February 7, 2012

What's your motivation?

Motivation: reason, incentive, enthusiasm, or interest that causes a specific action or certain behavior

There are 2 kinds of motivation that drive people: intrinsic and extrinsic.

Intrinsic motivation is internal. It occurs when people are compelled to do something out of pleasure, importance, or desire. A few examples are:

  • A person who exercises regularly because it makes their life better.  This person constantly reminds themselves of this before each workout.
  • An individual that truly enjoys running and the thrill of the runner's high they sometimes experience.
  • Someone who lifts weights, not to tone their body, but because they like the challenge of seeing improved strength with each session.
Extrinsic motivation is of course, external:  It occurs when external factors compel the person to do something.  A few examples are:

  • A person who attends the gym or exercise classes because their friend is going too
  • Someone who exercises to become more athletic for the football team or to complete a race they registered for
  • A woman who exercises to lose weight and improve her figure
  • Someone who begins a fitness routine to help lower their blood pressure.

Extrinsic motivation in fitness is probably the most common.  These are the things that usually drive individuals to start a fitness routine.  There is nothing wrong with this kind of motivation.  As I said, it is the most common driver.  The extrinsic motivators are usually the ones where you can define clear goals and assess those goals occasionally to make sure you are on track.  

Those who have followed a long term fitness routine, usually are motivated by internal factors, such as the ones stated above.  These are usually the individuals who see or read about and say "I wish I had their motivation."  It is very common that these same individuals began their fitness routines due to extrinsic motivators.  After succeeding and seeing improvement after improvement, it stirred something inside of them.

Intrinsic motivators usually lead to adherence to a fitness routing, but what if you just aren't there yet?  I know that's what you are asking.

I have been running for 3 years and there are people who always ask how I am so motivated.  I've heard comments such as "I wish I had your motivation" many times.  The truth is, I am not always motivated.  For someone to say they ALWAYS want to go exercise, workout, or run just isn't humanly possible.  Even the best of athletes has days where they don't feel like exercising. We do it anyway.

Q:  But how do we get to a point where "we do it anyway?" 
A:  There is no one answer to this question.  Everyone has their own way of self-motivating.  Essentially, we create extrinsic motivation ourselves. You must do the same.  What helps motivate you?  Goals, challenges, a friend, watching fitness infomercials?  Everyone will have different answers.

Check Lists:
I am very goal oriented.  I love check lists. For me, what works is planning out my fitness schedule, printing it, and hanging it up where I will see it every day.  If I miss a workout and can't cross it off the calendar, it really bugs me.  The more I can cross off that calendar the better I will feel.


Another way I motivate myself is by looking at pictures I took at different races I have run in.  Looking at the pictures brings back the memories and feelings I had when I finished the race.  The accomplishment I felt after each race is enough to get my butt off the couch and get working to get stronger and faster.

Running/Fitness Groups
Joining fitness groups with similar goals as you is also a great motivator.  Not only do you have the support of people who have the same goal as you, but many times you meet great people who wind up becoming awesome friends.  Having a support system and someone to talk to about your goals and the struggles that come with it is great, but having someone who understands because they are going through the journey with you is priceless. is a great place to find groups in your area with similar interests.  You can enter in weight loss, spinning, hiking, biking, running...anything your heart desires.  The search will bring back all the groups in your area related to the search.  That's how I found my running group in NC.  If you need help finding something, just let me know and I can help.

I am a very visual and social person so these are a few example of things that help motivate me when I need motivating.  Contrary to popular belief I am not always motivated and don't always feel like heading out for a run.  It's an internal battle we always have, but have the strength to win!

Find your way to stay matter how silly someone may think it is.  The important thing is that it works and you get active.


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