Ever had one of those perky friends who just loooooves to work out? On one hand she can be a total inspiration. But on the other hand you’re exhausted just looking at her in all her endorphine-dipped-and-crushing-it glory. I’ve always secretly admired women with that kind of workout motivation. I mean, who doesn’t want to actually look forward to exercise? It’s good for us, so we should want to do it. Right? Wrong. At least for most of us who’ve been sedentary for a few weeks (ahem, years).
Fitness is a curious circle of consistency. When you do it, you grow to enjoy it. When you don’t do it, you grow to hate it. Pretty simple, really, but hard to wrap your brain around because it’s not all that logical. It has to do with intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation is doing something to get a reward and/or avoid punishment. Intrinsic motivation is doing something out of personal satisfaction and enjoyment.
Extrinsic motivation comes from outside of a person. For example joining an online challenge to win $1000 after 6 weeks of grueling workouts (reward). Or signing up with a trainer because wasting that money by not showing up would be a bummer (punishment). Even that perky friend whom you gaze enviously at over coffee is extrinsic as she details why you should join her class/gym/5k. You dig this gal and like spending time with her. Total reward. By now you’ve probably ascertained that extrinsic motivation is probably what you’ve relied on in the past because even if you did join that challenge or your friend in her endeavors, you probably would get some benefit, but likely not stay consistent with it.
That is unless your new experience sparks an interest from deep inside your being. That spark, my friend, is intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation blooms within us for activities we simply enjoy doing. Playing with puppies. Basking in sunshine. “Getting” to work out versus “having” to work out. You do the thing because you look forward to and enjoy it. In fact, if you were to be offered an external reward for something you already enjoy doing, it becomes less desirable. A $100 reward for belly rubs just turned into work. It’s a most elusive concept that can’t be cued up on demand. It sort of emerges when the time is right, and when that is depends on the individual. With some people a switch just flips. They change on the fly, and never look back. With others, it takes a solid base of consistent effort before extrinsic beginnings eventually morph into intrinsic motivation.
My own transformation was born out of extrinsic motivation. You can read the details here, but the general gist is that I lost myself and didn’t feel authentic in the body I had been neglecting. A mix of shame and disappointment were making me feel awful, and I needed to avoid future punishment from those feelings. From there a switch did flip, and intrinsic motivation led me to where I am today. So as you can see, both types of motivation are useful, and getting motivation from outside can help you build motivation from the inside.
Leaning on workout motivation of any kind can be tricky business for women. I specialize in personal training and nutrition coaching to address this exact issue in the gym or online. So wherever you are please reach out if you’re stuck, and let’s get to work on a plan pronto.