T Nation

Where Do You Find the Motivation?


Hey All,
I'm not 35, but my life probably has a lot more in common with you guys. I'm 27, work full time in a pretty high-stress job, have a fiancee, townhouse, 2 cars and 2 dogs. I'm all "settled" as it is.

I started hardcore bodybuilding in 2001, when I was 16. I quickly found out that I put on muscle without trying. When I started training, I weighed 140 at 5'6". I've attached a photo of me in 2006 at 170lbs after 6 weeks of dieting. Six months after this picture was taken, I graduated college. I said good bye to compliments from guys and girls. Bye to being the "buff guy" that other guys wanted to be like. Bye to girls squeezing my biceps. Superficial as it was, I always appreciated the acknowledgement of my work.

In the 5 years since Ive graduated, I just stopped caring. With work, having a social life, and wifey wanting me home all the time, its really hard to find any motivation to lift. I dont have girls to impress. I dont have friends to keep up with. Most "adults" (forgive the term) just dont really care about physical exercise, especially if they're not grossly overweight.

I guess what I'm trying to ask is: What keeps you guys motivated? If you're already in decent enough shape, what pushes you to diet/train like it means something? Do competitions help? Did you decrease lifting and take up a sport like BJJ or community rugby? I just moved to Southern California and it seems like outdoor, endurance sports are all the rage (running/triathlons etc.) Not sure if that's an avenue to pursue but I've always sucked ass at cardio and my build is not long and lean like the people I see on road bikes.

I've just reached a point where I go to the gym, look at the plates and bars and think: what's the point?

Maybe I'm just venting. Maybe I'm being a bitch. But after being a loyal T-Nation reader since 2001, I figured I'd come here and see if anyone else has been in my rut and how you got out.
Thanks for reading.


To crush my enemies, see them driven before me, and to hear the lamentation of their women...


In all seriousness sounds like lifting just wasn't THAT important to you.

I have 3 kids, (21, 5, 1).

Work a demanding corporate job (Project Manager) that often requires odd hours.

Two dogs.

I have mutliple external stressors (family and house crap).

I manage to train 7 days a week, couple of times drive 40-60 minutes each way to have the training partners and equipment I need to compete in powerlifting.


Lots of reasons:

Get better, not oldder.

I do lots of cardio now to be able to play tag with my kids, and to be healthy still when they are graduating college, getting married, etc.

Becuase it is my hunting, fishing, golf, softball, etc etc. I.e. it is what I do to get away for a few hours and enjoy myself.

Because I have a hot and amazing wife, and need to keep up with her:)

Anger management: I am a fucking asshole most of the time anyway, but I get in real trouble when I don't train.

I did have a gap in training of about 2 years when I was 26-28. I was managing two bars and working literally 12 days straight of double shifts followed by two days off ever other weekend to be with my kid. I burned myself out, and never felt better about life until I got myself back in the gym.


Thanks Pete. I'm hoping I feel that fire in my belly again. Seems like yours is burning strong!


I am 53 and a beginner, i also have a stressful health care job which is mainly night shift based.

I started training because at 52 i was a soft weak fat bastard heading toward all sorts of health problems.

The bottom line was either change or early sickness/disaese and an early grave....motivation enough methinks.
Practically it helps me do the things i like doing, be that climbing, sailing etc etc.

The continuing motivation is that i really enjoy it, i like the way that my body is changing, that i am a lot happier and calmer. I like that i am no longer like the mass of people i see around me.

EDIT. I was just thinking that i have a feeling of self mastery and self discipline now, some times going to the gym is just the days work and the satisfaction is just getting it done and writing it up in my jornal...sometimes though it is abosloutely exhilarating to push through a barrier and go a bit heavier or a bit harder.


My motivation: To not suck.

I know it sounds like I'm being a smart ass but I'm not. Life will grind you up if you let it. It only gets harder as you get greater responsibilites and more demands on your time.

When you let one thing beat you then it gets just that much easier to let other things do it. A few years down the road you're that guy you see when you go out to eat who's not happy with his wife, his kids or his job and he's just waiting to die.

For me I just keep in mind who I want to be and what its going to be like if I give up.

Do you want to spend the rest of your life as that guy?


Before lifting weights and having a passion for it, I admit I was a bit of a knucklehead, defensive, and lacking overall confidence so to speak. There are obviously days and weeks where the rut happens, (Im currently in one now) but I always look at the big picture and what weightlifting has done for my psyche, confidence and overall becoming (if I may go as far to say so) a pretty nice and well rounded adult.

I have always loved the solidarity of it all, I always loved the high you get from accomplishing something that many times only a select few can appreciate. I even love the new ideas that come about, the new way of lifting, new toys, new programs...when Im board at work an awesome time killer is planning my lifting week ahead. Shit the dissapointment that comes with it is even a facet that I appreciate because when you conquer something its that more special. Shit the attention isnt too bad either.

My wife who has stucked with me during my dickhead days will tell you how much of a better person I am since I found something that keeps my head on straight.

Ask a correction officer which inmate gives them the most problem I can guarantee you its not the inmates lifting in the yard but the inmates with nothing to occupy their time.


Here's my experience. Trained hard, off and on, 1998-2001. Graduated, took a demanding job, and didn't train again until 2011. Eating crap, drinking every weekend -- total disregard for my health

What lit a fire under my butt?

Really awful health markers (BP 149/89, weight 263 lbs, height 6', blood sugar "pre-diabetic") and a 3 year old daughter.

One morning I woke up and had a strange thought -- would I rather have a successful career and be dead soon, or be a total failure with my career and healthy/active for the rest of my life (and hopefully do some really cool stuff with my daughter -- ski, hike, bike, swim, surf, camp, etc.) There really was no choice.

The reality is somewhere in between (career success and health).


I started training because I grew up a puny, sickly kid. Unfortunately, things didn't come easy. I never even saw a barbell until my 20's. I followed bad advice. No idea my diet was awful. Years of no results, and it mad me angry. The more I stayed weak, the more I had to hit the iron, somewhere there had to be the answer.

OK, after 30 yrs figured it out, powerlifting exercises, lots of protein, good sleep. Happy ending? No - my body is still locked in the beginner's stage.

To be honest, I can't help you with your problem. Nothing ever came easy for me. Many things have never come at all. I've pounded at squats, deadlifts and bench for years just to get the most meager, grudging gains at all. I simply don't under stand what it means to have muscles growing with little effort.

I just don't understand how anyone can throw away natural gifts. Santa Clause kept dumping present after present in your lap, and all you can do is whine "So what?"

Try this. Do volunteer work with charities. Help people who never had it as good as you. Take a long, hard look at those whose bodies will never give them a Mr America trophy.


Thanks for your honesty. You've offered me a different lens to look at my training. My ability to grow muscle does come with a downside of a painfully slow metabolism. Endomorphic all the way. My diet has to be extremely strict and I respond poorly to carbs...which is rough because I'm half-Asian and with my fiancee being from Taiwan, she loves noodles and rice like nobody's business. The look in my original post was achieved on about 1,300 calories a day.

While I don't see the link between volunteering with charity and bodybuilding, I think I understand your sentiment: Take advantage of what comes naturally to you and for the gifts you have, because what's easy for you is arduous for others.

Big thanks to those that have chimed in already. A recurring theme is being unsatisfied with life and wanting to transform. In that case, I completely understand it. The motivation is intrinsic rather than extrinsic. A part of the problem could be because I didn't have to work as crazy-hard as others have, I don't appreciate what my body just naturally does. It's as if I don't have perspective on it.

Food for thought regardless. Thanks guys. I appreciate the responses.


it sounds to me like your training was focused on improving your status in the eyes of other people, rather than on improving your status in the eyes of yourself.

when it is focused on other people then i do think it makes things hard. i thought that that was the only reason why people trained and that was why i avoided training for so long.

but then the time came when i got sick and tired of my own decrepitude. there was a little bit of other people in there in the sense that yeah, i'd like it if i appeared fit and healthy to others. but mostly it was about me. i wanted to feel comfortable and in control of this body of mine. i wanted to get to know it. i wanted to improve it. i wanted to come to like it, damn it.

i train because i'm seeking / finding self respect.

when the weight goes up that is me being better than i was before.
when i'm more mobile that is me being better than i was before.
when i can do something i couldn't do before that is me being better than i was before.

i'm working really hard on being the best me i can be. still got a lot of things about myself that i'm unhappy with and need to change but can't quite bring myself to (e.g., quitting smoking). but my training... is one thing that i am actively working doing for myself. every time i go and give it my best i feel proud of myself for doing something that i know is good for myself. victory.

edit --- also... sometimes... not often... but sometimes... i get a massive rush of something when i lift heavy. it really does feel just like taking a hefty dose of methamphetamine. lasts around 30 seconds. sometimes can sustain it by doing 5x1 or something like that. best feeling in the world, i swear. and... it isn't self destructive (e.g., involved with taking drugs). and it just comes for free. wow. how can people not train?


TC has some cool stuff on what fires him up:


my favorite:


another good one:



KirlyQuail, you're absolutely right. It comes from within us. Each one of us is driven relentlessly in some way. The hard part is trying to get other people to understand, like doctors when we get injuries. It's also why we can get self-deprecating, we're never satisfied.

I'm probably not so much honest as in a bad mood. I've been out of work for a few months and it's driving me to distraction. Combine that with a lifelong susceptibility to depression and I might bite a bit more than needed.

Endomorphic . . . a number of guys here have the same problem, they know where you're coming from. Myself, I have to stuff myself morning, noon, and night. My belly is swollen from all the forced feeding, I look pretty weird.

Charities, guess I could have been specific. I was thinking of Special Olympics and stuff where people have physical disabilities. I've seen videos of guys who are wheelchair bound and play tennis. If you want determination and iron will, you can't find better.


Hooya !!!


30 seconds? That's it? My highs can last for days. Especially after meets. It's a tremendous rush for me. Quite honestly, I can't imagine my life without competitive powerlifting now.


well, there is the other high that can last for a while longer. the high of getting a new PR etc.

but i'm talking about a very specific biological type high... i've googled to try and find out more about it... it is a high like i've literally had a big hit of methamphetamine. or like the high of an orgasm. a 'i can't see or really do anything but just stand there and feel the wonderful wonderful high' kinda high. not sure what it is... maybe something to do with the way i hold my core / my breathing on max efforts? dunno.

once i felt it once i was totally hooked, though.



I used to get highs like that as a climber (no pun intended) when i had pulled off a serises of hard moves or finished an intense route--and that would be with me for days.


My motivation has changed a lot over the years. When I started it was to get bigger and stronger for sports, then I discovered I liked lifting more than playing and the sports fell by the wayside. Then I went through a stage of just wanting to be BIG and when I achieved my goal (230 lbs @ 5'8") I decided I didn't like how I felt. So now I've dropped down to a weight that I feel more comfortable at and am now trying to get as strong as possible while maintaining this weight.

I don't have a problem with day to day motivation, because to be honest I've been lifting 3+ times a week for so long now (over 20 years) that it's so much a part of my routine that I could no more go a few days without lifting than I could without eating or sleeping. It sounds cheesy, but it's true.

My goals going forward are to keep setting lifetime PRs as long as I can and when I can no longer achieve that it will be to be stronger at 50 than I was at 30, or stronger at 60 than I was at 25 etc. I am a meticulous record keeper (I have a written record of every single w/o I've ever done. I can find out exactly what I benched aged 25 or squatted aged 32 etc) so this will be easy to check.

I don't think it's possible to motivate someone else. It has to come from within. You've either got it or you don't.


Here's what keeps me motivated...last Saturday my mom called me because my old man was trying to take down an old swingset in their backyard...they're getting ready to move and it's one of the things the buyers wanted done...she asked me to come over and help...he'd been at it about an hour with screwdrivers and wrenches and shit and hadn't gotten very far...I told him to go inside and I'd take care of it...I tipped the swing set on its side and beat the hell out of it with my sledgehammer....30 minutes later it was in 4 foot sections at his curb waiting for the trashmen.

About 6 months ago I was doing some work on my mother-in-law's deck. She Says brother was 'helping' me. We had to rip out some old boards and replace them with new ones. We each had a crowbar. I pulled up all the boards after he determined he was physically unable to pry one up. He is about 8 years older than me (48 compared to my 40), but I don't see me wussing out at 48.

It is tough to stay motivated when you realize no matter how buff you get you're not getting new ass after marriage (PushHarder aside), but it's still fun to see the looks of girls 20 years younger than you...I'd get these anyway as I'm extremely handsome and chicks just naturally dig me, but the buffness helps.


I think you could really benefit from some classes in boosting self-esteem.