The biggest objection I hear from people who are thinking of starting an exercise regime is lack of motivation. “I’d love to start exercising, but I just don’t feel motivated. Maybe in the spring/in the new year/after my trip….maybe someday I’ll feel it and get started.
We can get pretty down on ourselves because of our lack of motivation, so if no one has said it to you – you are normal! Staying motivated is super hard, especially when we’re under the thumb of Diet Culture.
It’s not your fault that you don’t have any motivation. In “The Motivation Secret” – I exposed Diet Culture as the killer to your motivation.
Motivation has been studied extensively by behavioural scientists, and it is very clear what WORKS to motivate people and what doesn’t. Unfortunately, diet culture ignores all of this science and plays to our insecurities to keep us STUCK.
So, now that we’ve popped the lid on Diet Culture and how it KILLS motivation, let me share some actual FACTS that will really help you find the motivation within, set goals and CRUSH them!
First, a couple important definitions. Did you know there are actually two distinct types of motivation?
Intrinsic Motivation is that desire from within to do something for the pure joy of doing it, and the good feelings it brings. This is the motivation we all want but don’t have and can’t figure out why. Most of us make the mistake in thinking that we should just have this innately and our lack of it means there’s something wrong with us.
Extrinsic motivation is the desire to participate in a behaviour for a reward of some type. This can include enjoying your workout buddies, the chance to win a challenge, a performance goal like being able to complete a 5K or improve a health marker, or the desire to change your body shape or size (ie lose weight).
A classic framework (called the Self-Determination Theory or SDT) concludes that we are most likely to feel intrinsic motivation when we feel competent, part of a group/community and in control over decisions about our physical activity (ie choice).
In other words, if we LIKE the activity, feel like we are GOOD at it, enjoy the PEOPLE that we are doing it with and feel like we have CHOICES – we are more likely to feel that internal desire to participate.
A study in Sports Medicine International (2018) took the SDT a little further and looked at people’s exercise adherence over 10 years. The researchers found that a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic motivators were at play for those who maintained an active lifestyle. In addition to the motivating factors above, they also noted that improved health outcomes and physical fitness acted as a positive motivating force.
However, the extrinsic motivator of appearance (or weight loss), had a negative impact on exercise adherence.
Those who focused on exercising to lose weight or look a certain way, were not consistent with exercise and felt no intrinsic motivation.
(just let that sink in for a moment)
What does all this science mean for YOU??
- Well, first it is absolutely NORMAL to not feel that intrinsic motivation all on it’s own, especially if you have not had good experiences with exercise/sport in the past. (I was picked on for being bad at sports as a child, so this is me!)
- Next, it makes 100% sense that you would look to outside factors to motivate you. You NEED some sort of reward to get you started – it just needs to be the right kind of reward.
- In order for motivation to LAST, you need to cultivate that intrinsic motivation, which comes from positive feelings (aka reward) related to movement – feeling successful, enjoyment of activity and being part of a community.
- When you FEEL different about exercise, you start to THINK differently, and if your thoughts are “this is fun and I feel good”, you are more likely to keep doing it!
- Most importantly – If we only focus on body goals, it’s very unlikely that you will stick to your program and will stay on the start/stop cycle. Negative thoughts about your body, result in negative feelings about your exercise program.
This is where programs, training plans and gyms go WRONG. The focus is only on body goals .
And if I can be bold, this is done with intention. Because as long as you’re chasing that impossible “ideal body”, you’ll continue to “fail”. And, you’ll need to come back and purchase their program again and again.