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Motivation

I am fascinated by the psychology behind motivation and exercise. What drives an individual to commit to movement as part of their life? What pushes someone to take the step of joining in a new fitness class? Why do some participants stay and others vanish?

I’m not convinced that it is related to willpower. If that were true, I probably wouldn’t be as devoted to exercise as I am! If you know me you may know that I’m not so disciplined when it comes to shopping, ice cream and various other parts of my life.

Often it’s the promise of an upcoming event or vacation that lights the spark of interest in fitness. The prospect of a beach holiday in a swimsuit or a wedding in a fancy dress can be the push to hit the gym or begin a new diet (or both!). I do not believe that this is a bad thing!

In the fitness industry, I think we see a tendency to diminish that form of motivation as either pure vanity or being not enough to create a long term habit. It is true that working towards a finite event can lead to a return to previous habits when the event passes, but that discounts the notion that people can fall in love with exercise.

Think back to being a child and how easy it was to play tag at recess or how you may have instinctively tried to climb a tree. Children have a natural kinetic energy that they express through play. They aren’t thinking of the calories they burn or the muscles they are working; they move because it feels good. I firmly believe it’s possible to rediscover the love of movement and all the mental and physical benefits it provides.

So how do we move from EXTRINSIC to INTRINSIC motivation? From the promise of a lean body on the beach to exercising because it feels good and you crave it?

In my experience in group fitness, I believe it is strongly linked to 3 things:

Reflecting on how you feel post-workout

In a fitness studio or gym with mirrors, it can be easy to focus just on how you look as you exercise. It is important to take time to think about how you feel after your workout…what does the evening and next day look like? Do you sleep better? Do you feel more energetic or more mobile? These feelings are what will keep you going to the gym or doing the workout on those days when it’s hard to muster up the energy! We all want to feel better in our bodies.

Finding the Class or Workout that you enjoy the most

Step is one of the disciplines I teach. I love step and will talk your ear off about what a fantastic workout step for cardio and strength. But I also know that step isn’t for everyone and there will always be some people who loathe it…I’m okay with that! Maybe Zumba is there happy place! With exercise, it’s so important to find something you enjoy so that it isn’t something you dread doing. Boxing is something that will never be for me lol.

Connect with others and find your community

We all know those people who were devastated when gyms shut down during COVID (my hand is up here too!). A gym can be SO much more than just a place to workout. Some fitness experts even refer to the gym as that “third place” between home and work. This may be more important than ever as the line between work and home blurs. (Pete McCall does a great job describing this here). The gym is a place to meet others with similar goals and feel the connections we are increasingly looking for post-pandemic.

Group fitness classes can also create the community that propels the newbie exerciser towards a consistent habit. Finding friends in a class can reinforce positive habits and draw participants back each week to reconnect.

Remember…

Extrinsic motivation is something to feel ashamed about. Today a new bikini arrived in the mail and I purposely ordered it for that extra little push to eat mindfully and work hard through the next few months. Even though the intrinsic motivation is there, a nudge to increase my core training and cut back on the ice cream is just what I need during the dark winter months!

my motivation for holidays…
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