Motivation to exercise and to stick with a fitness routine can be incredibly hard to come by for some people. I have spoken to many people who have a hard time “convincing” themselves to go to the gym, or who feel like they have to “trick” their bodies into working out.
I feel fortunate, because for me, exercise comes naturally. No, I’m not saying I’m good at everything I try (not even close), I’m simply saying that the motivation for exercise comes naturally — it’s just a part of my day, a part of my life that helps me to feel complete. I know that I’m pretty lucky to feel this way, but why do I feel this way and others don’t? Is it something that I’ve created myself, or is it innate? I’d bet on the former, but let’s dig a little deeper.
So why is it that so many people have a hard time finding the motivation to move and to sweat?
That is something I don’t think we’ll ever completely know the answer to. But I do know one thing that doesn’t create good, sincere, long lasting motivation:
I was recently at a fitness class where the instructor told the group that we were working our triceps because “women want to wave with their arms, not with their flab”.
I’m not kidding when I say I almost walked out of the class right there. Inspired? No, I was infuriated.
There are so many wonderful reasons to move and to work out, so many beautiful reasons that do not include putting ourselves down. You know what? I’ve been working out for years, and I still get a little jiggle when I wave, unless I’m actively flexing my triceps as I do so (and that would look pretty awkward). But this isn’t something that bothers me, and it’s certainly not the motivating factor to my workouts. I don’t work out because of parts of myself that I hate, I work out to improve the parts of me that are already pretty dang awesome.
Every single part of you is what makes you You. You are not that photoshopped fitness model, you are not Gisele, you are not that world class Cross Fit athlete or elite endurance runner. You are you, and that’s what you have to work with. So your arm jiggles a little bit when you wave at someone? So what, you’re human. We aren’t all bronzed gods and goddesses made of 100% muscle.
You know what motivates me to work on my triceps? The fact that stronger triceps lead to better push ups, a stronger bench press, and more ease in my job which requires a good amount of physical activity and heavy lifting.
Would it have killed her to say something along those lines? “We’re working on our triceps to improve our strength for push ups!” motivates me a heck of a lot more than hearing someone put everyone down for something they really can’t control.
And maybe that’s the key. Maybe we need to look less at whether or not we are motivated, and more at what is behind our motivation. I’m no social scientist, but I have a pretty good idea that the more we use negativity to fuel the things we do, the less of a chance we have at making those things long lasting habits. The more you tear yourself down and punish yourself through workouts, I’d wager that you’ll be less likely to continue that workout or routine in the long run.
If you were forced to eat your favorite food every time you did something perceived as “wrong”, it probably wouldn’t be your favorite food for long now, would it? When it becomes a punishment, I don’t see how it could possibly be enjoyable long term. See where I’m going with this?
So if you’re working out, do so from a place of inspiration and potential progress, not from a place of hate and shame. And if you’re the fitness instructor who is shaming ladies into “better” bodies, what are you teaching them about how they should feel about themselves in the long run?
What if their arms always have a little “jiggle” when they wave — should they keep punishing themselves for eternity? What if they can go from doing 1 push up to 15, yet they still have a little wiggle — personally, I think we should be applauding that progress, not punishing the aesthetics (and genetics).
So it may be a long shot, but I really feel that someday we may be able to close this motivational gap when it comes to exercise. And I would bet that the key to that will be avoiding those negative spaces in our brains and embracing our potential as strong women (no matter which bits may wiggle or jiggle).
So tell me, why do You exercise? Where do you find your motivation?