Considering generally healthy individuals, there are those among us who will be in the gym, on the trail, in the pool or wherever their exercise activities take place without fail no matter what ad infinitum. These individuals are in a category all their own; call them: “intrinsically motivated.” Perhaps a better word might be ‘obsessed,’ but this is often a side-effect result of a passion for a specific pursuit that exercise provides the foundation for—elite mountain bikers, tennis enthusiasts, marathoners, distance swimmers are all examples. Some however do simply love to exercise. Just this past week I witnessed an individual take part in an aqua class, workout with a trainer, swim laps, play basketball, join a yoga class and a dance cardio class all in the same day!
Then there are the rest of us who need something specific or someone to provide an extra little push from time to time, or perhaps every time. Motivation can come in many forms and just like the elite or constant exercisers described above there are certain things that motivate each of us as individuals. We have discussed picking events to train for as a way of breaking down large goals into smaller goals and visualizing oneself either crossing the finish line or fitting into that beautiful outfit you selected for your cousin’s wedding this summer. We have discussed family and recreational activities and sports as a way of putting fun into the mix so exercise is not all work. We have talked about the social aspects of group fitness and the motivation inherent to working directly with a fitness professional, instructor or trainer. A workout partner tapping their foot as you hustle in from the parking lot, the pace you are trying to keep on the cardio equipment so you are just a little faster than the guy next to you whether he knows he’s in the race or not.
There are so many little and big ways to find a reason to be active and exercise but the only ones that will work are those that truly appeal to you. Although many of us may know or think we know what motivates us, watching people discover new motivators is particularly motivating to me. As a fitness professional, I see this all the time. Sometimes I may even play the role of catalyst i.e. convincing someone slinking around outside a group studio to join the class going on inside; then watching the smile on their face grow when they find they like it and suddenly don’t miss a class henceforth. Motivation ebbs and flows and even in the fitness industry itself we are continually looking for new ways to motivate individuals and groups. Just witness the incredible, fun trend of high intensity training formats that have spun out of military-style group training. Whether you desire individual pursuits or experiences in a group, trying new activities and sampling the variety of available programs, classes, workout styles or different recreational sports can provide a surprise spark. You just might find your next source of inspiration and please beware; motivation can be very contagious—pass it on and be well.