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 toward 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 self-exploration or a coaching session to discover your inherent reason for continuing your routine. Do you enjoy it, or are you doing it simply for the reward?
What do you see yourself doing years from now?
Along with health and fitness goals, be sure to envision your career, hobbies, responsibilities, and desires along that path toward Whole Health. Capture the elements in your life that will bring you joy. Today, determine if the fitness path you’re currently on will allow you to achieve those goals, or if there are changes you can make that will help you engage in future hobbies and activities.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Who are you exercising for?
- How will making a fitness routine help you achieve your long-term goals?
- Will an exercise routine help you move easier or make activities more enjoyable?
- What are the end results you are looking for, and how will they change your life?
Over time, when exercise becomes valued for its personal worth and utility, you may discover lasting behavioral changes. 1
The Self-Determination Theory (SDT)
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 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 that 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!
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As always, consult your doctor before starting any fitness routine.
- Teixeira, P. J. Carraça, E. V. Markland, D. Silva, M. N. & Ryan, R. M. Exercise, physical activity, and self-determination theory: a systematic review, Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 9, 78 (2012).
- Kohlstedt, S. S. Weissbrod, C. S. Colangelo, A. M. & Carter, M. M. Psychological Factors Influencing Exercise Adherence among Females, PSYCH 04, 917–923 (2013).