My relationship with exercise has not always been sunny. For many years, exercise was solely to keep my body from not gaining weight or better yet, in my mind, I'd actually lose weight. The relationship hinged on doing as much exercise as possible in the hopes that it would transform my body to where I wanted it to be.
Was that ever attained?
Nope. Notta. Never.
Because my expectation of that relationship was not realistic. Nor was it healthy. Nor was it fair to my mental and physical health. I had seen how synchronized swimming transformed my body and when I could no longer continue the volume of exercise in the pool due to injury, it was a massive fear that I'd gain weight.
It is in the many, I mean MANY conversations I have had over my 20+ year career where I can hear myself in other people's stories. This unrelenting push to lose weight for this or that reason. With the whole relationship to exercise linked with body weight. The equation of…
Exercise = Weight Loss
Solely using exercise as the greatest tool to lose weight. No wonder they (and I) think this way. Our culture has led us to believe that exercise is the be all and end all to keeping us trim and bikini ready.
You don't need to look far for the messages we get about exercise and weight. But it takes a WHOLE lot of exercise to make any impact on body weight.
However, the societal messages we are getting are somewhat better. But I can't relay to you how many people I work with (patients and professionals) that look to me to help them lose weight or help another to lose weight.
I see myself in them all the time.
Although not perfect, I have been able to disassociate in my brain that exercise equals weight loss. If you have ever heard "what fires together is wired together" you can imagine the strong link that our brains make between exercise and weight loss. It is a strong link for many.
Don't get me wrong, exercise still can have an impact on our bodies but I no longer focus my attention (and outcome) to how much exercise I can do to simply lose weight.
And with that, we can look at weight loss as an extrinsic motivator to exercise.
If I exercise, I will lose weight.
Now there are many forms of extrinsic motivators, weight loss would be classified as "identified regulation" where you are driven by your personal goals (to lose weight) via exercise. Other identified regulation extrinsic motivators are things such as training for a 5K run or being able to play with grandchildren.
Although not a bad thing to help with motivation, extrinsic motivators can be a suitable place to start. It is the usual place that people begin when starting a new behaviour, like exercise. Yet, overtime for the behaviour or in this case, exercise to persist, linking your intrinsic motivation will be the "WHY" that helps continue the exercise behaviour.
An intrinsic motivator is something that brings you pleasure, you enjoy and you find fun. Take for example, you enjoy playing a round of golf as you find pleasure walking in nature and the company you keep on the greens. You can probably guess that next time you are invited to play a round, you are more inclined to say yes to the golfing instead of any physical activity that feels like a chore.
I share with you my story of exercise and body weight as an example of how my relationship has changed over the years. Now I recognize when I am extrinsically motivated to exercise (e.g., to reduce my gasoline bill and ride my bike places) and when I am intrinsically motivated to exercise (e.g., playing a game of tag in the park with my kids because it makes me laugh and smile).
I encourage you to start thinking about what your motivators are. No judgement. Simply reflecting on what gets your body moving. Extrinsic things like rewards, self-imposed rules, your goals or the way you want others to see you. Or intrinsic things like having fun and being happy.
I've created a quick worksheet to help you brainstorm and write out all the things that motivate you to exercise. You can download it below.
And if you want to read more about exercise motivation, check out some of these articles.
No motivation to exercise? Focus less on intensity, and more on happiness
2 Steps to Overcoming the Motivation Myth
Stay well and happy moving, Lisa