A lot of people get into the fitness world for a hot minute and drop out because they failed to remain "motivated." I cannot even count the number of times I was asked "What's your secret to motivation?"
The secret is.... I'm not always motivated. In fact, I'm unmotivated often. I have an anxiety disorder that causes sudden drops in my will to even get up off the floor, let alone the usual shit in my way like responsibilities, scheduling conflicts, headaches and just being plain tired. So how have I not only kept myself going for a few years, but leveled up my game? Discipline.
In the beginning, my motivation was a transformation contest. But once that went away, it was up to me to remain consistent for myself, and nothing else. I did not have the eye of the tiger every day, but I did use these simple rules to keep me going:
SKIP A DAY, MAKE IT UP
Some times you just can't even. It happens, but if you skip the gym on Tuesday, make it up Wednesday, even if it means doing a double. Trust me. As soon as you start skipping workouts, your subconscious sees it as no big deal and the next thing you know two workouts are skipped, then ten, then you've spent the entire month fucking off and the prospect of starting back at square one is so daunting, you don't come back until January, when the thought of swimsuit season has you wanting to punch yourself. Workouts don't accumulate like random change plunked into a piggy bank. They only work over time if you're serious about your investment. So think of it as a job, not a chore, until it is habitual.
GET ALL YOUR REPS IN
There are days, especially when you are increasing your workload, where your body fails a little earlier than you had hoped or you get tired and want to quit. What I've always done, is took a quick extra minute rest, then got back and finished the reps in my set. Taking a small break and putting in the extra work will get you farther than moving on to the next exercise because you feel tired. You will not see strength or muscle gains with that attitude. You don't have to push it to the max every day, but you really should push a little out of your comfort zone as often as you can. It is challenging, but when you come back to it the next time, and you can lift more or go further - boom! Motivation. And it's real motivation, the kind that comes from within, not an external trinket.
This one is very important to me. Oftentimes I want to do my workout as prescribed. But, shit happens and the routine gets thrown out the window. Kids get sick and you can't get to the gym, or you have to work late, there's some event you have to prep for or maybe you do get to the gym but all the equipment you need is being used. What I really wanted to do most of the time is declare, "Well, that's that. Guess I'm just going to stream The Mindy Project and eat peanut butter at home in bed...." But what I did was change my gym time, do different exercises, and have dumbbells at home for emergencies. When things don't go your way, the immediate response is to quit in frustration. But this also leads to a bunch of missed workouts and never getting back on track. My rule was if I wasn't sick, I was doing something else at a different time.
If you keep to these rules, you will remain disciplined, and that will carry you a lot farther than a fleeting burst of motivation ever will.
There are always other ways to get motivated, like joining online challenges, or training for a small event like a 5k or a novice powerlifting meet. But when there isn't a carrot dangling in front of your face, it's about just putting your shoes on and doing work. Getting out the door to the gym or a class is really 80% of the battle. Put your workout clothes right next to the bed, or pack them in your work bag and make it a lifestyle habit, not a chore to endure for a prize.