I spend a lot of time surrounded by some strange people in my day job at Fitness First. The kind of people who say things like “I changed up my training and I’m really sore this week – it’s great!” or “Sorry I can’t make drinks tonight, I’m going to a Barre class.”
These people have different motivational mathematics to many of us where Soreness = Good and Exercise > Wine.
You’re here reading a fitness blog, so it is possible that you also have this particular affliction – a love for exercise. Although you would be one of the few – less than 12% of Australian adults are members of a gym, and of that percentage it’s anyone’s guess how many genuinely love exercising.
So I think it’s important to acknowledge a simple truth that isn’t spoken about very often… It’s OK if you don’t love exercise.
For many years the fitness industry has set unrealistic expectations about the ease, speed and volume of results you can expect. It’s difficult to love anything that raises expectations and promises results but fails to deliver for so many people.
The same industry is also responsible for an overload of information, pseudo-science and contradiction. The truth is that there is no quick, easy way to lose weight or add muscle. If you have lofty goals, achieving them will be challenging and you won’t always enjoy the journey.
But it’s not all bad news, the secret is to go in with reasonable expectations and find a way to unlock your own personal motivation. A methodology known as self determination theory was first proposed by researchers Deci and Ryan – it argues that motivation can be unlocked with three key focus areas.
It is important for you to own the decisions about what activities you do and how often. A friend, personal trainer, doctor or salesperson telling you what you should do takes the ownership of the decision away from you. Motivation is a continuum with peaks and troughs, but committing to a decision is black and white – you have either committed or you haven’t. When you truly own a decision you can navigate the lows in motivation.
We all like to do things we are good at, but it takes a long time before you achieve competence in the gym. Our brains are wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Unfortunately, doing sessions that are too hard, too boring or that don’t provide results as quickly as hoped creates a sub-conscious physiological response that discourages us from repeating this activity.
Each gym session should have at least one aspect that you enjoy or succeed at, regardless of how big or small the outcome is or even if it relates to your ultimate goal. Your brain releases dopamine in response to pleasure and in time the gym can become associated as a source of pleasure instead of pain.
Sharing the challenges you face with people who understand can be vital to success. We crave relatedness and value people who have empathy with our challenges. At Fitness First more people train with a friend, Group Fitness Instructor or Personal Trainer than they do alone. Our research shows us that an ongoing gym membership is directly related to attendance with a fitness professional or social network. Consistency breeds results and consistency is more likely when you don’t try to do it alone.
Bottom line? When you make a firm decision and do activities you can succeed at with a network of support, motivation improves and results will follow. You may never really love the gym. But using the gym to become a better person physically, mentally or emotionally – that’s something we can all love.