Motivation is the hardest part of any serious exercise regime. It’s easy to muster up affection for abs when you’re psyched up and raring to go, but hauling ass to the gym on those days you just can’t be bothered is what separates the bodybuilders from the builder’s bums.

Soldiers, however, have no choice – something James Atkinson, a former member of the 9 Parachute Squadron and now a bodybuilder and author, knows all too well. After his career in the armed forces, the former paratrooper began applying regimental learnings to his gym regime.

To celebrate the release of his new book, Fitness & Exercise Motivation, we asked Atkinson to share his tips for giving dwindling drive the boot camp treatment.

1. Get A Solid Goal And A Reason To Match

“Most people want to lose a few pounds or pack on some lean muscle, but you should make your goal more specific. For example, if weight loss is your aim, decide exactly how much. Having a figure in mind will massively help with motivation and staying on track.

“It’s rarely as simple a case of ‘I need to lose weight because I’m overweight’, so dig deep and find the real reasons. Write them down, use photographs, sketches or anything physical to remind you. Then, should motivation dwindle, you can use these to keep you on-track.”

Set Goals

2. Ensure The Long Term Plan Is Sustainable

“The early stages are always highly fuelled with motivation, but it can lose its potency. It’s all too common to let the early motivation take charge and rush into the first training method that presents itself.

“From the outset, make sure any fitness plan is at least six weeks long, becomes more challenging over time, and isn’t too difficult in the first few weeks – don’t let overexertion sap your motivation in the early stages.”

3. Create Some Undeniable Accountability

“Nothing gets a person more motivated than accountability. If you make your goals common knowledge, there’ll be motivation from all angles.

“Let friends and family chart your progress with an email blast. If you don’t hit your goals, there’s room to feel like you’re letting the network down – and that’s the point. You’ll stay motivated, and a byproduct is the support you’ll receive when things get tough.”

Motivation

4. Don’t Discount Motivational Quotes

“[Motivational quotes are] not to be underestimated and can provide a powerful tool. Find some fitness or success quotes, or even pictures you find inspirational. Print them out and pin them up around your life – especially in places that tempt weakness, like the fridge, the TV or your work desk.”

5. Create A Playlist Or Audio Motivational Material

“Motivation during a workout is just as important. A good playlist is a short-term, quick-fix approach compared to the long game of motivational quotes.

“I’ve found motivational soundbites to be effective on cardio sessions to pass the time, and learning while training has appeal. Everyone is different, so find what works for you.”

Playlist