• Joe Jervey

Book Review: The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation

So I got out of rhythm with writing these blogs, but hope to get back to some consistency (I didn’t plan for my If/Then situations. More later)!  Next up is something I touched on in a post right around a month ago about my newest Audible purchase, The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation by Mike Matthews.  I’m going to touch on some of the things that personally touched me and that I found extremely helpful and able to be utilized immediately.


”The people who win make the right sacrifices and the people who lose don’t.”

When it comes to making goals and change, sacrifice is something that is inevitable. Want to have a better bed time routine to get consistent sleep? Probably have to sacrifice late night gaming or Netflix watching.  Want to look like the cover model of a fitness magazine?  Well, a lot is going to have to be sacrificed there.  

One of the consistent messages that Mike Matthews talks about in this book is how sacrifice is a crucial part of goal setting and keeping you honest when you do such.  Over the past few years I’ve honestly been too friendly when talking with clients about setting goals and reaching them.  What I mean is that I don’t think I have done a good enough job of telling someone just how difficult all that they desire is going to be.  

Personally, I’m always looking for the easiest possible solution to get things done with the biggest return.  While I do think that is a valuable trait in fitness/health by not overthinking or overtraining, in some aspects of life and fitness/health it can lead to stagnation and slow progress. Being honest with myself in the beginning and acknowledging what I’m going to have to sacrifice can make the process much more efficient.

A different way to set goals

“What, when, where, if, then”

One of my favorite topics in the book was research done on individuals setting goals and how they faired at accomplishing them.  A study cited took 3 groups and placed them into the following:

1- Group asked to read some paragraphs on a random novel before working out.

2- Group asked to read a pamphlet on the heart benefits of exercise, and were told exercise programs reduce risk of heart disease.

3- Group asked to read the same pamphlet, but were told to use following sentence to formulate a plane. “During the next week I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on (day) at (time of day) (at/in place).”

Researches found that 38% of group 1 exercised at least once per week, 35% of group 2 exercised at least once per week, and 91% of group 3 exercised at least once per week. So what caused such a drastic change in compliance?  Those 5 words listed above.

When setting goals it’s important to really plan out how you’re going to do them.  Let’s take working out for example and break it down.  

What: Exercise 2x/wk

When: Tuesday and Thursday at 8am.

Where: At local gym I’m a member of

Easy does it.  You have written down a specific plan for how to accomplish the goal at hand.  However, we still have two words left and they are the most important.  What to do when things go wrong or are less than ideal.

If: If I am too tired and need to sleep in

Then: Then I will workout on my way home from work

If: If work runs late and I can’t workout on the way home

Then: Then I will schedule the workout for the following day

If: If I’m busy the following day

Then: I will do a 10 minute workout at home before leaving

If: If I feel sick or can’t perform the desired workout Then: Then I will go on a light walk around the neighborhood in the evening when home.

As you can see, the possibilities are limitless and it’s encouraged to go through as many of these situations as possible.  If you cover your basis there then you are prepared for any and all situation that may arise, because life will always throw a curveball every now and then.

Can you deliver a message to Garcia?

Matthews chose to dedicate one chapter to an essay written in 1899 title A Message to Garcia. I won’t go into the fine details of it, but it’s worth giving it a read.  The main takeaway I got from the message is how sometimes you just have to get shit done and do what is necessary.  In the essay a man is asked to take a message to another individual and he does such without question or delay.  From there some examples were touched on with modern work environments and how people nowadays will question any and all directive given to them. 

“Can you send this report to xyz?”

“Why do they need this report ?”

”This isn’t part of my job, someone else should do it”

”I’ll just get so and so to take care of this instead”

I personally recognized just how much I do this with simple tasks In my day to day life.  I don’t think everyone should suddenly act without questioning authority, but on the other side of the coin I don’t think everyone needs to stall or delay necessary tasks. Sometimes the most important thing is just getting it done and not overthinking the situation.

Who’s this book for?

Well, I think anyone who is looking to understand some simple and clear science behind motivation without fluff will appreciate this.  Everything is to the point and the tone is serious without being overbearing or militaristic.  I think it’s powerful to understand and communicate to others as a coach that not everything is going to come easy and work will be necessary. There’s a lot of self help and motivation books out there that try to make it seem like the process can come easy if you plan it right.  Unfortunately that is far from the truth and this book touches on those things.  While the material is geared around working out, I think those looking for more discipline in other areas of their life will also find immense value in this book (it’s where I found most of it myself outside of client research).

To closeI’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the book:

”Shut up. Shut up and train. Yeah it’s hard. Some days it feels like you’re trying to swallow the sun.  Like you’re trying to walk a 220 lb dog or lift a dead elephant.  Training requires discipline, effort, and sacrifice.  There are no free rides. You have to give something to get something. But let’s face it, training is not that hard. It’s not mortal combat, it’s not quantum physics or alegbra.  I’m not asking you to pick up a sword and shield an enter the arena, wrestle an alligator, eat a fried tarantula.  Hell, I’m not even asking you to make a fool of yourself in a public place or scrub the stale piss off a public bathroom floor. I’m asking you to drag your ass up to a bunch of metal every day, and pick it up and put it down until your muscles burn and your body aches.”

-Mike Matthews

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