16 Sep Spring – bring on the health and fitness motivation
The weather is gorgeous right now and it inspires me to get out and get active. It is the perfect time of year to try and build some good habits around health and fitness. While health and fitness motivation is not something that you should try to rely on in order to engage in healthy behaviours, it can be nice (and helpful) to embrace the natural boost in health and fitness motivation that can come in the spring season.
Understanding the role of motivation in health and fitness
As many health professionals, nutritionists, fitness trainers and psychologists agree, waiting around for motivation to come in order to start engaging in more healthy habits (no matter what that might look for you), is going to be extremely hit-and-miss. The process involves waiting around for something that is totally out of your control.
And the golden rule is that motivation comes after the action. So, if you are looking to find health and fitness motivation, no matter what time of the year, then the key is to take action, today, in whatever small way you can. The motivation will come later.
And sometimes it can be challenging to get started. In that case, there is nothing wrong with building a little extrinsic motivation into your routine.
Intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation
Motivation can be categorised into two main types: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation comes from within, driven by your personal goals, values, and the inherent satisfaction of living a healthier life. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is external and often related to rewards or recognition from others, such as praise, acknowledgement, or material gain.
Intrinsic motivation can definitely be very nice. But again, it is not something you can control. We are all of us more intrinsically motivated in different areas of our lives. I think this is based on our values. Some of us, just care more about our own health, and possibly the health of others. Maybe this came from childhood, or the building up of layers of experience in our lives, or maybe like our personalities, it is partially genetic. For some of us, being healthy is enough motivation on its own.
That is not the case for all of us though. Some of us don’t really deeply value health that much. And while I would say that most people are motivated to act in ways that will prolong our lives and avoid pain and illness, some of us can use a little bit of a PUSH. In those cases, extrinsic motivation can be just the thing!
Using extrinsic motivation in fitness
Things like social media can be great for this. We can get on board with this incessant need to document every moment of our lives to post about our health and fitness, and the attention we get from others, can be a natural boost to our health and fitness motivation.
I also think that things like hiring a personal trainer can be great for this. Or hiring an exercise buddy in order to stay accountable in fitness. Alternatively, if you join a sports team, you will be held accountable to your team for showing up each week. Some of that social trust that holds us humans so beautifully together can play into your own motivation to get up and get out and get active.
Extrinsic motivation in nutrition and food
In terms of extrinsic motivation for food and nutrition, you could consider hiring a nutritionist or health coach to hold you accountable. In this case, I would suggest finding someone who will get behind what YOU want to achieve, and your food preferences.
I feel like the power of providing services like these is supporting people to intuitively find what works best for them. Rather than pushing some kind of diet or eating regime down someone’s throat. However, like any discipline of science, there are certain evidence based ‘facts’ as it were, about foods that lead to positive health outcomes. For example, I think we can all agree that reducing sugar spikes in our blood via certain eating habits can lead to better outcomes for many chronic health conditions.
As someone who has always loved to talk to people about what they eat and where they are at on their health journey, I often struggle to bring a certain ‘forcefulness’ that I feel would inspire people to change their habits. However, the more that I work in the support work field, the more I realise that people actually benefit from a great deal of ‘autonomy’, and sometimes my job is just to bear witness to their own journey, and to support them making choices for their health.
Behaviour change without judgment or force
For example, one of my support clients recently went shopping and used a plastic bag for every single piece of fruit or veg that she was buying. She ended up with about 20 plastic bags in her basket, and I was shocked, about the use of plastic. Later I wondered to myself about what I could have said to her in that moment that would open up her eyes to the environmental concerns of those kinds of behaviours. I think all I said was ‘You like putting every type of vegetable in a plastic bag?’ It actually seemed later that this was all I needed to say. The next time we were talking about shopping, she said that she had found reusable produce bags at the supermarket and it had reduced her need to use so much plastic. So just by BEING THERE, and bearing witness to her behaviour, she was motivated to change her behaviour.
I am hoping that I could bring the same kind of process to helping clients with their nutritional habits (if I ever get there – my intrinsic lack of FORCEFULNESS is what stops me from following this career path).
Some people are just naturally better at suggesting behaviour changes to people, and for people to actually listen to them and do what they say.
Cultivating health and fitness motivation
There are some other ways that you can effectively cultivate your motivation for health and fitness.
Setting clear goals
One of the most effective ways to fuel your motivation is by setting clear, specific, and achievable goals. Whether it’s running a marathon, losing a certain amount of weight, or simply feeling more energetic, having a target to aim for provides a sense of purpose and direction.
And while those numeric goals might support you in your motivation, more qualitative goals might help too. Speaking as someone who has tried basically everything to lose weight, when absolutely nothing works because of a medication that I take, the number of the scales is just not going to budge, so other goals can be motivating.
One of my goals is to exercise for long-term brain health and heart health. So, I can break that down into little goals of just working up a sweat or increasing my heart rate over a certain duration of time. That way, every time I go to the gym and sweat I feel like I have achieved my goal. And when I do my leg presses or chest presses or weights or whatever, the idea that the strength training is good for my bone health motivates me too.
The fact of the matter is that we all have these imperfect bodies (or most of us do), and we all have things we don’t like about our bodies. So, the idea of taking care of the body that we have can be a very positive force in our lives.
Setting goals around nutrition
Setting clear goals around nutrition might be as simple as eating a certain amount of protein with every meal, never having a meal without some kind of protein, eating less than a certain number of meals with animal protein per week, eating a certain number of servings of leafy green vegetables, eating a certain number of pieces of fruit a week, eating a certain amount of iron, calcium, magnesium or vitamin B12 and the list goes on and on. I could find a hundred goals that would improve our diets for the better!
Finding Your “Why”
Understanding why you want to improve your health and fitness is crucial. Your “why” is your deep-seated reason for embarking on this journey. It could be to be more present for your family, to boost your self-confidence, or to enhance your overall quality of life.
Finding your why can help to increase your health and fitness motivation, because it taps into the deeper value of what motivates you to engage in healthy behaviours.
Tracking Your Progress
Regularly monitoring your progress can be a powerful motivator. Keep a journal, use fitness apps, or take photos to record your journey. Seeing how far you’ve come can remind you of the positive changes you’ve made and inspire you to keep going.
Also, it is fun!
Staying Motivated Along the Way
Mixing up your routine
Monotony can be motivation’s worst enemy. Keep your workouts and meals interesting by trying new activities, exploring different cuisines, or varying your exercise routine. The novelty factor can reignite your enthusiasm.
I think this is also why spring can be such a good boost for health and fitness motivation. We often change up our behaviours in spring and this kind of change in our environment can be very energising.
Don’t underestimate the power of a support system. Whether it’s a workout buddy, a nutritionist, or an online fitness community, having people who share your goals can provide encouragement, accountability, and a sense of camaraderie.
It is the same with quitting a substance or activity. If you can find a community that is ‘bigger than yourself’ it can help to motivate you to keep going.
Celebrating Small Wins
Big goals are achieved through a series of small victories. Celebrate every milestone, no matter how minor it may seem. Acknowledging your progress, no matter how small, can boost your motivation and reinforce positive habits.
In the pursuit of health and fitness, motivation is the compass that keeps you moving forward. Remember that motivation, much like your physical health, requires regular attention and care. Nurture it with clear goals, a compelling “why,” and a supportive environment. And always keep in mind that the journey itself is a reward, filled with opportunities for personal growth and transformation.
FAQs about health and fitness motivation
Q1: How do I find motivation when I feel stuck in a fitness rut?
A1: When in a fitness rut, try changing up your routine, setting new goals, or seeking inspiration from fitness role models or success stories.
Q2: What should I do if I lose motivation after a setback or injury?
A2: After a setback or injury, focus on recovery and set small, achievable goals to regain momentum gradually.
Q3: Can social media be a source of motivation for health and fitness?
A3: Yes, social media can be a source of motivation through fitness influencers, communities, and sharing your own progress and journey.
Q4: Is it normal to have periods of low motivation in a long fitness journey?
A4: Yes, it’s entirely normal to experience periods of low motivation. Use these times to reevaluate your goals and find fresh sources of inspiration.
Q5: What role does consistency play in maintaining motivation for health and fitness?
A5: Consistency is key to maintaining motivation. Establishing daily or weekly routines can help make healthy habits more automatic and sustainable.
“‘Balancing on the Brink.’ Eagle Peak summit, Chugach Mountains, Alaska” by Paxson Woelber is licensed under CC BY 2.0.