Until last year, nothing could keep me from my karate training. I trained religiously, attended every possible class at the dojo, competed regularly in tournaments, cross-trained daily, and did whatever I could to improve in martial arts and get an edge in competition.

I felt awesome. Never felt healthier or fitter in my life, despite being in my 40s. Despite all of the stress in my life. My motivation to train never faltered, and I had a momentum going and felt happier than I’d felt in years.

But then last year everything started to fall apart. My mom passed away after a very heart-wrenching struggle with cancer. My divorce got very complicated and stressful. I dealt with harassment by another karate student, and ended up having a falling out with my Sensei and quitting the dojo. It really did feel like one awful thing after another last year, and with that my motivation shriveled and all but vanished. My favourite thing in the world—karate—felt like one more thing on a neverending, highly stressful to-do list. I didn’t feel like training at all, which really did break my heart.

My favourite thing to do, the one thing that got me through my mom’s cancer and my failing marriage and all the other stress: not feeling like it?? This was so disappointing to me. What was wrong with me?? There must be something wrong with me. This is what I thought at the time, but I realize now that that loss of motivation was pretty normal and expected considering the incredible stress I was under.

And what about my motivation now? A lot of that stress has dissipated, and I do feel like I’m slowly getting my drive and my passion back. And some days I feel very motivated to train, but other days I still don’t feel like it. So how do I stay consistent with my training on the days that motivation fails me?

Here are the main things that have helped me stay consistent despite low motivation:

  • Figure out your deepest “why” for training. If you can figure out your REAL reason for training, it will be much easier to stay consistent with your training on even your toughest days.
  • Optimize your environment to make training easier. If you train at home, for instance, create some space for training and keep your gear (weapons, dumbbells, etc) handy and VISIBLE so that it will be much easier to train. Otherwise it could be out of sight, out of mind.
  • Consider putting on your workout clothes or martial arts uniform when you’re at home. I like to put my workout clothes on first thing in the morning. Having the proper clothing on makes it much more likely that I will train. It’s one less obstacle in the way of my training.
  • Reduce friction as much as possible. Try to eliminate the obstacles that get in the way of your training, such as the sound of constant notifications on your phone. This is a big obstacle for me. I usually have to put my phone on focus mode or in another room entirely, otherwise I’ll get easily distracted by all of those notifications.
  • If you’re really feeling stuck, take a small action. Train for 5 minutes or less. Do one kata. One set of kicks. One punch. One block. Keep it as easy as possible so that it seems silly to NOT train. Starting is often the hardest part, and more often than not once we’ve started with that small action, it will be much easier to continue with a longer training session.
  • Most important point: ACTION OFTEN COMES BEFORE MOTIVATION. If we wait for motivation to strike, we might never train at all. Taking a small action, and reducing friction as much as possible, can help us build up confidence in ourselves, and thereby increase our motivation to train.

I go more in depth on these points in my latest podcast episode and video. You can listen to the episode here, as well as wherever you prefer to listen to your favourite podcasts. You can find links to all the major directories on this page here.

Episode 12

Show Notes for Episode 12

Have you ever struggled with motivation in your martial arts training? Join me in this episode as I share my story of how I lost motivation to train, and what I’m doing now to build it back up again.

Here’s the link to the study I talked about in this episode: https://elifesciences.org/articles/18422

Thank you for joining me on my martial arts journey, and in the exploration of all the ways we can perform better in life and martial arts.

You can also find me on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/thekarateshrimp

Check out my online courses here: https://thekarateshrimp.podia.com/

If you’re interested in starting your own podcast, I highly recommend Buzzsprout. The platform is incredibly easy to use. If you sign up for a paid plan through my link you’ll get a $20 credit, and you’ll help support my show! Here’s that sign-up link: https://www.buzzsprout.com/?referrer_id=2039494

Thank you for listening! Together let’s build a community of strong, healthy, awesome martial artists.

If you prefer the video version of this episode, you can watch it here:

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What do you do on those days that you don’t feel motivated to train, or do something else that’s important to you? I’d love to hear from you! Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

Recommended Resources

You’re reading When Motivation Fails: How to Stay Consistent in Martial Arts by Sabrina Bliem, originally posted on The Karate Shrimp. If you’ve enjoyed this post, be sure to follow The Karate Shrimp on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!