What got you to boot camp this morning? What made you struggle through one more second of a TRX plank hold? What was it that planted the thought in your head to show up again tomorrow and do it all again?
What gave you the will to forgo dessert or a handful of Cheez-Its? What empowered you to make yourself a plate of sautéed kale, salad or roast chicken instead of grabbing a slice of pizza and a can of Fanta?
What drives you to commit to your health and fitness regimen?
It could be any number of things, from bikini desires to competing in a 10K to simple peace of mind.
Why is it good to know what motivates you? Because by defining your personal oomph triggers you can reassert your commitment no matter where you are on the continuum of your health and fitness goals. And if you’re anything like me, there are times when focus lags, you ask yourself what the point is when it can be so hard, and you need to regroup in order to keep on keeping on.
Breaking it down, there are two kinds of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic.
Extrinsic motivators come from external sources as you might have guessed. Examples include rewards, like say, winning the Pushups for Charity event and pounding out more reps than your competition. Or maybe your trainer has offered incentive rewards like free classes or a cool T-shirt. Other, more personal extrinsic rewards are things like numbers—going from a size ten to an eight in those skinny jeans; losing fat or inches. If you’re taking before, during and after photographs, seeing your body composition change in a way that fills you with glee would be an extrinsic motivator.
As you can imagine, intrinsic motivators are internally driven. Maybe you show up to boot camp because you simply love the feeling of accomplishment you get once it’s all over. Maybe you get off on the endorphin rush. Maybe you love the feel of a kettlebell in your hand and being in class makes you feel more at home than, well, being at home does. When it comes to food choices, the same applies. If you’ve been mindfully observing that you feel great after treating yourself to a steak and salad, but feel like a big sack of crap after a plate of waffles or ravioli, you’re intrinsically motivated to eat what makes you feel good.
What extrinsic and intrinsic motivators have in common is that they both drive you to action.
The trickiest part of the equation? As I said before, sticking with it. If you’ve ever experienced quitting just when the going gets good, or conversely, quitting at the onset of illness or injury, read on. Hell, read on anyway.
No matter what your reasons are for quitting or slacking on your fitness routine, one thing is certain: you lost your motivation. Here’s how to get it back and keep it working for you.
- If you don’t know already, figure out what motivates you. How? Observe yourself in action before boot camp, kettlebells, a run or a training session. Practice mindfulness and notice your thoughts. Is exercise bad medicine that makes you feel great afterwards, or a luxury you can’t afford not to miss? Do you make a habit of rewarding yourself with a treat when you push yourself extra hard? Maybe once you lose a dress size you buy yourself something special. No matter what it is, pay attention. These are the things that drive you. You might also notice that the extrinsic motivators that got you going when you first committed to your workout plan no longer pack the punch they used to, and the positive feelings you experience from working out have taken over as your number one reason to get your butt to boot camp or kettlebells. This is a normal, typical, positive progression.
- Record your thoughts. This one is especially good for those who experience what I like to call “Swiss Cheese Brain.” This phenomenon arises when you have children. Ahem. But seriously, writing down your personal motivators can help you when you need it most. When an extra hour of sleep becomes more appealing than hauling your butt to 6am boot camp, or when you can’t find a good enough reason not to finish the entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s, you can revisit your written list of motivators and get back on track. Also think about recording how you feel before and after eating and exercising.
- Educate yourself. I find it’s a lot easier to make healthy food choices, for example, when I know WHY processed foods are bad for me, and why whole, real food is optimal. The same is true with exercise. Knowing the medical benefits of regular strength and conditioning versus the adverse effects of sitting on my rear end all day does wonders for my motivation!
- Hang out with the right crowd. Surround yourself with like-minded folks you share your goals and philosophies regarding health and fitness. You’ll find it’s much easier to stay on track if you’re not shooting the BS with a pack of overeating sloths who shun eating healthy and routinely make fun of joggers and yogis.
- Share your findings. Seriously, see that comment button? Click it and let me know what motivates YOU! I draw inspiration from all of you to keep me motivated, and suspect that some, if not most of you might benefit from the same. I absolutely adore this community of health-conscious men and women we’ve cultivated here at Performance Fitness. Sharing our experiences, thoughts and expertise can surely aid us all. So get tapping and see you soon!