Before we go about how to make workouts exciting, let me ask – why do you want to exercise? You may have reasons like I want to be healthier, want to shed the extra weight, get a better body, want a healthier lifestyle, among many others. The reason behind this undertaking is the cornerstone for your motivation to start fitness. We get that. We all have reasons why we need fitness in our life, we all know how beneficial fitness can be, and we all care about our health and well-being. People who don’t follow a fitness routine do care about their health; those who have an unhealthy lifestyle are not doing so to end their lives. We all deeply care about achieving our goals to stay fit and happy.
Someone recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes will start going for a walk, eat healthy and reduce his alcohol intake as advised by the doctor. He will follow all these restrictions and new lifestyle hacks to stay away from any further complications his disease might cause. After a week, a fortnight, or a month of following the new lifestyle, he is likely to get back to his favourite former routine as this new lifestyle has too many restrictions and too few immediate apparent results.
People are not motivated to adopt a healthy lifestyle even when it is a necessity for survival. Motivation can be a very powerful, yet tricky affair. Often, getting motivated is very easy and you get caught in a vortex of excitement. Many times, it is almost difficult to find out how to get yourself going and you’re stuck in a spiral of procrastination. You cannot have an incessant supply of motivation in the long run.
Motivation is always the outcome of a behaviour. We feel motivated from performing a behaviour, but we often mistake motivation as the reason to start a behaviour. The starting point is a type of active motivation that naturally generates momentum, even in very small ways. A majority of people fail because they can’t decide how to get started. Make the beginning of your fitness so simple and straightforward that when it becomes complicated and demanding, you have the strength to finish it off. You do not need to feel motivated to do the simplest tasks every day, like brushing your teeth or flossing before going to bed. Make it the same with your fitness routine – behaviour that is so easy that you cannot ignore repeating it. You do not have to be motivated to make fitness a habit. What you need is to omit the need for making a decision every time.
An act becomes easier when performed several times, and the excision of decision-making every day is the purpose of a habit. Set a ritual that should be followed at the same time every day to initiate your fitness routine. This eliminates the need to decide; it becomes a ritual that has a pre- and post- action. When your mind is free from the uncertainties of all these questions – What should I do first? When should I exercise? How should I exercise? – you know what your action plan is, and you will automatically follow a fitness routine. One of the key factors that induces motivation is progress.
Motivation can broadly be categorized as extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation is driven by an urge to get external rewards like getting a better body, weight loss, appreciation of others, etc. Intrinsic motivation is inherently rewarding, like the enjoyment of the workout or the feeling of invigoration after a session.
If you are driven by extrinsic motivation, you may be motivated to achieve your fitness goal, but may not always enjoy exercising. The only motivation you might have is to achieve your goal. But what after you have achieved your goal? Are you still motivated to continue your journey? Most often, people who have a fitness goal to accomplish give up once they reach their goal. They not only fail to progress in the long term, but also miss the enjoyment the journey can bestow.
On the other hand, if you are driven by intrinsic motivation, your reason for working out would be simply about enjoying the activity. You continue working out because you love to stay fit, enjoy the workout and how your body responds to it. Even when the outcomes are delayed, you continue following the routine because of the internal pleasure you get from performing that action. Extrinsic motivation in fitness is typically the best influence during the initial stage and can fuel only short-term fitness commitment, whereas intrinsic motivation is the best influence to drive a long-term fitness commitment. If extrinsic motivation influences ‘why you need to work out’, intrinsic motivation influences ‘why you want to work out’.
People who have not developed fitness habits are often driven by extrinsic motivation. They feel a ‘need’ to work out to achieve certain fitness goals. When you are under the influence of extrinsic motivation, you are going to do what you’ve got to do, but you’re not doing it willingly. External motivation also causes anxiety, and contrary to what we believe, our brain really does not function well under pressure. We tend to lose interest and feel less motivated eventually. Typically, extrinsic motivation works as a driving force to receive the reward almost instantly or in the very near future. For many, fitness is considered a chore and is only performed out of duty. This stands as one of the primary reasons why most people discontinue after or even before achieving their fitness goal.
Whereas people who have already formed a fitness habit are driven by intrinsic motivation – they have adopted fitness as a lifestyle and ‘want’ to work out to feel the internal satisfaction it gives. Intrinsic motivation drives people to engage in fitness because it is emotionally rewarding – simply working out for one’s own pleasure rather than a desire for any external reward.
Essentially, the action (here, a workout of any type) itself is a reward. While exercise motivation involves both intrinsic and extrinsic components, research has shown that extrinsic motivation in fitness is typically the best influence during the initial stage and can fuel only short-term fitness commitment, whereas intrinsic motivation is the best influence to drive long-term fitness commitment.
Extracted from Fitness Habits: Breaking The Barriers To Fitness by Amaresh Ojha and Subhra Moitra.