Ask Live Hard

Ask Live Hard: how do you get motivated?

Written by joelsnape
[Editor’s note: So I’ve started getting enough actual questions to think that answering them would be a good idea. Ask Live Hard is going to be a new semi-regular feature. Got a question? Ask me directly @joelsnape or via the contact form.]
How do I get motivated to train at home? I’ve got some dumbbells, a barbell, an EZ bar and a pullup bar.
David, via Twitter
Okay, here’s a scenario: imagine you’ve been told that you’re going to have to self-perform a five-minute medical procedure twice a day, every day, for the rest of your life – because if you don’t, quite an important part of you is going to rot away. That would be awful, right? Well, if you haven’t heard this one before, I’ve got bad news for you: that’s exactly what brushing your teeth is about.
So the truth is: you really don’t need motivation. You need to think about training like brushing your teeth: a task that gets done, because you know it will drastically improve your quality of life, now and in the future. Similarly, there are basically two reasons most people want to start training:
a) Try to stay as healthy as you can for as long as you can, in order to play with hypothetical grandkids and be able to get off the toilet unassisted until you die. If this is what you want you don’t have to train all that hard.
b) Get jacked right now, so that you look good in well-fitted clothes and are more capable of physical feats of derring-do (beating up muggers, sprinting across town when you’re late, various sports, helping people move house).
You can, of course, train for both of these goals at once: that’s why I do. They aren’t mutually exclusive. But it’s useful to realise that there’s a distinction between them.
If you want the first one, I can’t write you a workout that’s much better than Dan John’s Costa Rica plan. Just do this two or three times a week, in your house, and start walking/taking the stairs more than you do now. That alone should strengthen your bones, keep your bodyfat down, work on the major muscular imbalances caused by modern living, and vastly reduce your chances of getting a lot of terrible ailments. It’s easy, and you don’t have to get hyped to do it. Just think of it as something that has to be done, like brushing your teeth and paying into a pension plan. It will work.
If you want the second one, you need to work a bit harder, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Just remember: as long as you recover properly, your body will adapt to what you make it do. What should you make it do? Probably this: compound, full-body movements like squats, press-ups, planks, dips and pullups. If you’ve got weights, push-press, overhead press and some sort of bent row/one-armed row are a good idea. Now, the real secret:
Do all these in whatever way makes you most hyped. 
Personally, I spent a good six months getting totally ripped doing little other than the Bas Rutten MMA workout CD, where a giant Dutch kickboxer yells at you to do pressups. I used to do barbell complexes while I watched UFC fights, and I’ll attack a deck of cards workout for no good reason other than it existing. I hate tempo training, but that’s just me: lots of people I know love it, and are in better shape than me because of it. As long as you’re actually doing a sensible mixture of legitimate moves, a shit-ton of intensity will trump almost any training programme you can find on the internet. You don’t need this to become healthier or more efficient as a person, but if you want to look like Wolverine it helps to think like him. Easy.
So there you go: either do a nice, easy, life-extending workout…or put on Rocky IV and do a load of press-ups. Prepare for playing notional sports with grandchildren that don’t exist yet – or get a back like a magnificent viking for the next beach season. Or: do both. Preferably do both. Live Hard!

About the author


Editor and creator of Live Hard. Fighting enthusiast, steak lover and aficionado of all things self-improvement related.


  • Good read!
    Some people find it hard to change because they focus on the big picture and forget that they can eventually achieve it through small changes like taking the stairs instead of elevator, opting for water or fresh juice than soda, etc.

  • I like the comparison between working out and brushing the teeth. I sometimes feel too lazy to work out but what keeps me going is the thought of growing old and still capable of playing with my grandchildren (that would be decades from now though).

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