Exercise motivation: What’s Your Why?

Let me pose a question to you: Why are you working so hard to improve your health and fitness? If you’re feeling stuck with your exercise motivation, it might be something to ask yourself. And give it some serious consideration!

I ended up in this business because I love the buzz I get when a client exclaims: I don’t have to take my blood pressure medication anymore! Or, my knees don’t hurt! Or, I can’t believe how good I feel!

It’s awesome to be a part of that. But it’s taken me the better part of a decade to figure out that helping people feel better is why I stay up at night poring over research papers or checking out what other coaches are doing.  I want each client to get the best program, with the most up to date information and most efficient approach possible. I want you to feel better, fast, and to help you find a way to do it that works for you.

Finding what kind of exercise works for you is a key component of creating a successful program. It helps to set SMART goals and create measurable steps to mark progress. I have coached this way for years with a lot of success. But sometimes progress stalls and clients plateau, and I’m juggling to kick-start their motivation again. There is a piece missing.

That piece is Why.

Goals are great, and very useful to keep you going when the going gets tough. But even the best goals aren’t always enough to take you all the way. Knowing your own exercise motivation – the personal connection to your goal – makes it meaningful.

A classic example: I had a client, Bryan, who came to me for help with training to run a marathon. His two best friends had started running a few years before, and had started running races not long after. His friends had decided to do the Las Vegas marathon, and had invited him along to hang out. Bryan decided he’d like to run the marathon too, but needed to get training right away. A marathon is a classic SMART goal: You have a set event date, by which you have to be capable of a certain measurable thing, and you can prepare for this by taking the right steps at the right times.

Bryan’s preferred training time was early morning, before work. He was going strong for quite some time, making great progress with increased running distances and appropriately incorporating strength training and recovery activities. About two-thirds of the way through his training program, it started getting harder to continue those early morning training runs. After discussing how he felt the training plan was going overall, we turned back to the ultimate goal: Finishing the marathon with his friends. Bryan was confident that he could run the distance, but wasn’t sure he could keep pace with his friends. The thought of getting left behind was a huge turn-off.

This was a lightbulb moment: Running the marathon wasn’t about running a marathon. It was about having an equal part in an amazing experience with his closest friends. A couple small tweaks to the training program to help his speed, and he was pumped to be running again. He was getting up even earlier to make sure he warmed up well before his training runs. His times dropped a little and his confidence and excitement skyrocketed. On race day, he kept pace with his friends and more importantly, had a great time.

Bryan figured out why he wanted to run.

We all have our own preferences in how we train, and what we train for. But these are usually not unique. What is unique is your own exercise motivation – your why. Figuring this out can be a time-and-thought-consuming process. It’s not uncommon to have false starts as you go. But it’s also easier to pick up and try again. There is no stronger inspiration than your deepest desires.

So, what’s your why? 

What do you think?