Posted on January 29, 2018 by Jenny Cromack

We are almost a month after the Christmas break, the gyms have been bustling with new gym members and old stalewarts. It is around this time we would expect to see some of the new years resolutioners’ enthusiasm begin to diminish.

Is the spark for your fitness fix begeinning to fade? Are you struggling to get that grip back on your motivation to train, attend classes, or simply get moving in the gym? If so this blog offers some key influences that may help you find and regain your motivation. Basically, it may help you with how to get you motivated to exercise. The influences are based on a recent research article, and offers some great considerations for both clients and personal trainers alike.


What is Motivation?

Motivation is basically the desires, drives, and reasons we do anything. There are various types of motivation, but for the sake of this article I will categorise these into 2 key “types”; Extrinsic and Intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation is typified by those whose motivations are controlled externally; by others or materialistic/physical rewards or punishments. Intrinsic motivation is characterised by an integration of behaviour into one’s life, and being driven by sheer enjoyment for the activity.

Intrinsic motivation generally is associated with better adherence to exercise. But how do we shift peoples’ motivation? Simple. We need to try tap into 3 psychological needs; autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Autonomy offers the individuals a sense of control, competence refers the one’s capabilities and confidence in a particular task, and relatedness encapsulates a persons sense of belonging, relationships, and acceptance in a given environment. (Deci & Ryan, 2000). How do we do this in the gym as both a member or as as personal trainer?

What Helps Satisfy These Needs?

Burn and Niven (2018) conducted a study on motivation and HIIT exercise. There participants discussed several themse that provide food for thought.

Session Structure

When planning our sessions (either as a personal trainer or as a gym goer) providing adequate work/rest ratios is important. Having enough rest that allows adequate recovery helps improve the sense of competence (2nd psychological need). This improved sense of competence may help keep individuals engaged in the given exercises/sessions. Similarly, having a set structure or making sessions transparent to our clients also helps improve competence, as individuals can feed off previous performances.

Exercise Choices

The choice of exercises in our sessions should provide variety, having a mixture of exercise difficulty/intensity will help balance the sense of competence. Being confident and capable in some exercise may outweigh the resentment/lack of confidence in the more difficult exercises. Overall, this improves one’s sense of competence and feeds into the shift towards more intrinsic motivation. Additionally, as a PT offering a continuum of difficulty or modifications for given exercises also helps shift one’s motivation. By offering a choice of exercise difficulty can kill two birds; satisfying the need for autonomy and competence. Providing choice offers control, and also the option for success in a specific exercise.

Instructor Characteristics

Participants shared an importance for the personal trainer communication style. It was said that when instructors matched their communication style to their clients there was an improved sense of relatedness. Do your clients respond to authoritarian approaches? Do they like informational approaches? Or do they want a friendly face to guide them softly through the session? Here at motive8 we pride ourselves on or versatility in approaches, and evidence suggests this is great for our clients sense of relatedness, and thus motivation. Similarly, specific encouraging attitudes and communication appears to help improve the sense of both relatedness and competence. If your PT/instructor is set in their ways and doesn’t resonate with you, bring it up with them, find the style that fits you!

As a personal trainer being caring and presenting a “normal person” image also appears to help satisfy the need for relatedness and competence in gym users. If personal trainers join in with sessions, offer personal care/interest, and share in your goals then this will offer a great deal to your motivation to stick at it.

Share the Experience

Finally, to help improve your connections/relationships with others and boost your drive to stick at the sweat-filled sessions, why not include your nearest and dearest? Take your friends, take your parents, siblings, or whoever means something to you. If they can share it with you, you will go far. Additionally, surround yourself with like-minded others, classes are great for finding those “in the same boat” and a mutual relationship will form and you can guide each others sense of relatedness and road to health and fitness success.

Take Home Message

If you are looking for motivational tweaks, take these key themes and approach your trainers. Ask yourself are they, or am I, hitting these things? If not make some subtle changes/additions and watch your motivation blossom. Remember three key things, do I have some control in what I am doing? Do I feel confident/competent? Am I sharing this experience with someone? If not try some of the above  in how to get you motivated to exercise!

Good Luck and Keep Going!