08 Sep Self motivation- a trainers’ persepctive
How can some people get up at 6 am and go to the gym?
How can others arrive home after a long day in work, prepare dinner, feed their family and then go and workout?
Why do people exercise at all?
One word…. “Motivation.”
We are all self-motivated to carry out certain tasks in our everyday life. However, we tend to lose this connection to motivate ourselves when it comes to exercise. When it comes to motivation we all fall into two categories, we are either intrinsically or extrinsically motivated.
In general this means engaging in an activity solely for the pleasure and satisfaction received from doing it.
So if we look at this from an exercise point of view, an athlete is constantly trying to improve their performance in their chosen sport, maybe trying a new technique through a new training routine, a new approach to competing and consequently, gaining gratification from their experience.
Some forms of exercise and sport fall directly into the intrinsic category simply because the individual is voluntarily engaging in an activity they get pleasure from doing. Pleasure is something not a lot of individuals associate with exercise. This links directly to adherence as an individual enjoys a certain physical activity they are more likely to maintain the activity or sport. Team sports & fitness classes are an excellent way to stay motivated. Simply find the right one for you that will give you satisfaction. Whether it be performing in the class or competing in the sport. The simple reward of enjoyment from taking part in the activity can sometimes be enough, to encourage you to repeat the activity.
Children are a prime example! They will often go through a litany of after school activities until you finally hear those magic words, “I enjoyed that” followed by a sigh of relief from the parent.
Extrinsic motivation as you might have guessed is the opposite to intrinsic, where someone is engaged in an activity for an end result and not the initial enjoyment. People commonly use rewards as a form of motivation, for example; money, a new body image, winning a sporting competition or simply improving their overall fitness.
When we think of exercise in general most people are motivated by the idea of a better body image or to perform a certain way in a sport.
Extrinsic factors can be a strong motivator for people to strive towards their goal. However, it must be noted that they often lack gratification when doing exercise- who really gets a kick out of doing Burpees?
Extrinsic motivation is in no way a negative approach to exercise and can have a really positive effect on achieving a certain goal!
However, the sustainability in the long term and the after-effects when the goal is ultimately achieved have to be questioned. Rewarding yourself with a new expensive designer dress, (smaller size of course), can really motivate people to achieve their goals through the concept of reward- but at what cost?
Hours of blood, sweat and tears, constantly performing countless exercises you don’t like, or a class that you didn’t feel comfortable in, but felt it had to be done. Yes you’ve achieved your end goal through hard work and sacrifice… but has the experience been fulfilling? Would you take the same course of action again? Why put your body and mind through such an ordeal without any sense of fulfilment or enjoyment?
So what’s the solution?
Just deciding how to motivate yourself is often the hardest step! Decide what you’re going to do, how you’re going to do it & why you’re going to do it.
For me, reaching my goals and getting motivated required the following steps:
I decide what I want to do, how I’m going to do it, but most importantly I achieve it by applying an external motivator with the use of intrinsic motivation factors too!
My goal a while ago was to achieve a certain body image. Recognising my goal was step one. The second step was how I was going to achieve this?
I looked at many different forms of training, different diets, spoke to many different people and from each person I received different answers & perspectives on how to achieve what was now my new motivation. Each person spoke of the horrors and gruelling hard work that stood in my path…. I thought to myself, “there has to be a better way…surely?!!”
Then I found the answer, my light bulb moment…. Who said I had to spend hours of my time doing endless burpees, jumping jacks or lunges… exercises I think we can all do without!!!
So I found alternatives that I really enjoyed & my extrinsic motivation also became intrinsic I looked forward to the challenge every day as I discovered new ways to progress , to grow and to challenge myself.
The take home message:
Speaking from experience the key is to decide exactly what you want to achieve firstly and secondly, deciding how you will achieve it. The crucial choice here is the method in which you choose, selecting a goal of weight loss (as an example), people generally engage in activities they seldom enjoy which will get results- no question, however, you will be less likely to take part in the activity after achieving your goal and less likely to maintain the weight loss.
So my advice? Choose an activity that you enjoy! One that you’re more likely to repeat again and again. One which you gain satisfaction from. One that you’re looking forward to every evening or are willing to get up early for before work! The end goal can still be achieved and more importantly, the journey will be enjoyed along the way.
So what are you waiting for?
-James Brennan, Personal trainer