Christmas and New Years has just passed and there’s no more excuse to skip the gym or pig out. Many people let themselves loose during the holidays and are now trying to get back in shape. They tell themselves that they’re hitting the 4 times a week, one hour per session, to burn off the excess weight they gained over the break.
Walking into the gym, they see other members with the same new year resolution: to become fitter and stronger. However, two weeks into the new year resolution, more than half of the members stopped showing up. At this point, most people just tell themselves, “I’ll just try again next year.” Unfortunately, the “new year resolution” phenomena of fitness occur all-too-often. It seems like the level of motivation just wasn’t enough. In this blog post, I want to teach you about exercise motivation and how to better motivate yourself to stay on top of your fitness game.
The Self-Determination Theory is especially relevant when discussing human regulation of motivation for physical activity. The figure below demonstrates a spectrum from low motivation to high motivation (left to right).
Amotivation means that the individual is not yet motivated to go to the gym or start a fitness program. Extrinsic motivation implies that the individual relies on external factors to stay motivated. The types of regulations for extrinsic motivation is discussed below. Intrinsic motivation, the strongest and most sustainable type of motivation, comes from our genuine enjoyment of the activity. This is where you want to eventually get to! Studies show that people in the intrinsic motivation stage are happier with their workout and adhere better to their workout programs.
Types of extrinsic motivation:
- External regulation: you exercise to gain external rewards or to avoid punishments (e.g. “I exercise so people admire my body”)
- Introjected regulation: you feel guilty or lose pride in not exercising (e.g. “I feel guilty not going to the gym because my friends will judge me”)
- Identified regulation: you exercise because being healthy is something you value (e.g. “I exercise because I value my health, and physical activity improves my health”)
- Integrated regulation: exercising is part of your identity (e.g. “I exercise because it is part of who I am”)
Now that we have a basic understanding of the types of motivation and the importance of being in the intrinsic motivation stage, here are some motivation tips:
- Set S.M.A.R.T (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound) goals
A goal is the first step to success. Without a goal, you don’t know where you are going. Needless to say, everyone has different fitness goals- for some people it may be more aesthetic-based while for others it may be more function-focused. The important thing to keep in mind is that the goal needs to be detailed enough. Goals such as “lose weight” or “improve strength” should generally be discouraged. Try “lose 2% of body fat in half a year” or “be able to bench press 225lbs by end of the 2018” instead.
- Identify exercises that you enjoy
We are trying to reach the intrinsic motivation stage and enjoyment is key. Some people enjoy basketball, while others may like kettlebell exercise or going to group fitness classes. These are all great places to start.
- Come up with an effective workout program that meets your fitness goals while implementing the exercises you enjoy.
Take some time to plan your workouts. Remember, in order for a workout program to be effective, you will definitely need to take into account the F.I.T.T principle (Frequency, Intensity, Time, and Type). The incorporation of the exercises you enjoy can be as big as playing basketball once a week (in place of the conventional cardio) or as small as performing kettlebell goblet squat to train the legs (in place of barbell front squats).
- Explore other ways to motivate yourself to go to the gym!
Having a workout buddy and joining group classes are also great ways to start. Find out why:
As always, if you are stuck at any step of the process, you can always reach out to our trainers. Trainers not only can help you stay motivated; they can also expose you to exercises or training methods that you were not previously aware of! Our highly-competent, vibrant, and innovative team of trainers are here to mentor, support, and help you succeed in 2018.
About the author:
Kevin Cheng is a personal trainer at Function Health Club and the fitness instructor for the Monday evening HIIT class. He is a BSc. Kinesiology graduate from McGill University, registered BCAK kinesiologist, certified ACSM personal trainer, and published researcher. Kevin specializes in strength & conditioning, functional training, and active rehabilitation.