Turning exercise information into motivation, part 3-8.pngHave you seen these “inspirational” fitness quotes in the popular media?

Better sore, than sorry

Sweat is just fat crying

Sore, the most satisfying pain

Wake up. Work out. Kick ass. Repeat.

Winners make goals, losers make excuses

Making excuses burns zero calories per hour

Three months from now, you will thank yourself

I will make sweat my best accessory, I will run harder than my mascara

Running is nothing more than a series of arguments between the part of your brain that wants to stop and the part that wants to keep going

Inspirational quotes are designed to motivate—to remind us of a “need or desire that causes us to act”. Thanks to social media, we constantly see and hear these waves of inspirational sayings designed to motivate us.

When do these powerful waves of “inspiration” lead to a drought of motivation to exercise? Take a look at those popular quotes again. What do you notice? The underlying messages  reflect what I hear from 95% of the patients and clients I see for the first time. It is the strong belief that to get “results” from exercise, you need to suffer and if you are tough enough to get through that suffering, you will “see results”. It might be expressed in their exercise history, or just a simple eye roll when I ask them about exercise.  But it is there for nearly everyone I talk to about exercise. It keeps them either exercising and feeling like they are just not working hard enough to get “results”, or not exercising and feeling like a “loser” for making excuses.

In this flood of information about how to get motivated, we have lost our way.  Research is SO clear about this; criticism, being tough on yourself drains motivation, and kindness  leads to lasting motivation.  Sure, a good kick in the butt or a wake-up call can get us motivated. Certainly, there are times we do need to handle suffering to get results. Certain medical treatments, like chemo, require putting your head down, doing what you have to do to be healthy again. Athletes need to push through grueling workouts to get that competitive edge.  It’s the only way through certain things in life.

The problem with this approach is it’s not built for sustainability. It is designed for getting from point A to point B. If, however, if your goal is to live as healthy and well as you possibly can for your whole life, point A and B are now, and each moment for the rest of your life.  The paradox is, this is the  “real results” most of us want from exercise.

Rest assured, kindness does not mean you will “let yourself off the hook”, quite the opposite. It means recognizing suffering is a red flag that what you are doing is not sustainable. It means  listening to, and trusting your body as your best guide. This is the real challenge, because it asks us to go against the tidal wave of misguided inspiration.  Get real inspiration, and real results, from what we know about motivation and movement science. Exercise is most sustaining when it is an act of self-care. That’s inspirational!

“We are not meant to be perfect.

We are meant to be whole.

It took me a long time to learn that.”

~Jane Fonda