In this months issue of ACSM's Health and Fitness Journal there was a great article about the role of motivation in behavior change. I don't believe in New Years Resolutions, but I do believe that the New Year plays in important role as a measuring point that holds people accountable for how well they have accomplished their personal goals. Accountability is a very important thing, but in regards to fitness the accountability should be a weekly thing not an annual thing....cough cough a personal trainer. So, as it goes once a year people feel that they haven't been accountable to their fitness goals, plan to change that for the upcoming year, typically don't change and then find themselves in the same position the following year. So, I am going to explore motivation from this journal article, and show how these findings are applied at SWEAT Training.
Sometimes what gets us started working out is not the thing that will keep you working out in the long term. "Motivation concerns energy, direction, and persistence. Motivation is the energy that directs our behavior. That energy can come from different sources." These sources would be the direction that it is coming from. We workout because WE WANT a better body, we want to AVOID THE OUTCOME of not fitting in our clothes and being embarrassed, or because we LIKE IT and ENJOY IT. The amount of motivation, but mainly the quality of the motivation is what will determine our persistence in exercising for the long term.
Quality of motivation is lower on the extrinsic and higher on the intrinsic end. Listed are examples of the lowest to highest examples of quality of motivation. It is possible to have all of these qualities motivating us, and not just a single one, but it is important to mainly be motivated by the highest quality of motivation. That is what will keep us going in the long term.
Lowest to Highest Qualities of Motivation
1. I am exercising, but I don't know why I am doing it and it has no value to me.
2. I exercise not because I like it, but because I get something out of it. I value just the reward of the result, losing weight.
3. I exercise because I should, not because I like it. I am avoiding the guilt that I feel from not working out. It's good for my health or I feel pressure from others to keep up with what they are doing.
4. I have value in actually working out, but I don't enjoy it.
5. I WORK OUT BECAUSE I FIND VALUE IN ACTUALLY WORKING OUT AND I ENJOY THE BEHAVIOR OF DOING IT
At Sweat you will hear over and over and over again focus on the work and have fun while you are here. As a Trainer one of the most important things is that even though workouts are challenging that they are fun, and clients feel a sense of accomplishment with each workout. We motivate our clients by encouraging their behaviors. For example staying mentally tough, pushing themselves to try new exercises, improving on exercises, increasing the amount of weight they can lift, and getting through workouts faster and more efficiently. Training session are fun at Sweat. Clients never do the same workout twice, the energy is always high, and the conversation is always interesting. Clients begin to have a sense of accomplishment for showing up to their workouts consistently, enjoying the time they spend with their teammates & trainer, and feeling like they are an athlete that is constantly challenging themselves with new exercises not just someone that goes to the gym and puts time in.
There are ways to influence the quality of motivation. The quality is influenced by people's psychological needs: competence, autonomy, and relatedness.
In regards to competence the more that a client understands how to do the exercise, why they are doing the exercises, and that they are progressing to harder exercises or heavier weights the more competent they are going to feel. At Sweat clients are taught to focus on the work and on consistency. When new clients come in the most important thing that they try to accomplish in the first few months is consistently getting to or rescheduling their personal training sessions. Getting to training sessions is something that clients can control, and feel a sense of accomplishment. When clients don't have an understanding of the of the work and consistency it takes for change it can lead to extrinsic motivation such as "I'm not getting the results I want, this is not working." "Developing a task-oriented focus rather than an outcome-orientated focus is more likely to lead to persistence."
In autonomy it is "satisfied when people feel that they have personally endorsed or chosen the behavior and don't feel pressured or controlled by others." At Sweat we don't have contracts for this very reason. Sweat clients discover why they are here, and need to come to the conclusion that they want to be here on their own. When clients ask me how often they should come I tell them however often you WANT to be here. How often you come with affect your level of results, but in the beginning it has to be about how often you WANT to come and WILL ACTUALLY come. Another way Sweat clients feel autonomy is that they set their own goals. Clients decide what they want to do, and once they choose that goal we help to push and support them. If that goal changes we support that also. A way to decrease autonomy is to tell clients "if it was important enough, you'd do it." This is something that you will never hear out of a Sweat Trainer. Here clients aren't judged or criticized as they make missteps on their path to making fitness apart of their life. They are obviously here because it is important to them we just need to support them, give them the resources, and keep the accountable to they goals that they set for themselves.
"The need for relatedness is satisfied when people feel connected to and appreciated by others in the behavioral context. They don't feel out of place or socially excluded." At Sweat our clients are all teammates and the trainers are more like coaches. Our clients train in pairs of two, they have their individual goals but they are apart of something greater....a team. Clients here are all different, but are all connected by their desire to be an athlete and are willing to push themselves to work hard and build a better body. Sweat clients are around people that support them while doing workouts that they enjoy and are effective.
At Sweat having a set workout session each week keeps our clients accountable to themselves and their personal goals. We encourage clients to focus on the behavior of working out consistently, and enjoying the actual time they spend working out to help to motivate them in the long term. We also make sure our clients feel like they are learning, improving, are being support instead of criticized, and have a team environment when they workout with us. These are the things that help keep our clients motivated in the long term to workout, and as a bonus that's when the results come.
Rodgers WM, Loitz CC. The Role of Motivation in Behavior Change. How Do We Encourage Our Clients To Be Active? ACSM'S Health & Fitness Journal. Jan/Feb 2009. 7-12.
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