My psychology and sport-psychology friends would be upset with me because I’m not actually talking about the academic classifications of motivation (intrinsic, extrinsic, fear, achievement, and so on). I’m referring to two, simple manifestations of motivation central to reaping maximum benefit from your workouts. Both are important. You may master one type of motivation while struggling with the other. Both must be nurtured.
The first is the motivation to commit to “showing up” for a workout. This entails having the discipline to make the time for exercise, whether it’s a run, a walk, or a strength-training workout. It takes motivation to wake up early for that 6am run around the lake, and it takes motivation to schedule and show up for your Saturday strength-
training session. It is a lack of this kind of motivation that is the culprit of the “inactivity epidemic” in the US. Surely, mastering this kind of motivation will improve the health and fitness results we see as a result of our exercise program. When someone displays this type of motivation, society applauds his or her efforts. James Clear’s book “Atomic Habits” might be the best book I’ve read on how to cultivate this type of motivation. Being disciplined or motivated to make exercise a part of our lifestyle is commendable indeed. But it’s only half the battle.
The second manifestation of motivation is your motivation to actually go where you don’t necessarily want to go during the workout. This type of motivation is about PUSHING. Specifically, this kind of motivation means not just showing up for the strength-training session, but it means that on your 10th rep on leg press, when you are breathing hard, your legs are burning, and every part of you wants to set the weight down and rest, you demonstrate tremendous focus and discipline and continue to push; your form remains excellent despite the growing discomfort you are experiencing. You continue to grind out an 11th, 12th, and a 13th rep. Upon attempting a 14th rep you are unable to move the weight and your trainer helps you complete two more. This second type of motivation dictates that completing a 4-mile run wasn’t the overall objective; HOW that run was performed is the major factor. Your intensity level, pace, and ability to welcome and tolerate discomfort in the later portion of the workout is what supercharges our fitness results. Welcome to the pain cave (well, the discomfort cave). And let’s be clear, how we perform (the number of reps we perform, how much weight we lift, our average minute per mile) will vary based on a multitude of factors (including our sleep and our stress levels), the key is that we give what we can give in that moment.
First, show up (repeatedly).
Which one do you need to cultivate?