The age old question everyone who has ever wanted to increase their exercise levels has asked. How can I be more motivated to exercise? Well, it is true that motivation comes and goes, and we have to take the rough with the smooth, we can’t be motivated all the time or we wouldn’t be human. There are however, some ways that you can motivate yourself more to exercise, or at least make it more bearable. I’m going to talk you through a few ways based on exercise psychology to help you learn how you might become more motivated to exercise.
Most importantly, doing something you enjoy is imperative to long-lasting adherence to exercise and this is something I always reiterate to my clients. If you really hate running, don’t run. It isn’t the be all and end all of exercise, some people love it, some people don’t.
If you don’t love it, you won’t want to do it, and if you don’t want to do it, let’s face it, you probably won’t!
So it’s always worth trying out different types of exercise until you find something you really enjoy, for many of my clients, strengthening their body to get the thrill of a heavy deadlift PB is enough to keep them coming in and doing their resistance training. For some people, sport might be a much better way to keep them entertained while doing exercise. For many people, green exercise as we call it in psychology (exercising surrounded by nature, which could be just walking) is something they really enjoy. So don’t be put off and think you’ll never have motivation to exercise if all you’ve tried is a gruelling HIIT class with a shouty trainer. Exercise doesn’t have to make you miserable, and it shouldn’t!
A prominent theory in motivational psychology is Self Determination Theory. This theory suggests that in order to be motivated, there are three basic psychological needs that have to be satisfied. These are called autonomy, competence and relatedness. What do they mean in relation to exercise?
Autonomy - to promote autonomy for exercise, you need to promote choice. If you don’t have some degree of choice towards the type of exercise or exercises that you do, you will be less willing to do it. If you follow a workout plan that you’ve had absolutely 0 input into, you might be jeopardising your motivation to do it. This is also relevant for personal trainers - if you aren’t giving your clients some element of choice in their workout, you aren’t facilitating a fully motivational environment. Even just letting the client choose the body part they train in their session can help make them feel more involved and willing - and help to promote autonomy.
Competence - all this refers to is the feeling of being able to do the activity - feeling competent. This seems pretty straight forward right? But actually, often people will go to a class and get completely put off because they feel their fitness is miles behind everyone else’s, they feel incompetent compared to others. Obviously you might still want to feel challenged so you can work towards a goal, but you don’t want to feel that every single exercise you do is impossible and making you feel like you’re going to die any minute! This is why personal training is helpful, a trainer can help tailor exercises to your fitness and strength levels, so you can have some small wins but also feel challenged at the same time.
Relatedness - this is a need to feel connected to others and feel like you belong somewhere. This is why CrossFit is so popular - the community aspect of CrossFit really promotes belongingness. This is also partly why if you step into a gym and immediately feel intimidated, you are much less likely to have the motivation to go, you probably don’t feel connected to anyone there and you most certainly don’t feel like you belong there. Find an activity or a studio (maybe try and make it Portside PT!) that makes you feel like you belong there, and has a friendly community aspect. If it’s a nice place to even just to be, you’re more likely to want to go there and exercise.
So there are a few top tips to help you feel more motivated to exercise, and important things to consider when trying to develop a new routine with exercise. Obviously I am going to say this, but these are all reasons why having a PT is so helpful, if they make your sessions enjoyable, they give you some choice, they challenge you but help you master your goals, and they help you feel like you belong in the environment, you’re going to be much more motivated to exercise.