top of page
  • Writer's pictureJulian Molteno


I have spent a huge amount of my life in the gym, either training or coaching, and have loved every single moment of it! In the 39 years that I have been a bodybuilder I have very seldom not wanted to train, and very rarely have I actually missed a workout. My love for training, and the whole health and fitness lifestyle, is undiminished — in fact it is stronger than ever. It is who I am and without it, I don’t really know who I would be. I never have to question myself or my motivation — it’s just there. For many of my clients however, it is not that simple, and keeping their motivation strong, enabling them to continue training over the long-term, can be difficult. What exactly is it that motivates one to train hard and with enthusiasm, year-in and year-out? Most people start training in order to reach a goal — to gain or lose 5k — or whatever. That is their motivation. They set their goals and prepare to succeed, because with hard work and dedication — any goal is possible. At this early stage their focus is about achieving something in the future. The new trainer may not necessarily even enjoy training, it is merely a means to an end. Of course, the actual training is important, but the goal is their main emphasis. Once you have lost/gained your 5kg — then what? The emphasis changes from goal-orientated training to ?? What does the long-term athlete focus on? What keeps them motivated and pumped and loving their workouts? I remember a few years ago reading that Michael Johnson, the legendary athlete, a four-time Olympic sprint champion, had had a stroke. He was just 50 years old at the time. Johnson, an athlete once so supreme that he was known as Superman, was now enfeebled. In the 1990s, he was the fastest man in history over 200 and 400 metres. 

Michael Johnson, once the fastest man in history over 200 and 400 meters.  Part of the article concerned his recovery, the first stage of which involved a physiotherapist helping him to learn to walk again, using a walking frame. Johnson says, “Ironically, the first day we covered about 200 metres – having been the world record-holder at that event, it wasn’t the most positive thing.” He had clocked 19.32 seconds while breaking the world record in Atlanta. But the same distance that first day with the physio took 10 minutes. The following day they covered the 200 meter distance again and this time they managed to knock a few seconds off the previous day’s time. What others might have considered miniscule, loomed large to Johnson. Remember, this is a man who once "shattered" a world record by 34-hundredths of a second. He drew on a key lesson of his path to sporting glory: often progress comes in small, incremental steps. Johnson’s appreciation of the small incremental gains that life-long sportsmen and women have to accept, is a lesson for us as it is a part of the answer to our question of how we continue to maintain our enthusiasm for training in the long-term.  

The Rule of Diminishing Returns.  Large gains become smaller ones. Progress is more subtle and harder to define. The rule of diminishing returns becomes an unwelcome reality — and sometimes we make no progress at all! We can even regress through injury, etc. As progress is now much slower, we have to celebrate small successes as we adjust to the new norm. It is important at this stage that you be resilient and don’t listen to the nay-sayers. As the American minister and author, Norman Vincent Peale, known for his work in popularizing the concept of positive thinking once said, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars”.  

Norman Vincent Peale. What a positive looking man! Accepting this new status quo is important, but that in itself, will not be enough to maintain any serious level of enthusiasm if we remain primarily goal-focussed. The key is to stop chasing your future goals, and start enjoying the pleasures of training in the present! In other words, our satisfaction at achieving a goal is replaced by the satisfaction of the process of achieving a goal. This is a critical change of focus because now the training itself is the reward! You must still have a goal — but don’t forget to enjoy the journey. Although he was massively goal oriented, Arnold was well known for his pure enjoyment of training. This celebration of hard physical endeavour was encapsulated in a fantastic phrase, coined by Charles Gains in his book, Pumping Iron. Gains described how Arnold trained with more dedication and focus than all of his peers, and what’s more he did it with a love and passion and desire that eclipsed them all too! The phrase he used to describe this phenomenon was, a “Fierce Joy!!” Those two words sum up the whole reason why Arnold was the man he was, and why he has achieved so much. If only we could make him our pattern and our guide — in bodybuilding and in all things — we would all be out there conquering worlds! “Driving our enemies before us and hearing da lamentation of da vimin!!” 

Another change that occurs for the long-term trainer that makes the actual training enjoyable — as is the case in all things that you practice at for a considerable amount of time — you actually get pretty good at it! As beginners we have so little skill that we can’t really get much enjoyment out of training. When we can Bench 200 kilos, (even though we have not increased that weight by much in years) that in itself is very rewarding. This level of expertise does not happen overnight, so you need to take time to understand yourself, (and others!) acknowledging that it is the training itself, that brings you a real satisfaction. Believe in yourself, and do everything in your gym-life with conviction, and you will be set to train with enjoyment and satisfaction for a whole lifetime! 

165 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page