Studies on exercise show that those that stick to an exercise routine are motivated intrinsically.   That is, they find exercise  rewarding in itself, as opposed to being driven by the desire for an external reward (extrinsic motivation). Don’t get me wrong, working hard in a challenge to win a prize or the recognition of your peers is a great incentive and has been shown to be the catalyst of amazing transformations. When the competition is over however, what will drive you to carry on is intrinsic motivation.

How do you develop intrinsic motivation?

  • Do something you enjoy.

Research shows that people are far more likely to adhere to exercise if there is an expectation of enjoyment. Furthermore, if people think they will be successful at exercise they are more to adhere to a routine. (Huberty et al 2008). There will be tough days, there will be exercises and routines that you won’t always enjoy, but that may be necessary to take you to your goals. Sometimes you will need to just dig deep to get through it, that’s life. For the most part however, you need to derive enjoyment,  and a sense of confidence in your ability to succeed at your chosen exercise modality.

  • Prioritise performance over aesthetics (looking good).

We all want the perfect beach body, right? Sometimes you can become so focused on the aesthetics-the ‘reward’, that you forget about the process. You are willing to do anything, sacrifice anything (including your health and your sanity), and take short cuts to achieve that perfect body. You put yourself through hell in pursuit of an often unrealistic goal; you  come up short, feeling burnt out, injured and demoralized.  Pursuing ‘the look’ alone can be unhealthy, superficial and unsustainable.

When you focus on performance, you focus on the process. Performance goals could include anything from improving your strength, increasing your speed and endurance to performing everyday tasks efficiently and pain free. In order to achieve your goals, you may need to improve on various components of fitness eg core stability, address muscle imbalances, improve mobility, improve your nutrition,  and the like. Your training becomes a planned, balanced and purposeful process.

As you improve, you consistently set new performance goals to challenge yourself. You develop intrinsic motivation –

a love for the exercise and lifestyle and the way it improves your performance and confidence. Since developing a great body is dependent entirely on adhering to a process, achieving your aesthetic goals becomes an inevitable consequence of pursuing performance goals, but not your only priority. You end up achieving your aesthetic goals in a healthy way and a way that is sustainable:- you don’t just look strong, you become strong mentally and physically.