As I wrap up this series on building self-motivation for exercise, I hope you have learned some things about motivation and why you may have struggled in the past to keep exercising.
- Motivation from external sources, (the scale, activity monitors, trainers, groups, exercise partners, challenges), are like the flame when you strike a match. It starts strong, but burns out quickly. When that flame connects with ingredients like the wick and wax of a candle, that flame will be sustained. You have the ingredients for motivation, but they are found only on the inside.
- Neuroscience has found in the Habit Loop that our brain gravitates toward positive experiences like a magnet. Exercise science gives us simple solutions to making exercise a consistently positive experience.
But because we have become so skilled at outsourcing our motivation, building confidence in your internal motivation takes a new way of thinking about motivation. And making exercise a consistently positive experience in today’s world is not simple at all. Between conflicting messages about exercise, the constant weight of guilt about not doing ‘enough’, and the ever-changing nature of your body and your life, positive experiences with exercise are like a carnival game where you try to hit a fast-moving target. Avoiding exercise can easily become a more positive experience than actually doing it!
So how do you make exercise a consistently positive and internally motivating experience? Let’s look at the two key ingredients from brain and body science covered in this blog series.
- When something is important to you, you will find the energy and a way to do it. What is most important to you about exercise is the flame that makes it a rewarding experience. However, when your reasons for exercising are too ‘surface’, like losing weight, or getting in shape, or being healthy, they lack that sustaining energy. Taking time to get below the surface to your Why is at the heart of making exercise a personally rewarding experience for you.
- When exercise connects you with others, especially the people who are most important to you, it is a hugely positive experience. However, this can backfire when
- you rely solely on groups or teams to keep you motivated
- you are exercising because someone said you ‘should’
- you are embarrassed about how your body looks
- you can’t keep up with others and feel more isolated than connected
- Knowing you can get the results you want from exercise makes it a positive experience. The way to do this is to combine mindfulness—being aware of your body as it is right now—and knowledge of how to work with the natural laws of the body. This is tricky because the natural laws of the body are not very marketable. Fitness marketing often ignores them to make exercise appealing, and in the end, those fabricated results leave you less confident you can get what you really want from exercise.
- Instant gratification makes something a positive experience (e.g., comfort foods). Exercising in a way that instantly makes you feel better, and being aware of that feeling, helps your brain learn and remember that exercise is a positive, not a negative. Yet, all of our ‘no pain no gain’, ‘just do it’, go-for-the-gold-type messages about exercise promote the delayed rewards of exercise. Delayed rewards take more energy and thus are a negative experience for your brain. Only when you focus on the Real-time Rewards of exercise is it going to be a consistently positive experience.
Importance plus Do-ability is what I call the Exercise Motivation Equation™. Using this equation gives you what you need to make exercise motivating amid the noise and confusion in the media and the dynamic nature of life.
The next step is to learn how to exercise in a way that puts you in control of getting the results that are most important to you, that make you feel better now, and that give what you want from exercise in the future.
Enjoy Exercising WELL,