Let’s see a show of hands for people who love to exercise? A few arms may have sprung in the air, but people don’t usually get all excited about an accelerated heart rate, muscles that feel like they’re on fire, and sweat dropping in the eyes causing temporary blindness. Now that we’re a month after New Year’s most of those resolutions were forgotten as quickly as they were made.
Finding motivation for exercise is usually the number 2 complaint from people, with ‘not enough time’ taking the top spot. I can tell you from personal experience that hiring a personal trainer is really only a band-aid; they can’t motivate you anymore than you can motivate yourself. You may get caught up in the excitement of working with a trainer, but if you don’t have something that you are working towards, it will become easier and easier to skip out on appointments.
What is motivation? Sport psychologists define motivation as your behavioral patterns: meaning that you perform to your highest ability, seek out a challenge, and persist when you have setbacks (1). After reading this, does it apply to you? Would you consider yourself a motivated individual?
If not, it’s okay. Everyone has their ups and downs as well as their specific reasons for avoiding exercise. Let’s look at some.
For many people, self perception can stop them from working out. Research has shown that those who are overweight are less likely to exercise because of negative feelings of self (2). This is understandable- those who are familiar with me know that I like public gyms about as much as I like getting blasted in the face with a snowball from one of my nephews.
There is a subset of people in gyms who like to show off how glamorous they think they look. Here’s what you do: ignore them. People tend to make the common mistake of being overweight and turn it into a character flaw when it's really not. Just because someone may be fitter than you doesn’t mean that they are better than you. It happens so much that surveys show women have shortened their workouts because of anxiety over how they look while working out. Don’t let this be you.
Training is about making yourself better; so everyone who commits to a serious training plan is looking for self-improvement as a person, not just as a body. If other people have a problem with you trying to get in a gym and looking healthy, that’s their problem and not yours. It sounds a bit corny, but it’s much more of a challenge to make the mind stronger than it is the body.
People may also quit an exercise program because they worry about how other will perceive their abilities (3). This is where a trainer may help, as long as their focus is providing quality service and showing you how to properly exercise. The more competent we are, the less anxiety we have in doing certain activities (1). Improving your confidence in how you train is key to long term success. I actually lost clients before because of this. They would come to me after leaving their old trainer and wouldn’t even be able to complete a fitness assessment. They were so angry that they wasted money on their old trainer, along with being embarrassed from the assessment, I would never hear from them again! I encouraged them that their performance wasn't an issue, and that I can help give them a properly designed training program, but people have a weird way of expressing themselves sometimes.
The bottom line is that you can’t become your own worst enemy. Your mind will play tricks on you and no supplement, personal trainer, or home workout kit can fix it for you. It’s difficult, but you have to find the weaknesses that are stopping you from sticking with a training program. At Nexus Fitness, we’ve created an online community where people can decide their own level of commitment and get support when needed. Our Pinterest page (pinterest.com/Nexusfit) is simply just devoted to motivational quotes and pictures that can may help shed some light on what may be stopping you from getting in shape.
Remember, motivated individuals maintain persistence even through adversity. Keep training and it will only be a matter of when you reach your goals and not ‘if.”
Marc Pogorzelski, Nexus Fitness
1. Williams, Jean M. ed. Applied Sport Psychology: Personal Growth to Peak Performance. 6th ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2010. pp 60
2. Trost, S.G., Owen, N., Bauman, A.E., Sallis, J.F. and Brown, W. (2002). Correlates of adults’ participation in physical activity: review and update”. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 34(12), 1996-2001.
3. Huberty, J.L., Ransdell, L.B., Sigman, C., Flohr, J.A., Schult, B., Grosshans, O., and Durrant, L. (2008). “Explaining long-term exercise adherence in women who complete a structured exercise program”. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 79(3), 374-384.