I Can’t Motivate You

As a personal trainer, I’ve had many clients over the years who have wanted me to hold their hand. Not literally, of course. They’ve wanted me to make them do the work. To motivate them. To not only give them the tools to achieve their goals, but be there supporting them every step of the way.

How often have you heard a personal trainer describe themselves as a ‘motivator’? I’ve learned, through personal experience, that I cannot motivate another human being. I can put together the best training program possible, tailored for you. I can show you what to do, I can explain what will work and what won’t. I can do everything in my professional power to help you get the most out of working with me. But I can’t motivate you. The motivation is all on you.

I Can't Motivate You

I overheard a conversation last week, between a couple of people, talking about a female celebrity. The celebrity in question is clearly overweight and has had a yo-yo approach to health and weight loss over the years. The essence of the discussion came down to this:

“I just don’t understand why she’s not in shape. If I had that much money and spare time, I’d have a trainer every day, someone to do all my meal planning and cooking – I just think it would be impossible not to be fit.”

I’m sure you’ve heard the same sentiment expressed  – maybe you’ve even said something similar yourself. And it’s the perfect example that motivation can’t be hired, or bought, or come from an extrinsic source. Even people who have every resource available to work out, eat right and take care of themselves physically and mentally struggle with the motivation it requires.

It’s incredibly uncomfortable to admit when your lack of success, or your failing, can’t be blamed on someone or something else. I’ve been on the receiving end of a client telling me I haven’t done my job because they are not where they hoped they would be (which I’ve learned not to take personally). I’ve also been privy to hearing a multitude of excuses as to why a client can’t do workouts on their own, or stick to their eating plan. I understand why it happens – I don’t like admitting that I skipped a workout because I didn’t feel like it, not because I didn’t have time, either. At this point in my career, it really doesn’t take me long to work out if a prospective client I’m meeting with has the motivation and mindset it takes to make our relationship work.

So, what’s the secret to motivating yourself? If you were hoping I’d reveal the secret, I’m afraid I have bad news. The truth is, I don’t know. It’s going to be different for every person and there countless variables involved. I’ve come to believe that rather than trying to work out what your motivation is for getting fit and healthy, your real focus should be on the areas you’re looking for some hand-holding. Those are your personal roadblocks and if you can find ways around them, it might give you the push you need to take control.

For example – if you have no problem doing cardio at the gym, but you’ve never worked out with weights, think about the underlying issue. Do you feel intimidated by the people using the weights? Try changing your routine to see if there’s a different crowd, or even switch gyms if you’re truly uncomfortable. Do you just have no idea what to do when it comes to strength training? You could always do an introductory session with a trainer, or even take exercises you’ve done in a group exercise class and put together your own routine.

If your main sticking point is being able to eat healthy, think about what the real impediment is – is it lack of time for cooking? Lack of ability for cooking? Are you looking for comfort through food? Find that root issue and deal with it – if you can’t cook, maybe take classes, or make a deal with someone in your household to cook if you clean. If you’re a comfort eater, think about ways you can lighten up your favorites so you can indulge without a massive calorie hit. Or find a therapist who can work with you on emotional issues that might be surfacing in your eating habits.

Finally, remember that what you want to get out of exercising and eating well doesn’t have to be what every women’s magazine claims you should want. Move your body because it feels good. Find a workout that makes you feel strong, or happy, or accomplished, or even all three! Eat well because you feel better when you do.

Find your own motivation and make it work – for you.

Is there any area you look to others to provide the motivation?

What works for you to get motivated?


  1. Great post, Carly! I think this is true in all aspects of life and most often we have to be open to change and putting in the effort 🙂
    Susan Fishback recently posted…Simply Kid Chefs: Taco BurgersMy Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Yes, you’re right! It does carry over into every aspect of life. I knew you’d relate to this post!!

  2. YES! Carly this is right on. I get frustrated with this a lot, people thinking that the only reason they aren’t in shape is because they don’t have their own personal trainer. Poeple tell me a lot that if they had a coach telling them what to do, they would do it….no, you would still be able to find some excuse, people always can. Some days I don’t feel like running, I really don’t want to get out the door, do you think I don’t have excuses to get out of it? Of course I do….but that is all about my own personal motivations why I get out there. These celebrities could still lie to their trainers and say they are eating salads. It also reminds me of how people say to me that it is “easy” for me to be thin…..NO! I work damn hard at it, I EARN those calories I get to enjoy. Sorry for the conversation with myself here, but I think you see what I am saying 😛
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    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Exactly! I definitely have gotten to the point where I can let it roll off my back if a client were to blame me for their lack of effort/motivation, but it does irritate me if someone says something like, “It’s easy for you to stay in shape because you’re a trainer.” I lie in bed wondering if maybe I should just skip my run today, I have internal debates about maybe I should skip the weights today and write instead. It’s not easy to push myself to workout when I’m not feeling it – that’s not easy for anyone!

  3. Reason #1 why I let my PT certification expire and why I no longer train people. I’m okay teaching a Pilates class (which I’m still certified to do) but not working with people one on one.

    I’m not always motivated. I do what I need to do for my body because it’s what I need to do to be healthy. A little self-respect doesn’t hurt either. I hate to be harsh but that’s honestly the way I feel about it.
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  4. Loved this. I think it boils down to priorities. Many do not want to admit it, but we make time and sacrifices for what is truly important to us. Easier said than done sometimes, I know.
    Marcia recently posted…My First RaceMy Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Yup, lots of time and sacrifice for anything you really want to go after. It’s true of anything!

  5. Great post Carly! I think it’s so true! I’m going to share this with people!
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  6. I love, love, LOVE this post! I especially like what you said about the celebrity. Several years ago I joined a gym and I was like most girls who went straight to the back to the elliptical and avoided weights. I was SO intimidated to lift anything because I didn’t know what I was doing. The funny thing is, now that I actually do lift weights I’ve found that 99% of the other gym-goers are so friendly and helpful! They’re there because they have a passion for fitness– not to judge others. I pinned this 🙂
    Caroline recently posted…Don’t Fear The Dumbbells! – Arms & Shoulders [workout]My Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Thanks for pinning, Caroline! You know, it’s funny, I nearly wrote in the post, “You might be surprised to find if you talk to the people you’re intimidated by, they’re probably the most friendly, helpful people you’ll meet,” but I think that’s easier said than done – approaching people can be way too far out of many people’s comfort zone!

  7. Love this! Motivation is a finicky thing and I truly believe that it’s the real source behind why so many people yo yo or are always on a diet, yet never losing weight. You have to want to be fit more than you want daily dessert and indulgences.

    Definitely sharing this one!
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    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Thanks, Jenni! Definitely it has a lot to do with diet and nutrition as well. We can find crutches and excuses everywhere!!

  8. It’s interesting because I don’t need to lose weight, but I can see how this applies to many facets of life. So very many. What is the magic formula? I have been there before – not doing the work I need to do for something I CARE about. Sometimes it takes rock bottom or worse.
    Such a thoughtful post.
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    • Carly Pizzani says:

      It could apply to anything, you’re right. It’s amazing how far we can let ourselves get off the track to achieving something we really want. Maybe from fear? Who knows.

  9. Great post! As a personal trainer myself I know what you mean. You can be someone’s biggest cheerleader but they have to want to do it and put the effort in.
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    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Yes, good analogy – we can cheer them on but they have to motivate themselves!

  10. This happens with me and clients as well. I try to provide motivational ideas, encouragement, offer suggestions, etc. But ultimately it comes down to them really really wanting it and stopping all the excuses. it’s really frustrating sometimes b/c I want it so badly for them too. But I can’t DO it for them.

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      It can be super frustrating. I feel like we develop a sixth sense for who’s ready and who’s not, as well. But you never know, I’ve had clients not succeed and then get back in touch after a long absence to say, “I’m ready now and I remembered something you said that finally clicked for me.” And that’s pretty fulfilling. 🙂

  11. That last paragraph? Spot on.
    Funny that you should write about this since for me, it’s not so much the motivation as the negative self-talk. In a similar way, only I can really banish that self-talk and turn it positive.
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