Fitness motivation: Sorry, I can’t motivate you

Happy 2017, my friends! Happy New Year! Can you believe it’s 2017?!

To start the year, Andrew and I are living out our fitness, backpacking through Patagonia. Right about now, we are on our way to El Chalten for our first night camping, near the Laguna de Los Tres. I can’t wait to show off all of our hiking pictures when we get back! Just in case we get some wifi access, be sure to follow me on Instagram! I’ll be posting when I can!

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For most of us, with a new year comes new fitness goals.  I’m no different!

A few of my goals?

  • Run a half marathon (trail or road…still TBD)
  • Finish a sprint triathlon with Andrew
  • Complete 10 uninterrupted chin ups

Whether it’s losing ten pounds, getting stronger, or attempting an audacious new fitness challenge, we hit the ground running on January 1st, inspired to make a change. Fitness motivation and enthusiasm are high as we start the year. But what happens when February rolls around and your determination begins to fade?

Here’s how to make sure your motivation lasts all the way into 2018.

Do you struggle with fitness motivation to workout? Sorry, I can't motivate you. This is why (and what to do instead).

When I started researching motivation and how to inspire folks to exercise consistently, I planned to write a post that would serve to motivate everyone to stick to their New Year’s Resolutions. I hoped I’d find some tools and tricks to give you that would help you reach all your goals. Instead, I found the opposite.

As much as I would love to help provide pearls of fitness motivation wisdom, the truth is, that isn’t going to work.

Sorry, I can’t motivate you to make a lasting change.

As I delved into a review of the research [source], the data was resoundingly conclusive: internal fitness motivation is what keeps people consistent in their exercise habits over time. Nothing I say to you, as your trainer or best friend will keep you motivated over the long term.

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Instead, numerous studies show that external motivation–like the guidance and support of a trainer–can help you get started (and I would LOVE to in my upcoming New Year, New You Bootcamp) but your intrinsic motivation (read: motivation that comes from within, not from external sources) to exercise is what keeps you going 12, 24, and even 36 months later.

So what does that mean for you and your fitness motivation in 2017?

After doing tons of research [source 2], I’ve found it’s pretty simple to maximize your intrinsic motivation. If you want to make progress towards your New Year’s Resolutions and beyond, all you need to do is two things.

1. Stop focusing on outcomes

When we focus on the outcome instead of the process, we set ourselves up for long-term failure, whether or not we reach our outcome goal. Think about it. If you want to lose 10lbs and you do, your motivation will decline once you hit that number. If you don’t? Your motivation will STILL decline from not reaching your goal. Sounds like a lose-lose situation to me.

I’m not saying to throw away outcome goals all together, in fact, they help you get started, but if you also work to value the actual act of exercising, you’ll achieve much more long term success.

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Start thinking about all the positives that come with working out. These will be super individualized and personal but some examples of how to focus on the actual act of working out include mantras like:

  • Doing circuit workouts are fun/enjoyable.
  • I love improving my kettlebell skills.
  • By working out, I’ll be able to stay active for the rest of my life.
  • I build a community of friends through my workouts.

To get your personal mantras, ask yourself questions like:

  • How does exercise help me live the life I want?
  • What do I enjoy about working out?
  • How am I building social connections through working out?
  • How does exercise make me feel?

2. Set skills-based goals

Another way to achieve long term fitness motivation is to focus on building skill competency. In other words, emphasize skill development in your workouts. By picking a new sport or skill, you’ll set goals that revolve around improving yourself. This is HUGE with adult exercisers, because research shows that skill development is strongly correlated with greater exercise participation over the long term.

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Spend some time thinking of a skill you want to develop and make a plan. This could include joining an adult sports league, mastering a tough movement pattern (like maybe a Turkish Get-Up), or increasing your squat weight.

If you focus on the experience of exercising and set skills-based goals, you’re setting yourself up to succeed with your long term fitness goals. This is why I include a whole module on mindset in my New Year, New You Bootcamp. Instead of focusing solely on extrinsic motivation–like finally getting that six pack–we take time to get our minds right and ready to take on new challenges. This exciting new bootcamp starts up right after the MLK Holiday. I would love to work with you!

What is YOUR fitness motivation?

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