What kinds of motivation are there to exercise?

Motivation is either intrinsic (inside of you) or extrinsic (outside of you). The best motivation is motivation found within yourself. To find intrinsic motivation, a person has to find the passion, fun or love of whatever it is they are doing. Searching for motives outside of yourself change, lose value or become ineffective which means you stop the behavior that was being motivated. For example, if someone is intrinsically motivated to exercise they are exercising for the passion, fun or love of exercising. If someone is extrinsically motivated to exercise they are exercising because someone told them they look better, their spouse said they'd get a new car or the boss said they'd get a raise.

There are many methods of motivation, but there are really only two kinds of motivation, internal motivation and external motivation. Internal motivation comes from within yourself – this comes from your goals and desires –  your “why” for doing whatever it is you are doing. External motivations are motivators that come from outside of yourself, these can be used reinforce the habits or behaviors you are trying to create.

For example, some internal motivations for losing weight could be the desire to have more energy, to increase your self-confidence, and to feel sexy – all internal motivators are directly tied to your goal of losing weight. Some external motivators to help you lose weight may be to buy a new outfit or new running shoes at your “lost 10 pounds” benchmark, to get a gym buddy to help keep you accountable to your goals, or to create a music playlist that helps motivate you during exercise.

Creating a plan to keep you motivated from the beginning to the completion of your fitness goals can make all the difference to your success. I propose three important factors to consider in your plan to insure your long-term success:

  1. Be consistent: Get a gym buddy to help keep you accountable or put exercise as your first activity of the day (whatever gets done first, gets done!) Put extra focus on being consistent for the first month, then your exercise routine will become a habit and will be much easier to maintain.
  2. See yourself positively: Imagine yourself as you would like to be and realize that you are already that amazing person, you only need the right habits to make your external reality match your inner vision. I have several music playlists that I use to help snap me into the right frame of mind before and during exercise – music that helps me feel like the amazing person I’m striving to be. 
  3. Plan for the worst, but expect the best: We all have days when we wake up feeling like we’ve been mauled by Thor. Nobody expects 100% from you on your worst day, and you shouldn’t either. But, habits are like a chain and if one link goes, chances are the whole chain will break. To keep your habits strong, you still have to show up on bad days. So, when you create your exercise plan, also create a contingency plan – a simple and light exercise routine that you can still do even on your worst day.
There are so many things that motivate people to exercise.  There is no right or wrong answer to this one.  Motivation can simply come in the form of music, friends or even your personal trainer.  Whatever gets you up and moving to help reach your goal is good for you.  People just have to find that certain thing that motivates them to exercise.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.