The Current State Of Fitness Motivation

26 Oct The Current State Of Fitness Motivation

Look at your phone and you’ll find ten people you follow who all write twenty lines of caption for every single Instagram post. Then there’s the dramatic picture or video with all the plays on lighting designed to invoke some kind of emotion in you. Stir you to action today to buy whatever product the person is selling or buy them more influence. I’ve done it… I’ve approved of it when seeing certain people do it… And I’ve made fun of it too at other times… But let me be clear in my point –  I think somethings should be described with more words rather than less. I think that some narratives should be shared and language should be used in an expressive and creative way to define or call attention to something.

I love poetry, I love stories, I love reading the sharpened thought and personal stance of others.

If their words come from a place of sincerity, if it’s the spoken truth of who they are, if they act from a true desire to help and reach others, they should never stop telling their story.

But it’s important to see if what someone is saying is their truth or if they’re simply repeating the words of others. Some will try to share and teach the words of others without having listened closely enough to truly understand the ideas behind them. Some haven’t walked far enough on their own two feet to properly sift through what is useful and not so they can formulate an actual coherent and helpful opinion of their own. But what you do see, at a much larger scale than we should be comfortable with, are those who’ve learned who and what to copy, or what bits of ideas to include in their speech that reaches and markets to the largest and most general audience. And this is the strategy of marketing that you see in the caption below the picture on Instagram.

But before you do more the same, ask yourself if what you’re going to share to motivate others is your truth. If you publicly share your successes and struggles against obstacles, make sure those obstacles were real and not imagined. Make sure you truly came out of a struggle stronger with insight worthy of sharing. Your internal narrative and subjective experience doesn’t cut it. You must have real tangible evidence that you slayed a dragon. You need to have your body of work before you which others can actually seen. The fitness motivator who tells people to quit their job and follow their passion, because the money will follow, better not still be poor. That’s great that you feel rich in your mind, but not everyone can get their mother to make them sandwiches each day because they can’t afford groceries.  

I’ve started training hard and putting in effort to compete these last few months. It’s the first time I’ve been able to do so in almost three years. As I trained for my last competition, I could have posted black and white pictures to Instagram with melodramatic captions talking about my “return to the platform” or something like that. Everyone would have seen how righteous I am to overcome my difficulties and return to my love for competition. It crossed my mind. And if I would have done it, it would have been absolutely, completely ridiculous.

The truth is, I should have never lost as much strength as I did and become as lazy and complacent as I did. I had injuries, I had difficulties, I was burnt out. That’s fine. Me finally lifting weights again for myself doesn’t make me a hero, it sets me back on my path. The path I should have never gotten off of despite my excuses. That’s it.

So instead, I made public jokes about how I would perform on the platform. Congratulations to me that I was able to regain a little bit of the strength that I had already built once upon a time. I’ve been able to share my commitment to becoming a stronger person again (despite the demands I now have on my life) with people, and I’m happy I can do that. And I’m happy there are a couple of people who listen to this and who are motivated by it. But to talk about or act this out in some ridiculous sanctimonious way would be absurd and completely self-serving.

I got stronger, good. That was the job I set out to do. I did my job, that’s all. I was a little less of a piece of shit. There’s nothing heroic about it.  I’ll let the man whose trained hard for thirty years with no time off post the black and white pictures and talk about his journey. Because I guarantee his is something worth listening to. I’ll let the man who pushed himself to his absolute limit to compete against the strongest human beings in the world talk about the life lessons that can be taken from getting physically stronger.

I’m not opposed to people sharing information and experience and providing a spark for people to start, even if they don’t necessarily have decades of experience in whatever they’re talking about. And I’m sure I’m a part of the problem. I’ve tried to inspire people in exchange for people liking me. But with all this focus on motivating others, there’s no one left who stokes the fires. Leaders in this weird subculture are more interested in making people emotional than giving people tools and substance to use to focus on the daily practice and process that will keep them on the warpath. Instead they irresponsibly spark people who have no capacity to keep moving forward. Motivation wanes. No one wakes up everyday inspired. After a few days of waking up uninspired, someone may think they’re is something wrong with them or that they’re not suited for this kind of life. So instead of going to the gym, going through the process, doing the work as a blue collar worker, working on despite how they feel, they pause everything until they get the same feeling back they first had. They’ll spend most of their time searching for their favorite strength and fitness motivators on YouTube, Instagram, and FaceBook. And they’ll never get any of the work done.   

But your weekly Instagram post with all the right filters and angles with a caption underneath that tells of all the lessons you’ve learned “under the bar” in the twenty four months you’ve been lifting weights is really just a way for you to promote yourself and show others how this passion of yours has made you so much more of an insightful person. Good for you, I’m glad you’re more insightful. But what you’re sharing isn’t true wisdom that can apply across time for all people in all situations. You only extract wisdom like that from dedication to a craft after decades and decades of experience. Your current wisdom is just a collection of utterances resembling that which a Pee Wee football coach would tell his kids to get them hyped up for a game.  

Fitness motivators like this remind me of someone who preaches about the importance and necessity of mediation who belittles people outside their social group and speaks poorly of others more often than not. What enlightenment did mediation bring this person? They’re just as much a miserable creature as the rest of us. They’re still as self-absorbed and dismissive.

Maybe this seems to be just a tired rant to you. But I think this is part of a larger more important conversation. And I think it’s irresponsible not to label this problem. Those looking to lift a barbell for the first time or lose weight or get into CrossFit or pick up powerlifting see all of these stylized pictures and motivational memes and aren’t yet perceptive enough to see that it’s not real. You won’t have it all figured out after a year of training. You won’t be THAT strong. You won’t stay motivated. You won’t look the way you dreamed you would. You’ll be better off for sure, and you’ll be walking the line that teaches you something about yourself every day.

But even though some attempt to inspire from an earnest place, more and more of your Instagram feed is filled with posts from people trying to puff you up with false expectations so that you buy into them.

If you can instead manage to move past the need to draw fire from others, and understand that the will to continue each day comes from unrelenting discipline rather than emotion, you will no longer need or want the empty and useless motivation of others who have nothing real to say and are in fact more dependent on others than you are.


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