Do you suffer from one-season motivational disorder? Symptoms include a severe lack of measureable progress in the gym after September 1 accompanied by an increase in sad gazing at old progress pics, beach pics, and PR posts. If you feel like the end of summer means the end of your reason to train like a beast, you're definitely suffering from this condition.
Talk to your doctor, and you'll probably get laughed at and told you're doing fine. But MuscleTech's lineup of year-round athletes can help you! Here's how they change things up to keep their motivation from hitting the ground with the leaves!
1. Check In With Yourself
Before you change anything this fall, do a quick but thorough self-inventory about what has worked—and not worked—for you this year so far. MuscleTech athlete Jimmy Everett says that his motivation in the cold months usually comes from the lessons he learns the previous summer season. "I use the knowledge I've gained during the summer to ensure I get even better results next time," he says. "Now's a great time to learn what works for you."
This approach requires you to be honest with yourself, which isn't always easy. Were you miserable during that low-carb cut? Did you commit yourself to an ambitious program that competed too much with your family or social time? These are both problems that can get in the way of your results long term. Now is when you need to start planning to keep it from happening again.
2. New Season, New Goal
The whole "cutting for the summer" thing is kind of a cliché, but if you think about it, it kind of makes sense. When it's hot outside, appetite is relatively low, sweating is the norm, and activity is everything. High-rep, high-volume, lower-weight training just feels right.
So what would fall-style training be? Maybe the reps go down a bit and you focus on adding some strength. That's how physique competitor Edward "Mr. Physique" Honn does it. "Now that summer is over, my goals sometimes venture away from physical appearance and focus more on either performance or lifestyle," he explains.
He recommends working toward a new PR or learning a new fitness skill entirely during this time—maybe something ambitious like a single-arm push-up or a full toes-to-bar hanging leg raise. Then when winter settles in, you can push around some big weights and add some muscle while it's cold outside, or have time to master your new skill so you can show it off next year.
Lindsay Cappotelli echoes Honn's advice and says that she's had great success when she shifts to performance-oriented goals, like boosting her squat PR or getting better at handstands. "In general, I've found when I focus on performance, I tend not to slack off on my workouts," she says.
3. Change Your Approach to Progress Pictures
How many progress pictures do you take a year? If you're like many people, it's somewhere around two. One is a dejected "before" that you take almost like punishment, and the other—if you get there— is your triumphant "after" 12 weeks or so later.
This may do wonders for your motivation, but is it realistic? A year is far longer than 12 weeks, so why not take progress photos more often—like every seven days?
"I take weekly progress pictures to hold myself accountable," says bikini athlete Katie Miller. She says this approach helps her avoid those "Oh my god what have I become?" realizations we've all experienced. "Plus, with the colder months approaching and all those delicious pumpkin spice recipes around, it's easy to put on extra weight without noticing."
If you're going to take the first recommendation seriously and train for some new goals during the fall, you may see small changes in your physique. Maybe you'll notice a little more size here, a little loss of definition there, a little more definition in some unexpected places. Don't jump to conclusions or make panicked decisions! Keep perspective and learn what you can along the way.
4. Take Your Workouts Outside
Another trick Cappotelli likes to use is to perform a couple workouts each week outside the sweaty confines of the gym. "Fall is the perfect time of year to take some of your workouts outside," she says. "There's just something about being out in the fresh, cool air that energizes and lifts my spirits. Plus, sometimes a change in environment is all you really need."
She often does her conditioning workouts outside because they require minimal equipment. You don't have to go far. The nearest park or sidewalk is sufficient, and equipment is minimal. "A kettlebell and a jump rope are all I need for a great sweat session," she explains.
Here are two quick, easy routines that can be done anywhere:
Jump, swing, jump
5. Go Back to Class
The more exact your goals, the more personalized—and in many cases, isolated—your training becomes. Sometimes, that can be just what you need to maximize results. But on the other hand, as the song says, everybody needs somebody sometimes.
IFBB Figure Pro Elissa Martis knows how to do the work to get ready for the stage, but she says she'll also save room in her schedule for something unexpected and social, like a new acro-yoga or Pilates class with a friend.
"Trying a whole new style of workout is always exciting for me," she says. "But at the same time, it's hard going to a new class by yourself. Having a workout partner there with you makes it way more fun, but keeps you both accountable, too."