Fitness & Beyond: The Secret To Finding & Keeping Motivation

Making it to the gym regularly. Reorganizing your office. Choosing to eat better. Making that dentist appointment you’ve been putting off.  Starting that business.

We all have these things that seem to live perpetually on the bottom of our to-do lists, and never actually ever get done. Whether they’re big projects or tiny tasks, we find them entirely overwhelming and sit around waiting for motivation to hit us before we attempt to tackle them. 

Sometimes those things require overwhelming upkeep need to be added into our daily or weekly habits and routines, like regularly making time for the gym, meal prep, or self care. Sometimes they are overwhelming one-time to-do’s like cleaning out the garage, writing that overdue thank you note (why does that one always seem so daunting?!), or donating those old clothes. And sometimes they’re both - something that takes both a big initial kick and regular upkeep, like finally creating and maintaining that blog, or starting the new side hustle you’ve been dreaming about, which can seem doubly overwhelming.

With all the responsibilities, stress and directions we get pulled every day, between work, kids, home, family, friends, money, health, pets, housework, and so on, most of the time we barely have our head above water and are struggling to keep up as is- let alone have time or energy to give to learn Spanish. If you’re anything like me, the more to-do’s pile up, the more behind I get, and the more stressed out I become, I tend to shrink away, shut down, do less, and become almost paralyzed by ALL THE THINGS. Which then becomes the feedback loop from hell, as more things pile up and all I can do is watch with anxiety and horror, motionless, with eyes like saucers as the stress level rises and rises. Then I’ve really gone and fucked myself. Sound familiar?

So. Whether you’re pinned under an ALLTHETHINGS 21 car pile up, or you have things generally under control but just can’t seem to ever get yourself to do that one thing you’ve been wanting to, where do you find the motivation to make a change?

Finding focus can be a struggle- we've all been there.

Finding focus can be a struggle- we've all been there.


Here’s the truth, and it’s probably one you don’t want to hear, but it’s important: the lightning bolt of motivation will not appear out of blue sky and strike down upon you the will to make a change. Though every so often, a rogue spark of inspiration may hit (maybe from reading a book or seeing something that triggered an action or idea), if you are living your life scrolling instagram for that one inspirational post to catapult you into lasting action, you’re making a grave mistake, and here’s why. 

Motivation doesn’t appear until action has been taken. Yeah, let that one sink in. Read it again, say it out loud, write down, and believe it, because it’s science. (But really though: Newton's first law of motion is the concept of inertia: bodies at rest tend to stay at rest and bodies in motion tend to stay in motion). You know before when I talked about that really shitty do-nothing feedback loop? Well it works the opposite way too. When you take action, whether it’s big or small, the feeling of reward and accomplishment is almost always great enough for you to want to take another step or do it again. Taking action is where you find motivation. It doesn’t come from nowhere, it comes from you.


One of my favorite takeaways from Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project, was her idea that before she started anything, she needed to “tackle a nagging task”. (Read: that thing that’s been full on squatting on your to-list for so long that’s thisclose to actually owning it). What you’ll find is that when you just WOMAN UP and tackle that oh so annoying task, you’ll feel rejuvenated and immediately think, “ok, what next?”, ready to take on the next thing. It won’t be long until you’re a full blown productivity Sharknado, knocking out all those emails, chores, and errands you’ve been putting off for months.

You want to make it to the gym 4 days a week but where do you find the motivation? Do you sit around thinking about when to do it, and then dance around deciding if you feel up to it today? NO. You lace up your walking shoes and put a leash on your fur baby (or strap on your human baby, or put a leash on your human child or strap on your fur baby, I mean really, no judgement here) and you get outside. (And then do it again tomorrow, and the next day)

Wish you had the motivation to work out? Step one is going to the gym.

Wish you had the motivation to work out? Step one is going to the gym.

The sweet, sweet wave of momentum here will be instantly noticeable, and you may decide to turn those walks into longer walks or runs, or trade in that time for the gym, now that you know you can carve out 60 minutes to make it happen. And what you’ve managed to do then, is make it part of your routine- you’ve made it a habit, which is exactly what you want.

People ask me all the time where I find the motivation to work out and eat well. On the workout side, I do it because it’s simply habit for me at this point, plain and simple. It’s what I do. I wish I had something more romanticized to say about that, but this is the secret about motivation: it doesn't last forever. I'm rarely "motivated" to go to the gym every day. I started CrossFit one day, fell in love with it, went 3-4 times a week, and it became my routine. I’ve been doing it so long now that when I have a week where I don’t go as much or at all, I feel off, my mood sinks, my sleep suffers, and I get into a funk. So my "motivation" for continuing to go, you could say, is to not feel crappy. (Have you seen my Snapchat chat on this topic? It's over in the VIDEOS tab!)

And when it comes to nutrition, I choose food that will support me feeling good in the gym- so it’s no surprise that when I’ve been out of the gym for a while, I don’t make the best nutrition choices. Because when I eat well, I feel strong, and feeling strong in the gym makes me feel unstoppable, and that feeling gives me life, and so on (the positive feedback loop). And it all began with me just taking action, taking a risk and walking into a gym one day.

The point here is that the concept of motivation is a slippery one to grasp, because not only do you have to create it yourself, but it doesn't last. When you've created the spark and the will to make a change, you've got to act on it to get momentum going, and then actively work to keep it up. The "motivation" may fade away in time but what you're hopefully left with is a lasting habit, mindset, routine and lifestyle.

And here’s the best part: more often than not, these action steps are transferrable! Meaning, cleaning out your closet or painting your living room may VERY WELL grant you the motivation to lace up those running shoes or do a meal prep sesh, and vice versa. Because the fastest way to feel like you're in control and on top of your shit and doing the things you want to be doing, is to get on top of your shit and do the things you want and get in control. ACT and then ride the wave of momentum.

 So no matter what you are hoping to tackle or accomplish, here are some action steps to do right now to start making some shit happen:

Do this:


  1. First things first. If you’re stuck under the ALLTHETHINGS stress accident and need some time away, take it. Take a weekend off of everything, clear your mind, delete social media apps, take baths, etc. Take the time to tune out the noise, reclaim your headspace, find your energy and refresh your life. This is important.
  2. Next, use that clarity to decide what you really want to do. Do you really want to CrossFit 4x a week or would you rather take a hip hop class? Are you needing more time away to decompress on the regular? Are you really excited about starting a blog or is it just what you think you should do? (A whole post on "shoulds" coming soon). What is it that you want? 
  3. Write out your to do list(s) and the things you want to accomplish in no particular order- just all the shit that needs doing. If it helps you to write separate lists from each area of your life (housework, work, side hustle, etc), do it. Just get it all out of your head and to a place you can see it.
    • Comb through your list and rewrite it based on priority. If you know a few tasks are time sensitive, push those to the top, and the things that can wait go to the bottom. (Take a hard look at the things “that can wait”. Are any of those things that you’ve already been putting off for a long time?) Figure out what's important, and then:
  4. Tackle a nagging task. The thing that you think about and groan over while you’re trying to fall asleep, the thing that gives you anxiety when you remember you’ve been ignoring it, the thing that full on nags you, stresses you the fuck out and you really, really don’t want to do. Think like Nike and just FUCKING DO IT. (Sorry for yelling I’m just getting excited here ok?) 
    • If getting active is on your wishlist, tackle a nagging health task too. Lace up your shoes, pop in P90X, join that gym, sign up for that dance class you’ve been dreaming about, arrange for child care to allow the time for it all, etc. Just take one step, do one thing, no matter how small.
  5. Book it in. So now that you've got the annoying stuff out of the way and you have some order to your life, make the appointment, schedule in your gym days, reserve your spot in class, clear a morning for decluttering your office, etc. Actually put this stuff into your calendar and respect it's place in there. This time you're not pushing it off for later- it's booked in, you've made the time for it and you're getting it done. (Bringing a friend along for the ride can up your chances of sticking to it).
    • Keep putting these things on your calendar for at least 8 weeks- by that point things should become routine, but until then, make sure you create the time and respect your promise to yourself.
  6. And when you whittle away that to-do list, rinse and repeat. 

A good reminder


Cuz here’s the bottom line: it can feel oh so convenient and cozy and easy to think that these things are just out of our hands- that we have no say or control until the elusive Motivation Fairy chooses to bestow us with a sprinkle of go-get-‘em dust, but that’s just not how this works. The things we want in life become ours when we choose to make it so, and then take action. When we look them right in the face and attack them head on, when we step out of our comfort zone and make a change (cue Man in the Mirror). Action first, motivation second.

So here’s your go-get-‘em dust. What are you going to do with it?






1 Comment

Your Stories: In Depth With Elisabeth Akinwale

If you're a CrossFitter, Elisabeth Akinwale is a household name. She's a five times Games competitor and qualified for her first Games a staggering eight months after discovering CrossFit in 2010. It comes as no surprise that she's been an athlete all of her life, starting as a gymnast at the age of 4, and has collected an impressive array of distinctions and awards in various sports.

She lives in Chicago with her partner and her son, and I was thrilled when I found out that she would be attending the Girls Gone Strong Women's Strength and Empowerment Weekend here in Seattle. I have always been a huge fan, and admired her grounded and thoughtful approach to fitness, culture, body image and life. I jumped at the chance to be able to interview her, as she is always sharing such insightful and inspirational words on her social media platforms that impact thousands of women, in hopes of sharing more of her personal story with you here.

She is currently rebuilding her site and creating lots of great content over at, so be sure to check that out, and for all of the images from our photoshoot, head here. Let's get right into it!




There were a number of factors that contributed to me deciding not to compete in CrossFit this season. Overall, I try to be intentional about the direction I’m taking in my life. But there was a period of time I was competing in large part because of inertia. It was something I had been doing and I just kept doing it because I love training, and competing had become a natural part of the yearly cycle. It was important to me that people of color be represented out on that Games floor, so I carried that torch for some time. When I took a step back and assessed the whole picture, I realized that there were a lot of exciting things that I’ve wanted to pursue, but haven’t because of the demands of competition and training.

I want to challenge myself in other ways, and make more concrete contributions to the world around me, which requires time and effort committed to those endeavors. I’m not a fan of the idea that you can have it all. I don’t believe any one person can do it all, do it well, and do it at the same time. All of us have a limit to our resources, and competing in CrossFit doesn’t hold the same meaning for me that it once did, and therefore doesn’t deserve the commitment of resources that it takes to compete at a high level. It’s all about being clear with what I value in my life and making decisions accordingly.


My life as a mother, and a co-parenting mom specifically, is essentially why I became a competitive athlete again in my mid-thirties. I started CrossFit in the wake of a divorce and really threw myself into it as a coping strategy to manage the pain and empty spaces when I didn’t have my son with me. Spending time at the gym, building friendships, working on skills, etc., was a great distraction at the time, and grew into something much more.

Being a mother and competitive athlete was a gift to my son in that he had a front row seat to my process of setting and striving to achieve goals. He probably has a better sense of everything that goes into being a CrossFit Games athlete than most, since he’s been part of the 24 hours a day, week in and week out commitment for years on end. He’s seen me live an empowered and self-determined life, and he most definitely views women as strong and capable. 

Being a mother made me a better competitive athlete because he’s always kept me well grounded in what is most important. I’ve been incredibly disciplined with my time, energy and focus in order to keep my competitive life rolling, while trying not to make it the focus of his life.

There are absolutely challenges with being a mother and a competitive CrossFit athlete- that’s why there are decreasing numbers of mothers reaching the highest levels of competition. The nature of the training is very time and energy intensive. Many high level coaches want their athletes to crave being in the gym more than anything else. As a mother I can say upfront, that never has been and never will be the case for me. I’m also the head of my household, and have responsibilities like putting food on the table, paying for tuition and activities, being present and having energy for my son. These things can difficult when you’re spending hours upon hours training every day. Frankly, training makes me a better mother, but training to compete, at this point, doesn’t.


There are lots of cultural elements involved with the idea that women would be viewed as anything but capable, adaptable, strong and powerful. In some ways, being boxed in as frail or less physically capable is the battleground of middle class white women, and femininity itself has been defined within those constraints, which is why we see Black women who display strength, physical and intellectual power (Serena Williams and Michelle Obama come to mind) being called masculine. 

My perception of the female body was first shaped by my image of my mother. Growing up I saw my mother as endlessly strong, and the furthest thing from frail, or any other dominant image of how femininity is displayed. For my entire childhood my mother worked overnights on her feet as a machine operator, and usually had one or two additional part-time jobs. The idea of a woman being strong and physically capable was never a question. I have an older sister who is my sports role model and we were both encouraged in our physicality. Based on this foundation, I’ve escaped the hang-ups some women have about claiming their strength.

We grew up in a sports centered household, and I started sports when I was 4. And I loved it. I like to feel my body move, I like feeling myself breathing, feeling my muscles work. During my childhood I had numerous surgeries for a health condition. My athletic career as a gymnast included seven knee surgeries. So I've had some experiences that make me appreciate my body for just existing, being able to move and take me through activities I enjoy. 

Just living life has shaped my perspective, as it does for any of us.  After I had my son I went from being a gym rat to focusing on being a mother and not so much time on my fitness. My initial venture back into training was just going on walks twice a week. It wasn't intense, but after not being as active walking just felt good.  We should allow ourselves the simple joy of feeling our bodies and experiencing the world in them. I think of women who want to stay covered at the beach because they don't think their body is fit to be seen.  I’m like, you know what feels great? The sun on your skin. You know what feels good? The wind against your skin.  Your body exists for reasons more than what it looks like. This is part of fully experiencing your life. 

Seeing yourself as what you fully are, or what you are fully capable of as a human being, requires that you be willing and brave enough to step outside of the box that’s been devised for you. These boxes are constraints, but they can also be comforting because if we fit ourselves inside them we think we’ll be more accepted, less judged, freer from the critique of others. Leadership comes from those who define themselves outside the pre-conceived notions about who or how they are supposed to be.



I don’t think I would characterize myself that way. In my life, strength and resilience have been expected and demanded of me. I think for Black women, finding spaces to be strong in isn’t the challenge—it’s finding space and support in vulnerability that is less common. I’m not strong all the time, I experience the full spectrum of human emotion. I need support and affirmation, and it’s that type of support and affirmation that I strive to create for others in my social media space. Being vulnerable enough to show our true selves across that spectrum is push back against the mainstream imagery created around Black women, and I think that’s important for everyone to see.

People reach out to me on a regular basis to share that seeing me in the predominantly white world of elite CrossFit competition has made a difference to them. It’s makes a difference to people to see themselves reflected in me. More than just being out there, I’m working to make a more direct impact, specifically around communities who are underserved when it comes to access to fitness and wellness resources, information and facilities. If there’s any single message, it’s that we can participate in any activity we choose. We belong everywhere, and that includes where we might be a minority, or in spaces of our own making, designed to meet our specific needs.



I feel like a warrior in that I prepare myself both physically and mentally to be ready for whatever comes my way. I don’t seek conflict, but I’m capable of holding my ground. I seek not only outward strength, but inner knowledge and peace. When I think of a warrior I think of balance—both a weapon and a shield—and I try to embody that.

Standing up for what I believe in, and what I want to achieve in this world feels like a forgone conclusion. Based on how I was raised, the people who came before me, and most powerfully in my life, as a mother. Giving up is simply not an option. My son’s presence in my life has kept me going more times than I’d like to admit.



My self image has become increasingly internally driven over the years. Like anyone else, I’ve been subject to the programming of the culture around me. There was a time when those values had more impact on the way I felt about myself and the image I wanted to project into the world. I’ve come to reject a lot of those external pressures and embrace who I am at my core.

My training and fitness focus has shifted from aesthetics, to performance, to simply valuing how I experience life living in this body. The experience includes how I look, as well as what I can do with my body, but it centers the being in the body.

My advice for myself 20 years ago? Have compassion for yourself, and be where you are. There’s nothing in this world that’s not for you, if you want it. Stay in tune with your intuition, and trust that any obstacles will be overcome, broken through, worked around, or used to build you for your next step.

If you'd like to see all the images from our shoot, head over to the Taylor Gage Photography blog to check it out! 

A huge thank you to Elisabeth for her time! Be sure to follow Elisabeth on her Instagram @eakinwale and her Facebook page, and check out her programs at