Two Types of Motivation for Working Out

It’s challenging to maintain good habits consistently.

Our time seems to be scheduled down to the minute, and some days getting that workout in is last on our list of priorities.

When that happens, it’s easy to make excuses:

  • “I’m too busy to workout today”
  • “I missed my workout for the past two days, so I might as well skip it again today.”

 

Inspiration

 

We’ve written before about for dealing with a lack of time and the challenge of consistency.

But what if it’s not a time issue or a habit issue, but rather an issue of motivation?

 

Finding Your Driving Force

 

Motivation is what keeps you going when things get difficult. And boy, do they get difficult!

It’s pretty common for training to fall by the wayside when “life happens” and things come up. Most of us are already bogged down by a number of obligations and commitments, and feeling the pressure of having too many things to do each day.

It’d be so easy to chuck it and instead take that hour or so to do one of the million other things we need to get done.

And that’s not a case of being “lazy” or “not wanting it enough,” it’s a real and reasonable feeling.

The only way to combat this is to understand your true motivation for working out, and train for the right reasons

Your motivation can really only come from two places, inside of you or from the outside.

Finding the right source for your motivation can be the difference between keeping up and progressing with your training protocol, or being inconsistent and frustrated with little progress to show for it.

What type of motivation is driving you?

Read on, and find out.

 

External Motivation

The most common kind of motivation is derived from sources outside of yourself. Some examples are:

  • Wanting to get in shape for your high school reunion
  • Getting your cholesterol and weight down to qualify for better life insurance
  • Wanting to beat your coworkers in the office basketball league

There are even programs like Couch to 5K that offer help for specific milestones. And these are great!

Anything to get people moving and up off their butt right?

Yet, what happens after you achieve (or worse, don’t achieve) those benchmarks? Do you just find another one to keep you going?

Some people do, and having goals to work towards isn’t a bad thing, but often these motivations tend to give a sense of obligation, one we fulfill out of duty or responsibility, often to win the approval of others. These motivations may very well be in sync with our personal desires, but it’s always perceived as something we have to do.

And when we act to gain approval from someone else, it never works out well.

I believe it’s ultimately a dead end to seek motivation from outside yourself.

You can get caught up in constantly pursuing the approval of others, and it can lead you farther and farther away from why you are really doing this in the first place.

 

Internal Motivation

"Despite everything, no one can dictate who you are to other people." - Prince

Here’s a man who never let external factors drive his decisions.

Internal motivation is derived from within.

And because it’s coming from you, you’ll probably find that your resolve is stronger, and that it’s much easier to stay consistent and make progress towards your goals.

As a trainer and a coach, it is my job to keep up with my exercise, but it’s also been a big part of who I am since I was a kid.

I found that the times in my life where I wasn’t able to keep active and up with my training were the times I felt lost and disconnected.

My desire to stay connected and continue on my path made it easy for me to always find the time and energy to maintain my fitness practice.

In a prior article, I’ve talked about understanding your purpose for training, and determining your purpose is a big part of finding motivation that comes from within. Understanding your personal fundamental values is key to realizing what is going to keep you inspired and driven on those rough days when it’d be easier to lie down and catch up on your favorite TV show.

Getting healthy, feeling strong, looking better. These are good reasons for training for sure, but they are actually superficial.

There are even deeper motives underneath.

  • Your loved ones
  • Regaining your sense of self worth
  • Coming back from a serious health issue

These are very common real internal motivations that once realized, you can tap into and gain strength from.

You see, rather than depending upon external motivators to persuade you to keep training, internal motivation is like air in your lungs filling you up for that extra bit of oomph when you need it.

It’s an energy fueling you from within.

Relying on external motivation is like pressure from outside yourself, sometimes it moves you forward, but a lot of times it can be a heavy load bearing down on you.

 

“You’re Too Old” and Other Limiting Beliefs

 

Henry Ford QuoteBe careful of the stories you tell yourself.

A lot of people of people are motivated by others who are fit and able to perform amazing skills. These people are inspirational, and I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t influenced by my coaches, peers, students, and other athletes.

But it’s not the people that are working hard and improving themselves that get me going, it’s those in my peer group that aren’t doing anything.

You see, I realize that I’m not really that old, but I sure as shootin’ am not a youngster anymore.

Especially when it comes to the skills that I love training with and teaching to my students. It’s obvious that these skills are easier for young people to learn.

That’s why it’s pretty common to see examples of kids or teenagers working through gymnastic movements or hand balancing techniques on YouTube or other training sites.

But just because you aren’t 17 anymore doesn’t mean that this level of fitness is impossible for you.

Right now I’m 40 years old. To me, that isn’t really a big deal because I still feel great and move better now than I’ve ever been able to.

But there are people who tell me that I’m foolish for wanting to continue training the way I do and that I’m asking for an injury. In fact, just recently someone told me that I only have, at most, a good 5 or 6 years before I will have to retire from doing what I do.

Seriously?

You’re telling me that I need to quit experimenting, playing, learning, growing and doing cool tricks just because I’m at an age where other people may have given up?

That’s just not how I roll.

I smiled at him nicely and murmured a “Yeah, maybe.” But I’d never let myself actually believe that.

I think this guy thought he was trying to be helpful and really does believe that at some point everyone needs to hang it up and just take up gardening and bridge night over at the Bingo Hall.

But on a deeper level, it may have been an attempt for him to confirm his own limiting belief that this level of fitness wasn’t a possibility for him.

I’m not going to let other’s fears and limiting beliefs about themselves determine how I live my life. And I know you aren’t going to let that happen either. We’ve only got one shot here!

 

You Decide How You’re Going To Live

 

Two very cute reasons to keep working hard.

Two very cute reasons to keep working hard.

Have you ever seen a dad out playing with his kids?

Sure you have. But have you seen a dad out there actually doing things like climbing, crawling, cartwheeling, and jumping around?

Probably not so much. This is what I’m really talking about.

Right now my two kids are five and three years old and that means that when I’m 50 they’ll only be 15 and 13. When I’m 60 they’ll be 25 and 23. Just thinking about that scares me!

But only a little bit.

That’s because I will be the dad out there playing with my kids for as long as they’ll let me.

Notice I didn’t write “plan on,” I wrote “will be.”

When my daughter was born I made a promise to myself that I would always be physically strong for her. And I doubled that promise when her brother came along.

So, for me, it’s not really about keeping up with other people, or forcing myself to exercise out of guilt or obligation.

I choose to carry on because I want to be that dad that can go one more round of “horsie” with both kids on my back. I want them to feel like they can ask me to go with them on a hike like I did with my pops.

What is it that drives you forward to keep exercising without feeling obligated?

 

Everyday is a New Opportunity

 

“Rise & Shine”

Every morning when we wake up, we have a new opportunity to kick some ass during that day. It’s our choice to do it or not. And if we don’t that’s fine, no one is really going to know any better.

But you’ll know.

Especially if you really want to do more than just get through the day. Everyday I get up in the morning and my kids remind me of this fact.

Taking care of myself isn’t something that I feel the need to do, it’s something that I choose to do.

That’s an important distinction for me.

There’s enough in our lives that we feel obligated to do, and we shouldn’t add taking care of ourselves and being strong to that list. Then it just becomes another chore, instead of something we feel good about.

Reconnect with the true motivations that keep you going, and you’ll be able to handle the rough days in stride.

Of course there are days when I wake up, hear my kids fighting, and want to go back to bed for a couple of days… We all have days like those, but those are usually the most important days to remember why we choose to rise and shine!

 

It all starts with YOU

Moving your body and getting fit shouldn’t feel like just another chore, and if you’re doing it out of shame, you may as well not do it at all.

It’s much healthier to understand your true positive motivations for training and improving, because it reinforces your decision to be the person you want to be.

Sometimes it’s easier to figure out your motivations (and stay on course) by drawing inspiration from others in the same position as you. Alpha Posse is a great community for that kind of support.

 

I know there’s a profound, inmost inspiration within you. You know it too. Keep that in mind every time you get ready to train and you’ll find your success.

 

 

Ryan Hurst

GMB Program Director - Ryan has a passion for movement, playing with his kids and being outdoors. That's why you're more likely to find him running, lifting, jumping, balancing, and climbing than anywhere online.

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Two Types of Motivation for Working Out by
  • jaipesan

    i just realized i love you man! really thanks for these writings, im recovering from back injury
    and/or musclelock and this site has been the second most helpful thing outside of me, right after the guy who is mobilizing my back.

    • RyanHurst

      Ha! Thanks for the love. : )
      Very happy to hear that we can be such a big part of your recovery. Hang in there and take it one day at a time!

  • Michael Killingback

    Great article, Ryan. Thanks for reminding me why I am doing things.
    I love you too man!

    • RyanHurst

      So much love today! Back at you man. Now go take a cold shower. ; )

  • Blue Camp

    Ha, I find it amusing your friend was telling you that you would need to retire from training at 46 or 47. Heck, I was 46 when I started working out! My motivation initially was to get healthy (I was in bad shape), but now it is a passion that keeps me training. A passion for living long and staying active. I look forward to my morning training session, it invigorates me and keeps me feeling alert and strong throughout all the other activities I do the rest of the day. It carries over into everything else in my life, and my life would be poorer without it. So that’s what motivates me: being fit, strong, and alert to enjoy and/or handle the rest of the day. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, this web site has really opened my mind and expanded my thinking.

    • RyanHurst

      Great to hear that you are training and doing what you love! And thank you for enjoying what we do here. : )

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004678180551 Craig Brown

    I train to be able to live my life well. I beat myself up physicaly over the years (I turned 46 a few days ago) and am rebuilding my strength, mobility, and flexibility. I will be the 80 year old who is feeding his family from the garden, making art I love, and running around with the dogs I have then.

    If my boys want to play horse, I’ll probably pass! Chicken fights would be ok if I get the top position.

    • RyanHurst

      Happy birthday Craig! I hear you about being the one on top during a Chicken fight. As soon as my son is big enough I plan on having him carry me so I can dish out some fun from the top.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004678180551 Craig Brown

        Yeah, mine are both in their 20′s so I have to be somewhat realistic…or at least give it a try!

        • RyanHurst

          Go on and give it a try! : )

  • Veiled_In_Dance

    My motivation changes. I joined a fitness challenge on Reddit a little over a week ago, and at first, my motivation was how satisfying it would be to win first prize (or any prize) as a woman awash in a sea of men. But that’s changing. It’d still be awesome, but now I care a lot less about winning and prizes than I did. My body is already responding to the work I’m making it do, even though it’s been such a short time. I’ve been using your L-sit tutorial video to learn how to do it properly – I’m still just building the arm/shoulder strength necessary to hold my body up, but it was easier this week than it was last week. My thighs look more toned, and I can see muscles on my forearms that have never, ever had any definition before. It’s also changed my belly dancing for the better – my balance has improved, probably because my legs and core are a little bit stronger. I can dance up on my toes much better than I could do even a week ago, and I feel more power behind my isolations (sorry to get technical on you, I’m a dance nerd and it’s just what we do!).

    It’s such a slight difference, but not so slight as to be unnoticeable, and I find it incredibly exciting. I can do this. I can be strong and fit. I can learn the muscle control that I want. It feels like my goals are in reach – I think it’s just a matter of time before I master handstands, back bends, L-sits, and chin-ups. That’s my motivation, and it’s what will keep me going even after this 12-week online challenge ends.

    • RyanHurst

      You CAN do it! Keep at it and you will reach your goals. Keep us posted on your 12-week challenge btw.

  • Janet

    I can still carry my 5 yr old, but don’t think my 13 yr old daughter would let me play horsie with her, even if I wanted to ;)

    I will join in with her when she is performing cartwheels & handstands though and even though I’m 40 I believe I can still learn other more advanced gymnastic skills to ‘play’ at with her, though I might take longer to learn them than she did.

    • RyanHurst

      Hi Janet! Yep, it might take longer for us to learn some new skills. But at least we’re still learning. Thanks for sharing!

  • Vlad

    In my experience, times have changed in regards to exercise. Where i come from, my dad’s generation last exercised on regular basis during the compulsory military service in their early 20s. Beyond that, it was generally accepted that a man ‘retires’ from exercise due to work and family commitments and occasional bike ride or soccer match with the kids is all you got to exercise and as a reminder of being ‘old’.

    I am 41 now and have no intention of retiring from any sporting activity. I’ve been exercising since i was 20 and plan to be training till 80+. The only thing that will change is intensity and frequency. I believe that being fit and healthy is generally accepted today as one of the essentials of looking after family and having a long, prosperous life.

    • RyanHurst

      I agree with you Vlad that being fit and healthy is generally accepted but unfortunately there are still a lot of people who let other things take over. Glad to hear that you aren’t one of those people!

  • Martin

    I honestly don’t feel good if I don’t do some form of exercise every single day. I love active recovery days. Part of my motivation is my family, being 48 with 7 kids (6 months to 16 years) makes me realize the importance of being there for my family. The other motivation is testing myself to do take risks and do more than I have done before, especially when I’m doing movements that I never could do when I was younger. This month I meet two PRs that I never thought I would reach. I have body-weight goals that I work on at least 2 times a week or more. Something about doing stuff that I thought I could “never” do is very motivating and it drives me to push on when I fail over and over and over. Baby steps and make it pretty rules. :)

    • RyanHurst

      7 kids! Wow! Mad respect for you Martin. Way to stick with your exercise and continue to kick butt. :)

  • Sebastian Kent

    I am motivated to exercise so that I can feel good carrying and moving my body. Age limits some of your potential but is not as big a factor as most people make it out to be. As a matter of fact, it makes it even more important to stay active, energetic and happy. Concentrating on the process and your own improvements rather than comparing yourself to others helps a lot
    I just turned 61 and thanks to yoga and martial arts for the last four years, have become super flexible and can do many things now that I could not even do in college, Now am working on upper body strength and skills with GMB P1.
    Even if I don’t always feel like starting my workout, I almost always feel good by the end. The ultimate reward is being able to move through the day with positive energy. My family appreciates it too.
    No need to fear turning 60.

    • RyanHurst

      That’s great Sebastian! Showing up for a workout is half the battle. You are kicking butt! I love it!

  • Thomas Clardy

    Ryan! Awesome piece…
    That’s a wicked V-sit in that pic up there….
    Any clues for someone who can L- sit until the cows come home and msh as well?
    I’m doing pike ups as well and holding my static pike for as long as possible…
    I guess I’m trying to figure how to get that dynamic compression strength to that flexibility level…. ????
    Thanks!

    • RyanHurst

      Swinging knee-ups. Start in an l-sit, bend your knees and then drive them upwards towards your chest. Hold for a second or two, then return to L-sit. Gradually work on doing them with legs straight. :)

      • Thomas Clardy

        Awesome- thanks a lot Ryan! It’s been working…. About 1/3 way there to a full out v-sit.
        It seems to be helping with the v-sit on the rings as well.
        I can hold the ring position but seem to lack the flexibility and strength to get my legs parallel to the ground.
        Besides just the fun- one of the best things for me about gymnastics is that there is always something new – some fun new skill to work on.
        It as much more interesting type of progression and goal than, say, going from the 65 to the 70 pound dumbbells.
        So, when will we see a OAHS push-up? :)

        • RyanHurst

          Great! Really happy to hear that you are getting there.
          OAHS push-up! Ha! I think you might have to wait awhile for that one! ;)

  • DavidJOragui

    Beautiful post Ryan. I’m only 21, but I plan to continue exercising well into old age as well. Many people out there have a lot of limiting beliefs that is unfortunately holding them back, not only in fitness but in every other facet of life.

    My motivation for training is to be able to protect people important to me, but to also set a good example to others – especially my children. Exercise in of itself gives me inner peace. That much is enough.

    Ever since coming across GMB in November 2011 – I have become completely awe-struck by the sheer strength and control the human body is capable of achieving. I simply want to take my body as far as it will let me.

    • RyanHurst

      Thanks David. Love your motivation. Keep at it and never give up. Cheers. :)

  • Simon S

    Awesome stuff Ryan, as always. My motivation is to heal my lower back and get core strength to get back on the squash court. Other motivations arise as I explore basic movements and develop a liking for static holds and simple progressions. Hopefully I can find a way to get strong, flexible and with a lot of control, while enjoying the learing process. You guys have given me great ideas for excercises that I actually feel like I want to do every day without feeling like it is another tedious task. Your material seems to coincide with my goal so looking fwd to P1.

    • RyanHurst

      That is wonderful to hear Simon. Looking forward to hearing about your progress with P1.

  • Giulia Orlando

    Exercise makes me feel full of energy and gives me a lot of joy. I’m 42 and I’m learning things that I thought impossible because of my age only a few years ago. Why should I stop now? This positive energy is reflected in my life and people around me really appreciate it.

    • RyanHurst

      Don’t stop! :)