There’s a guy at our gym who was a contender on an one of those popular extreme fitness shows– which is extra cool since I live in a very tiny town. We’d see him daily training hard. I mean haaaard. He was the kind of person that made you feel fitter just from having watched him. But gradually, we started seeing him less and less. One day, my partner said something about it, and the guy made a comment that’s rattled around in my head ever since: “I guess I’ve just lost my spark.” Powerful because it’s kind of a “community” experience. Who hasn’t lost their spark at some point, or for some reason?
What’s your “Spark”?
What is your “Spark”? It’s that thing that keeps you going. Even if you don’t really know what they do, maybe you’ve had to have the spark plugs changed in your car. My car recently started “chugging” as it was trying to go up a hill, and it was kind of rough as I started the engine. A visit to the mechanic told me that it might be time to get new spark plugs, because when they weren’t performing correctly, the engine couldn’t go– or at the very least, wouldn’t have any power. You get the idea.
I hear it from clients who have done amazing things like completing a half marathon, or losing a lot of weight– and then don’t quite know what to do with themselves after crossing a major finish line. I’ve seen it in moms who just want to feel at home in their bodies once more, but because life— coming to the gym and eating well are habits that never really take hold. And not just moms, but caregivers and stressed out professional people… and, and, and. There are lots of people who tell me they were fit years ago, but then something happened that knocked the wind out of their sails, and they never quite got started again. Trust me, I get it.
My own dear (for lack of a better word that possibly also starts with “D”) trainer recently had occasion to gently (nope, wait. Wrong person) point out that I was just wallowing, that my workouts were lame, and that I wasn’t nailing my meal plan. He put it bluntly: “You have no drive right now.” Truth. But if I had the get-up-and-go, I would have gotten up and gone, or at least gotten up and told him where exactly he could go. For the record, he wasn’t wrong. My body is still fighting hard against some still unnamable monster that is causing extreme fatigue and pain. (I’m working on it! But sometimes these things happen!) Before you’re too harsh on my trainer/best friend, he understands exactly where I am right now with my body. He knows about the changes to my workouts, etc. He wasn’t talking about that. He was correctly talking about my present mindset. He was saying that I was letting this “thing” handle me, instead of me handling it. He was saying I wasn’t living by my own words: Play Like a Champion Today
Finding Your Spark
So what do you do when you lose your spark, whether it’s been a few weeks, or so long that you’ve forgotten what it is to have a spark? Here are my best tips:
- Start with one thing: The most important thing is to not get overwhelmed by trying to do all the things all at once. Start with one thing that you can do right now. Maybe that’s replacing your sugary afternoon treat with some nuts and a little bit of dried fruit, which will give you sustained energy instead of a sugar high and subsequent crash. Maybe it’s rocking your breakfast. Maybe it’s setting down some nagging stress. Whatever your one thing is, commit to it, and nail it. What’s fantastic is that so often one healthy habit leads to another one! You choose a healthy breakfast, and all of the sudden, it’s easier to choose a healthy lunch, and then poof! You actually want to go to the gym.
- Don’t Wait: As I’ve written before: Perfection is the Enemy of Progress. So often, we look for a perfect time to start. Don’t do that. You’ll sabotage your bad self before you even get started. As the quote goes, “If you wait till you’re ready, you’ll spend your whole life waiting.” Just start. It doesn’t matter if your start is perfect– and truth be told, it probably won’t be. But start anyway. Don’t beat yourself up if something happens, just promise yourself that you will get back on track immediately.
- Focus on “cans”: When you’re spark-less, it’s easy to think about life in terms of “cant’s.” As a trainer, I won’t let my clients say that. I teach them to reframe their thinking. Say I asked for 12 reps with 15 pounds. Maybe that particular day, their body wouldn’t give them that. Buuuut… they can do 8 reps with 15 pounds, and 4 reps with 12 pounds. That’s a win. The brain is a tricky thing. Let it celebrate what you can do, not pout over what isn’t working right now.
- Remember Your Goals: Sometimes, your goals are enough to give you a needed kick in the pants when nothing else will. Clients tell me they have events coming up, and want to lose 15-20 pounds or whatever. As long as these goals are reasonable, I think that can be healthy. Remembering that you want to feel comfortable in shorts at your family reunion this summer is a great way to focus your attention. Every year about this time, I hang up a 2 piece bathing suit on my mirror. I know what it’s like to hate my body, so it’s important for me to feel comfortable in my skin. Buuuuut this tip only works if you aren’t beating yourself up. If being reminded of your goal is making you wallow in whatever you have going on, don’t do this one!
- Pay Someone to Push You: Sometimes a little extra push goes a long way. My trainer rarely trains me any more, but there are plenty of times when I’ve called him and said “I just need you to put me on the mat. It’s for my brain as much as it is for my body.” I see this same idea in my clients all the time. They come in with a cloud hanging over them, but as their heart rate starts to elevate, they get kicked out of their comfort zone, and they remember how strong they are (and not just physically), the cloud starts to disperse. If you’re stuck, having someone push you safely, but effectively, can be a great motivator. Often, a great workout gives you such a rush that you want to do it again, and again.
Do you have any of your own tips for getting back on track when you’ve lost your spark? I’d love to hear them in the comments, or on social media!