When the issue of "exercising on holiday" came up myself and my girlfriend had very different feelings about it (I won't go into it!).
It made me begin to think: "What motivates people?"
Over the years I've had an array of clients each with differing needs, experience, abilities and levels of self-motivation. By training an array of people I've developed skills in identifying different characteristics to help me keep people engaged with their sessions and help to motivate them.
But you can't always have someone guiding you through every step; so, it's important for you to understand what motivates you so that you can tap in to this and develop a decent and sustainable gym routine and workout intensity.
"I feel good afterwards"
This is me (mostly). Myself and the majority of people I train are aware of their body, emotions and energy enough to acknowledge the positive impact that exercise has on these areas of their lives. If you can tap into this emotion it can be a real help on those days when you miserable or tired or feeling uninspired.
If you don't know what I'm talking about then take time to consider the difference in your energy levels and mood on days when you do and don't exercise. How you feel before and after a session.
"I enjoy it"
Some people really enjoy themselves DURING their gym sessions. They like to feel challenged, they like to learn new skills and they see the gym as a playground. Don't worry if this isn't you; these people are a minority.
"I've always been active"
Some people can't manage being inactive. Don't get me wrong, I like to be a sofa slob some days as much as the next person but, if I'm still for a long period I get the fidgets. For this group of people it doesn't even need to always be structured exercise in order to satisfy their needs; just moving around and not sitting can be enough.
"I like the way it makes me look"
These people can remember their "before" stage and like the results that their efforts have created. If you fall into this bracket then it's essential that you don't allow progress to stall as your motivation will begin to waiver.
"I'll get fat" / "I'll get small"
This fear is probably the most useful trait to have. If you're genuinely worried about the impact of NOT exercising then, you'll probably develop a very consistent exercise regime. Just be sure that you're spending your time wisely and not over-doing it for your body. Many people with this mindset won't have the education to get the results they desire so they'll just do loads of exercise; some suitable for their goals, some less so. Train smarter - not harder!
"I do it because I have to"
If going to the gym is like community service to you then you have a long and testing relationship with exercise ahead. You need to find your passion and find something to float your boat. There will be something, you just need to look hard enough. Maybe it's a style of training (strength training, circuit training, Olympic lifting), or group exercise style (bootcamps, spinning, boxing), maybe a new sport or maybe some new equipment that you've not done much with (kettlebells, clubbells, TRX).
If you still can't find your addiction then try this article:
"I train with one goal in mind"
Some people can only train with specific goals and challenges in mind. Perhaps it's something they can measure in the gym: a bigger deadlift, a quicker 10k run, mastering skipping. Perhaps it's with their physique: dropping body fat percentage, fitting into old clothes. Perhaps it's lifestyle based: being able to play football with their children. Perhaps it's a fitness challenge: running a marathon, finishing a "Tough Mudder" event. This is a great way to stay engaged as your can alter your goals and training at regular intervals. Just be sure that you always have the next challenge in mind as these people are very susceptible to a moral crash once the events are finished. With that down goes the training, up goes the poor food, down goes the happiness and feelings about themselves as up goes the weight.
"I have an event coming up"
This is predominantly a scenario as the summer months approach or perhaps a wedding. Any time that you're going to be on show basically. The problem for this set of people is that more often than not, there will only be one summer holiday per year, one time that you're forced to wear less clothing and reveal your body in front of others, one short period where you're made aware of just how unhappy you are with your physique. So what do you do the rest of the year? Rather than putting stress on yourself 4 weeks before holiday, try to starve yourself and ultimately, end up stressed, anxious and unhappy with your appearance on holiday, why not "stay ready"? Remember the last time that you felt those horrible feelings of being conscious of your body. Next time you think about not training with intensity or not training at all call back these emotions.
Whatever your motivation, it's important to acknowledge it and understand how to tap into it in your times of need.