Understanding Motivation

woman stretching

Understanding Motivation by Kristoph Thompson


Motivation is the reason we begin an exercise programme full of zeal, and yet it also explains why our trainers remain in the cupboard, not having seen the light of day for weeks. As a rule motivation is temporary and we need to approach all endeavours with this is mind. It is a feeling and like all feelings, it comes and goes. This is why we feel prepared to tackle our fitness goals one minute but ready to give up the next. Understanding how and why we become motivated will make sure you keep training week after week.

Many people spend hours justifying why ‘now’ is not a good time to start exercising, but if you really think about it, you’ll always find a reason to put it off. If you’ve already made the decision to start an exercise programme, there’s no time like the present.

Whilst you might dread your sessions to start with, there’s no denying that working out actually makes us feel good. Exercise triggers the release of endorphins, feel good hormones that are responsible for the ‘exercise high’ you experience after your workout and in the hours that follow. As you progress through your programme, you will also find your energy levels increasing, your stress levels decreasing and over time you will come to associate exercise with something that makes you feel great. Motivation increases with enjoyment, so the sooner you start looking forward to an exercise session the easier it will be to workout!

When behaviours become habits we don’t need to rely on motivation to get us there. It’s surprising how quickly new habits can form, research shows that we only need do something 21 times before it becomes habit. Take the stairs every day for 3 weeks and you won’t even think about using a lift again.

What’s motivating you? Get to the bottom of why you want to exercise. It is an extrinsic motivation? (your partner wants you to lose weight) or Intrinsic motivation? (you want to be fitter and healthier). An extrinsic factor may be enough to get you started and give you that initial push to join a gym, but to continue to achieving your goals, motivation needs to be intrinsic – you need to be doing this for you. At the same time motivation doesn’t always have to come from inside and can be provided by others. If you know that you tend to ease off toward the end of a workout, attending a group session or exercise class, where it is the job of the instructor to provide the motivation, can help you make it through a whole session.

Have a plan.

Set specific, measurable and realistic goals against a time frame. Reward yourself when you achieve each of your targets. Seek help and advice when you feel that you are not making significant progress. Lack of results is a major factor in the loss of motivation

Learn to be flexible.

Exercise on days when you are feeling motivated. As long as you are completing your weekly quota of sessions, there is no need to feel guilty if you just can’t face exercising on a particular day.

Be Adaptable.

Be ready to adapt your exercise programme to fit in with your circumstances. If you’ve had to work late and there’s no longer enough time for your hour-long workout, this doesn’t mean that you should cancel your visit to the gym altogether. Aim for a high intensity 20-minute workout instead.

Prioritise.

Make exercise a priority, rather than something you do in your leisure time. This way, even if your planned activities over-run, and your leisure time has to be reduced, you will have made the time to workout.

Copyright 2005 Kristoph Thompson. Kristoph graduated with a Masters Degree in Human Performance from the University of Houston, Texas in 1999 and is certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He spent two years in America training professional athletes, including the Houston Rockets Basketball Team and Houston Astros Baseball Team.
Kristoph now runs a successful personal training business in the UK, working with a variety of groups and individuals from professional footballers to those with disabilities, and most recently, Britain’s Strongest Man. Visit his web site for more articles and information.


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