Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

There are two types of people in this world: Intrinsically motivated exercisers and extrinsically motivated exercisers. If you are intrinsically motivated, that means you workout because you find it fun, rewarding, and it makes you happy.  On the other side are the extrinsically motivated individuals who are working out because they think they have to or are worried about their health. Either way, it’s good to be going to the gym but will intrinsically motivated and extrinsically motivated individuals get the same results?

There is proof out there that people who are intrinsically motivated end up having the most success with their workouts and are usually much happier in their daily lives. This is because people that are intrinsically motivated look forward to their workout and think of it as a source of enjoyment rather than an obligation.  It doesn’t take a genius to know that going into a workout with a positive attitude is a big (possibly the biggest) influence on how hard you push yourself in each exercise as well as how satisfied you feel about yourself afterwards.  

Extrinsically motivated exercisers on the other hand will likely not have the same experience. These are usually the people who only go to the gym because they know they need to improve their overall health and get little to no satisfaction from working out. The most classic example of this is someone who is overweight or obese and has been told if they don’t lower their body fat percentage they could be at risk for cardiovascular disease or type II diabetes.  A person like that usually has a history of living a sedentary lifestyle which means that going and working out was never something that attracted them which likely means that pushing their body beyond their comfort zone stresses them out.  Going into a workout feeling stressed out and wishing you were at home can often make going to the gym a complete waste of time. 

What does it take to make an extrinsically motivated individual stop thinking of working out as a chore and become more intrinsically motivated? The answer is getting a personal trainer or joining a group fitness class.  Having a personal trainer or a group fitness instructor there to motivate you and help guide you through workouts safely will help you perform more successful workouts and feel better about yourself (as well as get results quicker!). With good results comes looking better and feeling better about yourself, which leads to greater self-confidence and a greater enjoyment for exercising.  That will eventually lead to becoming a more intrinsically motivated exerciser. 

In conclusion, working out is always better than not working out but your mindset going into the workout can make all the difference.  Whether or not you think you need a personal trainer to help you get going on an exercise program is your decision but it is highly recommended.