Goals, Motivation and Structure in Uncertain Times

Jun 10, 2021 | Lifestyle

Where I’m at, in Alberta, it looks like we’re finally at a point where we can start opening up public gyms again… and maybe actually keeping them open.

I know most of my clients have found that being stuck inside has made their physical fitness goals pretty difficult.

I’ve spent most of 2020 and the beginning of 2021 doing what I can, building many (many) at-home workouts and tweaking clients’ nutrition needs to work around their new life accommodations.

For some, this has meant working from home; for some, it’s meant being laid off.

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy going to the gym. There’s the social aspect, as well as the sheer variety of equipment, and, well… there’s also the joy of just getting out of the damn house (which most of us need now more than ever).

Having our gyms open up has got me and many of my clients very excited.

(The fact that summer’s just around the corner might also be providing a bunch of motivation for us to shed some fluff.)

How to get back into the gym groove

So what’s the best way to actually take advantage of this?

Here are some ways that when you return to the gym, how to take advantage of it.

  1. Ease into things. Do NOT jump in with 135% intensity. Heck, don’t even jump in with 100% intensity. As tempting as it is to get in there and load up the bar or your favourite machine with your pre-COVID weights, rein it in just a bit. Your tendons, joints, and ligaments don’t grow as fast as your muscles, and they certainly don’t recover as fast. Get in the gym, ease into things as you get your groove back, and slowly increase the amount of sets/reps/weights you’re doing. You’ll thank me later.
  2. Nutrition can help you get back into your groove. This, too, can be an “easy into things” kinda deal. For example, if you were a “post-workout protein shake” kind of person, then start with that. If you had a specific meal you ate before your workout that made you feel good — not heavy in the stomach, and ready to crush it — then get back on that. The shock of hitting your “real” gym again is going to be big, so you don’t need to overhaul absolutely everything at once, but finding your way back — even with a small kickstarter like the shake or the meal — can have you feeling great and ready for more in no time.
  3. This will seem like a no-brainer, but: hydrate. Just trust me. If you’ve been home, or had quite an altered schedule from your norm, and now you’re going back in and pumping out quite a bit of extra sweat? Your body actually won’t be used to it. But remember to hydrate well during your first workouts back. Your body will remember this one quickly.
  4. Last: get all your ducks in a row beforehand. I.e., figure out your program. Knowing which workout to go back in with — how often, the reps, the sets, the weights — is imperative. Don’t just walk in there and then ask yourself, “Okay, now what?” Spend some time planning things out before. You’ll get more done in the gym, and the extra structure will help you. Set a goal and work backwards from there.


How to find structure and set goals

Finding structure and setting goals has been pretty difficult this past year.

Indeed, to all my competitors: I feel you. You have had one HECK of a ride from last year’s National Canadians being pulled out from under you at the last minute. I know that uncertainty about the summer shows is also unpleasant.

For those competitors who liked to use shows to provide a structure and a set of goals, it was not a fun year and it was a big shift.

With this in mind, for those who really do like that kind of structure, I’ve often been coaching my guys and gals for photoshoots or even mock preps (that, in some cases, could turn into the real deal, depending on how things go!).

I’ve noticed the following advantages or benefits of working towards a photoshoot:

  1. You get to pick the date. Being constrained to a show date 12-20 weeks away can be hard, what with working around family, work, and life. Most photographers you can book a few weeks or a few months out, and you can do it on your schedule. You still get the structure, but on your terms.
  2. You get to pick the style of shoot, and what you want to wear, location, along with a host of other great benefits. There’s an element of creativity to it. Every one of the photoshoots I’ve done have been a blast, including fitness and lifestyle ones.
  3. Social media allows you now to see a photographer’s portfolio instantly. There are a number of them that specialize in fitness photos and stuff like that. Browse their portfolio and tell me that’s not motivating.
  4. You get THE PHOTOS!!! I can tell you from personal experience this is very exciting, and when I did one of my “lifestyle” shoots with AJK photography, I don’t think I stopped having fun or laughing the entire time.
  5. Photoshoots are a fantastic alternative to “the stage” and all that comes with it. Now, to be clear, I love most of what comes with it (not everything, let’s be real), but even the stuff some people love about the stage is, well, not for everyone. With a photoshoot you can just… leave that out.

Me, looking serious and definitely not struggling to avoid bursting out in laughter.

Even before the pandemic I’ve found photoshoots helpful for clients who loved the structure of a show but for whom — for whatever reason — an actual show just wasn’t right for them.

For example, I had a client, Colette, who was struggling with being able to find a show date that worked for her. She lived in Alberta, Canada, where the show dates were all around June/July, then again in October/November. Well, Colette worked on a farm, and those were exactly the times she need to focus on the harvest.

But she also thrived on structure. I mentioned the possibility of a photoshoot, and so we started going over the pros and cons of a shoot versus a competition.

She told me that she even kinda had a photographer in mind, that she would be able to get some wicked pics done with some classic cars, motorcycles.

This was definitely enough to spark the excitement and the motivation.

She knew she’d be working towards a specific goal, just like with a show.

Instead of being “five weeks out” or “four weeks out” from a show, we just worked backwards from her shoot. We treated it just as “serious” or “real” as a show, to ensure commitment and adherence was there.

Despite originally feeling lost and frustrated, we found a way to create structure and a motivating goal.

…and by the end, she also had some truly badass photos of her with some slick cars.

Colette in front of a classic car

Certain Structure Despite an Uncertain Future

My point is that many things have changed and, sure, we don’t know to what extent things will go back to normal or how things will change in the future.


…as things do open up, you can still take advantage of some of the lightening restrictions, and you can certainly find ways to create motivation and structure and achieve your goals.

I’ve been excited assisting new and old clients get ready for this, and — obviously — I would love to help you out too. Now is a fantastic time to get a new personalized workout program and tailored nutrition just for you.

– Marty

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