all that much unless you’re hyooge. At 44 it’s a different story. Most of the guys this age look like the Pilsbury Dough Boy.

I was thinking about that once after something my wife said. She’s not prone to blowing sunshine up anyone’s ass and so any compliment you manage to pry from her is an honest one. I was framing a roof on a covered seating area we were adding on our riding arena (for horses) and without thinking much about it it jumped up, grabbed two joists, tucked up and hooked my feet over them and wedged my way up onto the roof. The only thing that was a bitch was squeezing my shoulders between the 2x8s on the way up. My wife looked up and said, “You know you’re in pretty fucking good shape”. I said, “Yeah, for an old guy”. She shook her head and said, “No, for any age guy”. That’s a good motivator right there. The time she said, “I like the way your abs feel against me when you’re fucking me from behind” worked well too.

I’m lucky. I have good knees and no major injures to any joints. Any bones I’ve broken so far have healed well and don’t cause me any pain. I feel good at the end of a hard hour of lifting and maybe that and the look in my wife’s eyes will be enough to keep me doing it for a few more years.

The vanity thing is something to think about. When you’re 23 and in shape you don’t really stand out all that much unless you’re hyooge. At 44 it’s a different story. Most of the guys this age look like the Pilsbury Dough Boy.

Amen, brother.

It’s also nice when you go to a New Year’s party (like I did last night), meet a couple of cute sisters who are in their mid-to-late 20s, talk with them for a while and have them thinking that you’re about 33-35 (when you’re really 41). That works. :wink:

My motivations have changed a bit since I started. I no longer want to be Mr. Olympia, lol, and I’m worried more about general health and fitness/strength goals now. But my enthusiasm hasn’t changed a bit. I almost never miss a workout, and if I do I’m chafing at the bit until I can get back into the gym.

Anybody of you know the tough ones of life?

You know, those who can manage to smoke, drink, eat like theres no tomorrow, never take care of themselves, only have a one pager hospital file (never need to go there or too much pain tolerance, I have no idea) and STILL live 70+ ? Whats worse is that nothing slows them down, even after years of beating.

Imagine the energy if they didnt indulge in all these excesses. My hunch is that they precisely have too much energy and clog their systems up to slow/calm themselves down. Maybe theres something there indeed. I recall a study that mentionned that an overwhelming majority (80% +) of schizophrenics smoked.

Back to our cockroaches. Somewhere I suspect they know they are in the resilient class of humans from day one. Like they say, if you have it, flaunt it. Sort of.

And, just by feeling, if you can indulge in any bad activity and feel no hangover (or very faintly perceptible effects), why stop? A guy with an incredible alcohol tolerance once told me he slowed down a bit with the years, not because he desired alcohol less, but just because he could not stomach it as much as before. This is no way left him in the wuss category – even around 50 he could trounce youngsters in the drinking department – and, no, he`s not an alcoholic when you hear his life story – he recovered from cancer in record time…just a force of nature, so to say.

Its probably alloxydative-damage-control` related.

You have it or you don`t. And the years confirm it.

Maybe I have a bad sample, but I have yet to see people over 50, outside of these roaches, who do not use any medication at all.

Dont get me wrong. Roaches always impress me, for two reasons: 1) their genetic lottery luck, 2) theirautopilotability to withstand time and disease without ever having to think about it (or invest time and energy in good habits). Even though Roaches like to think they arethe standard(I dont take care of myself, so all your supplements are useless shit thinking), most people fall below this health extreme and have to work it out and/or compensate.

I would agree with most of the reasons offered by many here as the contiuning motivation to train. It’s so much a part of my life, at 36, that I simply could’nt imagine not training. In fact I wonder where my life would be if I had’nt started lifting in my mid teens. It’s not that I think I’ve accomplished all that much, but I know I would’nt have had the self confidence to do the things in life I’ve done. I guess that is as much why I stay motivated as anything else. As long as I’m fit and strong, I know I can face most physical, mental and emotional obstacles I may encounter in life. I look at weight training as a gift that I was fortunate to have discovered at an early age.
Along the lines of what Steelyeyes mentioned, the caveman side of me likes the fact that my woman can look at me and always feel protected when with me.