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Solving The Motivation Puzzle

SABER (Supramaximal Athlete Building Exercise Regimen) is's difficult the first time, and it's difficult every time thereafter. If it's easy, then you are doing it wrong. The good news is that even discomfort can become a habit. You are going to need to find a good reason to do it. In other words, you are going to require strong motivation to get there. It's completely worth it. There is no substitute for feeling amazing.

Fortunately, there is enough research on motivation that we have formulas to describe it and we can name its components and how they affect one another. There's an entire section at the end of this article devoted to the relevant theories. We are going to hit the high notes of Valuable Outcomes and Expectancy of Success...and the primary limiting factor, which is how long it takes to achieve the outcome. If you see the outcome as having a high value, perceive that you are likely to succeed, and understand that it can be accomplished in a relatively manageable amount of time, then you are going to have high motivation.
What Outcomes Should You Expect?

We are all motivated by a high value outcome. SABER delivers a litany of great outcomes:
  • Increased Stamina
  • Reduced Body Fat
  • Increased Strength
  • Increased Metabolism
  • Increased Lifespan
  • Decreased Cancer Risks and Increase Cancer Survival Rates
  • Increased Bone Density and Resistance to Osteoporosis
  • Increased Insulin Sensitivity
  • Improved Mitochondrial Biogenesis
  • Increased HRV (Heart Rate Variability)
  • and the list gets longer each week as the research continues to roll in.  
SABER will deliver these benefits...all of them and at the the same time. There are 100s of studies to support the various claims. Many of those studies have been cited in previous articles on this site, and I'll keep banging the drum.

SABER has produced more six packs than a brewery and more hot butts than an ashtray. 

I am 51 years old, and I have been training with SABER for about 4 years. Here is a video of my first attempt at climbing 25-foot, parallel, vertical pipes. As you can see, the functional benefits translated to a pretty clean execution of the new movement.

How To Achieve The Outcomes
If you follow the program, you will achieve the results. The program has been tested, refined, tested, and refined. This is what your ancestors did, and they got past saber-tooth cats, dire wolves, and cave bears....during an ice age. This is why nearly every new fitness DVD and infomercial features High Intensity Interval Training and Supramaximal Interval Training. It just works....and it works FAST.

How Quickly Will I See Results?
The first one is the worst one, but if you can get past the initial discomfort and get a second workout in, your body will quickly adapt to the protocol/training modality. Half an hour every other day of SABER and 30 minutes of steady state cardio on two or three of the off days, and you will see noticeable results in stamina and performance in a few weeks. Within 4 weeks, if you are eating properly, you will have lost at least 10 pounds and inches where it matters. If you keep with the program, you will reap the additional benefits and end up with an injury-proofed, enormously functional physique. One of our triathletes shaved 10% off of his personal best on an event that he competes in every year. He did not train in the pool, the track, or on the bike...he used the SABER program, and the functional gains translated into real performance. 

What About Today?

OK, you have a handle on the outcomes. You understand that you will achieve those outcomes if you stick to the program. And you can see that the period to achieve results is relatively brief.  This should see you through the macro motivation--the week over week commitment to the  goal. Now, you need to find a way to push yourself during your sets to motivate you through the discomfort. 

Positive Self  Talk

I love this one. It's a collection of phrases, mantras, and slogans that get us past the pain.
  • Getting better feels bad.
  • It burns because it's working.
  • You're already sweaty--you might as well finish this.
  • Pain is weakness leaving the body.
  • This is conversation between your mind and your body...dominate the conversation.
  • It's only ## more seconds...I can do ANYTHING for ## seconds...I could be on fire for ## seconds.
  • It's mind over matter. I don't mind, so this doesn't matter.
  • This is how "amazing" trains.
  • The currency of improvement is discomfort.
  • You get what you are worth 100%. 
  • Train insane or remain the same.
  • Eat clean--train dirty.
  • No one has ever looked back on a hard workout and thought, "Man, I wish I hadn't done that."

Partner Up

The military uses boot camps to take regular humans and turns them into soldiers. The dynamic of the group allows individuals to push themselves hard than they would on their own. Mirror neurons play a large role in this phenomenon. These neurons cause you to work to fit in with your peers...if your peers are moving fast, so will you.

Working with a partner, a small group, or working along with an instructional video will trigger your mirror neurons to boost your performance. There's a lot of value in commiserating/competing with someone during the workout and congratulating them at the end.

Social Commitment

Announce to your social network what your measurable goals are and when you intend to achieve them. Share weekly/bi-weekly updates in your feeds. You will receive an outpouring of praise and support. The added benefit is that you may inspire a couple of your friends/family to get better along the way.

Pump Up The Bass

Create a playlist of music just for your workouts. AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" has motivated me to dig a little deeper on so many occasions that I owe them a thank you card and a home-cooked meal.

Watch A Sport

Watch other athletes perform....if they can do it, you can, too. The difference is mostly practice and refined technique. Watch the finals of anything. I love the Olympics, but that only happens once every four years. American Ninja Warrior is a pretty fantastic, and it shows regular people that have pursued a passion and used that to undergo physical transformations. I like weight loss shows and fitness infomercials, too. Anything to inspire me.


One big goal is daunting. But you eat an elephant one bite at a time...focus on the bites. I like to set little goals for myself. For my 50th birthday, I announced the goal of getting down to 5% body fat. That worked for me.
  • Fitting into a smaller pair of jeans.
  • Hitting a number on the scale.
  • Running a 5-10K.
  • Doing a Tough Mudder.
  • Keeping up with a training partner.
  • Doing 50 Push Ups in a row.
  • Holding a 4-minute Plank. 
Make a small goal...announce it...achieve it...announce it...repeat.
Mini milestones within the workout are good, too. Count your movements and try to beat your personal best. Focus on the number of intervals, and promise to get through all of them. If you're working along with a SABER video, do more reps than me or do them better. Plan on taking a quick break after a predetermined number of sets. Give yourself little things to accomplish and to look forward to. 

Know The Signs

Your body is basically a cranky toddler that wants a snack and a nap. Your body is going to send you a lot of "quit signals." Sudden thirst, "maybe I'll do a little less today and do more tomorrow", and just the overwhelming desire to stop and walk. These are all quit signals...they are your body's way of conserving resources. Understand that you have made a lot of deals with your body, and your body is going to get pissed off when you start shredding those contracts. Your body will adapt, and it will adapt quickly. The body's role is to serve the mind. Stay strong, and you will be strong.

Get Primitive

While you are in the middle of your workout, imagine the primitive version of you going all out just to survive. Imagine yourself being chased by a tiger of a pack of wolves. Train like your life depends on really, really does.

Feed Your Ego

Flex a little. Make the world a better place, and bare that flat stomach. Not there yet...go ahead and look forward to looking amazing. Remind yourself that other people are not working as hard as you are. Showing off a little isn't the worst thing you could might inspire someone! 

The Recipe For Success
Pick a goal or goals that you feel you can achieve within 60 days. Make sure that those goals are of high value to you....the more meaningful the better. Announce this goal and timeframe to you friends/social network. Follow the program!

What's Next?
Over time (60 days or so), performing at this level and pushing yourself to make continued improvements will become your new normal. Your motivation will come from within as you untap your potential and grow more and more amazing each day. For now, find motivation where you can. Find us on Facebook and click on Events to sign up for our next workout. If you prefer, find us on Meetup and sign up for a workout. Or, subscribe to the SABERtooth Fitness Channel on YouTube for new routines every week. There are playlists to get you started and to keep you going.

Everything below this line discusses the science of motivation. I think it's interesting, but you can skip it if you don't want to geek out over it.

The Components Of Motivation

Current motivational theories state that high value outcomes with high probabilities of success coupled with a short time period to accomplish those outcomes result in the highest levels of motivation.

Expectancy Theory 

This was first proposed by Victor H. Vroom in 1964... STOP!  The guy's name is Vroom, so you know that he has to be an expert. Expectancy Theory explains the behavior process in which an individual chooses one behavior option over another, and why/how this decision is made in relation to their goal.

Here's the equation for the theory: 
M=E*I*V or 
Motivation = Expectancy*Instrumentality*Valence
  • Motivation is the amount an individual will be motivated by the condition or environment they placed themselves in. 
  • Expectancy is the person's perception that the effort will result in better performance. 
  • Instrumentality is the person's perception that performance will be rewarded or punished. 
  • Valence is the perceived amount of the reward or punishment that will result from the performance.
It's difficult to assign absolute values to E, I, and/or V, so quantifying Motivation is not super-realistic, but you can see that any increases in the perception of  E, I, and or V will result in a directly proportional increase in Motivation.

Temporal Motivation Theory

A more refined approach to Vroom's theory is Temporal Motivation Theory. This was introduced in a 2006 Academy of Management Review article, it synthesizes into a single formulation the primary aspects of several other major motivational theories, including Incentive Theory, Drive Theory, Need Theory, Self-Efficacy and Goal Setting.

Here it is:

  • Motivation is the desire for a particular outcome.
  • Expectancy is the perceived probability of success.
  • Value is the predicted reward attached to the outcome.
  • Impulsiveness is the sensitivity to delay.
  • Delay is the period of time it will require to achieve the outcome.

If you think of Value from Temporal Motivation Theory as (Instrumentality*Valence) from Expectancy Theory, then you really just divide Vroom's Motivation by the product of the temporal factors (Impulsiveness and Delay). Or, Motivation decreases proportionally to both Impulsiveness and Delay. 


SABER has you covered in terms of high values for Expectancy and Value. The Delay is low, and Impulsiveness will tend to decrease as you find yourself hitting little goals along the way. SABER is a recipe for high motivation and a high level of success. Let's get this done, shall we?

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