Exercise Motivation: 5 tips to keep you training for a year.

Steven Gregory

Without doubt it's the thing I hear most. 'I am lacking motivation at the minute.' A sentence I was using myself just a few weeks ago. Since completing the Ironman I was seriously lacking any motivation to train, I would be aimlessly walking round the gym and eating whatever I fancied. But that's been flipped on it's head, and here's how...

Goal setting is a well known term. We think of goal setting as a way to measure our success, either we hit our goal or we don't, we win or lose, we get the bonus or we don't. This is what's known as an outcome goal, one that is completely determined on the success or failure to hit a specific target. I believe it is important to have an outcome goal, it ensures that we can plan a path to get there which leads me on to process goals.

Process goals are less common, but in fact, are proven to produce much better adherence than outcome goals. A study found in the international journal of sport and exercise psychology which tested 60 recreational exercises who were split randomly between process goals or outcome goals concluded...

'Repeated Measures ANOVA results indicated that the participants in the process goal group scored significantly higher interest/enjoyment and perceived choice, significantly lower pressure/tension, and had significantly greater adherence compared to the outcome goal and control groups.'

I used process goals in my Ironman training, each week I would set a target of time spent in each discipline. I would mark it green if I hit the target, amber if I was close, or red if I didn't. This process allowed to to detach myself from the end outcome goal, and focus on the process of how to get there. See my first 12 week of training below. (This was during lockdown when pools and lakes were closed.)

First 12 weeks of process goals for Ironman training

So how can you create a process goal to keep you motivated to exercise for 1 year? Follow these steps.

  1. Set an outcome goal for at least 12 months away. This should be a performance goal, rather than a body composition goal. Mine is to run a sub 3 hour marathon in Florence in November 2022. It's important to have a stretch goal that scares you a little bit. This will not only keep you more motivated, but also the feeling of achieving it will be the proudest you've been of yourself in years!

  1. Work back in 6-12 week increments to the present day, setting smaller outcome goals at each step. Mine is to hit PB's in 5k, 10k, half marathon and sprint triathlon at certain times between now and Florence. This is important to not only keep you motivated short term, but also help to plan your process goals.

  1. Create process goals for next week that aligns with your next outcome goal. This is where you might need help if you aren't confident with writing your own training plan. My next outcome goal is to run a sub 5 minute mile, and so I have appointed a coach to help with that. My process is to do 2 x interval runs, 1 x long run and 3 x gym sessions each week.

  1. Create accountability by telling everyone about your outcome goal, and your process goal. This is often where people fall down. They internalise their goals, and it's much easier to let ourselves down when no one realises that we even started.

  1. Focus just on the process. Even though you've set your outcome goal, if we were to focus purely on that then small blips that we will inevitably hit can derail us when it comes to motivation. It is unlikely that you'll go a whole year without injury, illness or uncontrollable events, these are often the things that result in quitting because we feel that the outcome goal is unachievable if we can't train for a few weeks. Focusing on the process will help you detach from feeling like you'll fail and find enjoyment from staying present and working on yourself today, rather than worrying about failing in the future.

Give this a go and if you're struggling with it, send me an email on steven@fitlife.co.uk , I love talking about goals and would be happy to help!


Steven Gregory