Whether you’re starting a new fitness routine or you’ve been working out for years, we all struggle at some point to find the motivation - our “why” - to continue pursuing our goals. What happens when we hit that proverbial wall or can’t seem to get started?
There are several paths towards finding your fitness motivation. Extrinsic motivators, such as winning a weight loss competition, a beach vacation, or fitting into a smaller dress or pant size before an event, are great for getting started on your fitness journey. However, finding the intrinsic motivation to continue with your program after having some success may take some self-exploration or working with a coach to discover your inherent reason for continuing your routine because you enjoy it, not just for a reward.
If you envision yourself 5, 10, or 15 years from now, what do you see yourself doing? Along with health and fitness goals, be sure to envision your career, hobbies, responsibilities, and desires. Capture the elements in your life that will bring you joy. Returning to the present, determine if the fitness path you’re currently on will allow you to achieve those goals, or if there are changes you can make to contribute your ability to actively engage in future hobbies and activities. How will making a consistent fitness routine and incorporating regular movement into your daily life help you achieve those long- term goals? Will it help you move easier or make activities more enjoyable? Over time, when exercise becomes valued for its personal worth and utility, you may discover lasting behavioral changes.
The Self-Determination Theory (SDT) is based on an assumption that individuals make choices, such as whether or not to exercise, by self-determined motives. It also recognizes that there are other forms of motivation that may still serve a purpose, but may not be as lasting. 1 For example, studies have shown that when exercise participants, especially women, have their results driven solely by a focus on physical appearance, there is less inclination to continue. 2 SDT makes the argument that the need for competence, such as the feeling of being fit or skilled enough to exercise; receiving positive feedback; joy in reaching personal goals; or achieving fitness success, are important factors to finding and maintaining motivation. 1 This could mean succeeding in a new personal challenge or completing a new fitness class. Enjoying new experiences, creating social connections, and finding your comfort zone, are all essential to the development of internal motivation. 1 Most exercise participants have both extrinsic and intrinsic motives and they can go hand in hand. Find your external motivation to get started and your internal motivation to stay on track. You will find yourself on the path to a successful and suitable fitness plan! As always, consult your doctor before starting any fitness routine.
By Amy Kurtz BA, BS, CI-CPT, Certified Health Coach
This article is for nutrition information purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any health concerns you may have. The information in this article is not intended to promote any specific product, or for the prevention or treatment of any disease. Highlights taken from studies should not be viewed as scientific fact, but rather as the author’s interpretation of a scientific study. The validity of study information is not guaranteed nor are the author’s views guaranteed to be aligned with those of the researchers that published the study.