Are You Struggling with Fitness Motivation? Let’s chat…

We’ve all been there, planned to workout but then decided to do it tomorrow instead.  Tomorrow comes and there are just too many jobs that need to be done.  We may set our alarm for 5am, so we can get a workout in before work, but as soon as we hear that buzzer, we snooze and decide the hour is better used catching up with sleep.  We then feel guilty for missing our workout, or get agitated that we’re running out of time to fit it in; is it our motivation that is letting us down?

Let’s explore motivation in a little more detail. 

What is Motivation?

On a simple level, motivation is a reason, or the reasons why we do something.  

Many researchers and psychologists have suggested that we have two types of motivation. 

Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic motivation refers to our behaviour in response to gaining external rewards – there is something outside influencing us.  For example, we may only go to the job we do because it pays well, or we may volunteer simply because we need to add some qualities to our CV.  

Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation on the other hand refers to our behaviour without any obvious rewards – we do it simply because it makes us feel good.  So we may stay late at work one day because we are enjoying the current project we are working on, or we may volunteer because we feel the work makes a difference to someone. Essentially the behaviour itself is the reward. 

Intrinsic motivation is more about personal growth, a sense of duty, and the recognition of purpose, while extrinsic motivation is more about financial incentives, status, and public recognition.

This issue arises when the reward no longer meets our expectation, or even exists.  For example, if you always pay your child to tidy their room, they will likely tidy it for as long as the incentive exists, but unless they enjoy tidying and cleaning (and which teenager does?), as soon as the money disappears, so will their pristine bedroom. 

What The Science Says…

Many studies have explored motivation and they have found exactly this.  When participants have been paid to carry out a task; they will complete the task as per the payment schedule.  Whereas other participants who weren’t paid, when given a break in between tasks, they continued working on the task, simply because they enjoyed doing so.  

Other studies have found that participants’ attention is generally stronger when simply asked to participate in a study, as opposed to getting paid for it.  

In Real Life…

Now this can’t be applied to everything, we probably wouldn’t go to work if we weren’t getting paid for it and so the general school of thought is that extrinsic motivation is great for run of the mill, or more mundane tasks, or something that you have to do regularly anyway.  So, some business gurus have suggested that bonuses are a great way to motivate employees if you need a task completing, by hook or by crook.  

Take A Note Out Of Google’s Book

However, when more creative work is needed, there needs to be an element of intrinsic motivation.  Many companies are starting with the 20% rule – for 20% of the working week, companies are allowing their employees to work on their own projects to spark creativity. The idea is that by allowing employees to do something they enjoy, they will increase their overall motivation and therefore productivity.  

There have been great results, with Gmail being one of the projects borne out of this 20% rule!

But how does this apply to our fitness motivation?

Well, we need to ask ourselves why we want to workout?  

Are we extrinsically or intrinsically motivated?

Are we working out because we want to gain praise or recognition from others?  

Are we working out because we want to look good to others? 

Are we exercising because we want to avoid future health issues? 

These are all extrinsic motivators. 

However, problems arise if these motivators aren’t met.  If we don’t receive praise or recognition from others, if we don’t get feedback on how we look from others, or if we suffer a health challenge, we start to think, what’s the point? 

On the other hand, do we workout to get that rush of endorphins which make us feel good?  

Do we enjoy the time out from our day?

Do we like learning new skills or finding out new things about ourselves?

These are all intrinsic motivators and make fitness and exercise something that brings us internal rewards.  

If we focus on extrinsic motivators, when they aren’t met, there will be a natural decline in motivation. 

If however, we focus on those internal motivators, motivation often remains.

There may be some that say we can’t do things that make us happy 100% of the time, and of course there will always be something in work, or in our routine that we are less than excited about; perhaps here is where we need some extrinsic motivators.  But when working out can be a significant change to our routine, and needs some planning, we need to find those internal motivators to enhance longevity.   

Find Something You Enjoy

It starts with finding something you enjoy doing – something that gets those endorphins flowing, something that makes you want to spend time doing, something that teaches you new skills, something that promotes your personal growth.  The health benefits are just a great side effect. 

Motivation is widely studied by psychologists for good reason – we often just need to change how we think about something.  You probably don’t have low motivation – you probably just haven’t found the right thing to be motivated about yet.

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