Throughout my personal training career, I’ve noticed that motivation is the most difficult obstacle to overcome. As a fluctuating product of interpersonal interaction, motivation must become apart of who you are, not something that is forced upon you by an external source. This is something I tell my clients from the jump.
As a personal trainer and health coach, my job is not to hold my clients’ hands every step of the way or to motivate them to exercise. This approach is inefficient and teaches my clients nothing. It’s akin to the old saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Instead, I instill in my clients their own motivations that they feed off of so they can lead a healthy lifestyle all on their own (let’s face it, I won’t be around forever). This is something you can achieve as well so you never have to wrangle with the motivation monster ever again.
How do I create my own consistent stream of motivation, Justin? Great question! Keep reading and by the end, you’ll never want to miss a workout session again. There are two types of motivation: extrinsic & intrinsic. Think of extrinsic as “external” and intrinsic as “internal.” With extrinsic motivation, our actions are being driven by the environment rather than ourselves (i.e. praise or jeers by your family). With intrinsic motivation, our drive comes from a desire for personal fulfillment.
Too many people rely on extrinsic motivation when finding the motivation to exercise when the secret sauce is in intrinsic motivation. That’s not to say extrinsic motivation is worthless. It definitely can get your butt off the couch from time to time, but taking your extrinsic motivations and linking them to a deeper, more personal desire is what we’re trying to achieve long-term. For example, let’s say a couple is traveling to Peru in 3 months to spend time on the beach and hike Machu Picchu. Their goal is to have the best beach bods to show off to the world. Their motivation is purely extrinsic so they’re odds of sticking to an exercise regimen is unlikely. However, if they dig a bit deeper and make the motivation more intrinsic, their odds of success skyrockets.
Rather than wanting to have the tightest glutes on the beach, they can adjust their motivations to wanting to be fit enough to make the hike to Machu Picchu. They’re excited to get to the top of the hill and it would be a bummer if they were so out of shape that they couldn’t make it. By changing their motivations from extrinsic to intrinsic, they instantly become more likely to stick with their exercise programs. Having the intrinsic motivation to keep you active is the foundation. The question now becomes; “How do I instill intrinsic motivation within myself?” Excellent question, I’m glad you asked!
There are 3 things that you need to create true intrinsic motivation:
Mastery – The desire to get better at something that matters to you and your goals
Autonomy – Behaving with a sense of volition and choice
Purpose – The inner workings of why your actions matter to you & others Think of these three components as your “MAP” to staying motivated to exercise. Before I give you the 5 tips, let me go a little deeper into each one of these 3 components of motivation.
Mastery of any task takes time, patience, and persistence. The same goes for exercise. Find exercises that you find engaging or that you may even get obsessed with and aim to master those. There are thousands of exercises at your disposal, but it’s all about quality, not quantity. My personal recommendation is to find a type of squat, deadlift, and press variation that you like and get to work on improving every aspect of it (form, weight, reps, etc.). Master those exercises that mean something and improve on those. It’ll be hard to say no to them when you’re seeing the progression in those lifts every month.
Note: Mastery is an asymptote: It can never be achieved which can be frustrating at times but is also what makes it so enticing!
Being self-directed in your actions without someone telling you how to do it is a freeing experience. It may seem like there is always someone there to have a say in what you do (boss, spouse, etc.), but when you are training hard and focusing on mastering your health, it’s all about you. Having full control over what you do (exercise selection), when you do it (before, during, or after work), and your technique (how you do it) will give you extra motivation to make it to your workout sessions more frequently.
Stop for a minute tomorrow and ask yourself why you are doing something. Why am I brushing my teeth? Why am I making breakfast? Why am I working in a job I don’t like? Put the spotlight on the purpose that drives your daily actions. Each of our actions has a purpose. The same goes for exercising. What is your purpose for exercising? Is it looking like The Rock or J. Lo because why the hell not?
Defining your purpose for training is imperative for intrinsic motivation. If you are training because it’s what you’re supposed to do, then you don’t have a purpose. Maybe it’s to live long enough to see your grandkids or maybe it’s to prevent yourself from becoming diabetic. Whatever it is, find it and don’t forget it. Now that you have the pieces to create strong intrinsic motivation to move, let’s go over the 5 tips to getting & staying motivated.
Tip #1: Set Your Own Damn Goals. Don’t let people on Instagram or celebrities make your goals for you. Every one of us is an individual and needs different things in a training program. A trainer would come in handy to help you set goals that are S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) but at the end of the day, you have to make the final call on what you think is best for you. Again, make these goals intrinsically centered. For example, rather than wanting to lose weight to fit in a dress that everyone is going to judge you in, lose weight because you want to feel lighter on your feet and have more energy throughout the day. The aesthetic is the icing on the cake.
Tip #2: Keep Focusing On Mastering Your Craft Consistent improvement fuels the fire of action. Like I mentioned earlier, find a variation of a squat, deadlift, and press you thoroughly enjoy and continue to improve upon them. As time goes on, you’ll see progress in those lifts which is like adding firewood to a fire. There will be no stopping you!
Tip #3: Avoid The Mundane Please don’t think that you must run on a treadmill or walk up the step machine for an hour to be healthy. Ditch these modalities, unless you truly enjoy doing them. I know for some people that going to a big gym can be an uncomfortable experience. If that is you, then find a form of exercise that produces a flow state. That could be something like a group fitness class, playing ball in the park, or simply rolling on the floor with your kids. Whatever you choose, turn the exercise into play rather than work. Tip
#4: Reward Yourself Appropriately Avoid, at all costs, the “if-then” reward system. For example, if I run 5 days this week, I’ll go and buy myself an ice cream cone. These types of reward systems can backfire on you and aren’t very effective long term. Instead, focus on what you need to accomplish for the week and if you happen to do well, then reward yourself. On a side note, be sure not to reward yourself with food. We are humans, not dogs.
Tip #5: Put Your Money Where Your Motivation Is Remember when I said extrinsic motivation isn’t all bad? Well..here is an example. If you find yourself struggling to stick to exercise at the onset, try placing a wager against yourself. Now I don’t recommend starting with this as we are trying to build intrinsic motivation but if you find yourself relapsing 2 or more times then give this a try to light a spark under your booty. First, make a S.M.A.R.T goal for yourself. Next, head over to www.stickk.com and decide on a sensible amount of money (an amount you don’t want to lose) you’d like to wager. Stickk makes your goals public and makes you commit to them by having you give money over to a friend, family member, charity, or anti-charity if you don’t reach your goal in time. Doesn’t that sound fun!, head over to www.stickk.com and decide on a sensible amount of money (an amount you don’t want to lose) you’d like to wager. Stickk makes your goals public and makes you commit to them by having you give money over to a friend, family member, charity, or anti-charity if you don’t reach your goal in time. Doesn’t that sound fun!