Motivation and Enjoyment of Exercise

8kg kettlebell shown from above with pair of trainers

How motivated do you feel to exercise? How much do you enjoy exercise? Are the two connected? We all know the benefits of exercise for physical and mental health; yet some of us choose not to engage. We are the couch potatoes and spectators. The key question is: Why do some of us enjoy exercise while others shy away from it?

What is your ability?
I think most of us would agree that our preference (or lack thereof!) for sporting activity can be traced back to childhood. There have been a number of interesting studies on the factors that influence children’s enjoyment of sport. We will definitely explore some of these in future posts. We will start with sporting ability and how our belief in what we can achieve may impact not our only our motivation to participate but also our enjoyment.

Are you good enough?
Of these two statements, which resonates with you?
1. I am good at some things and bad at others. That is just the way it is.
2. I am good at some things and I can work to be good at others given time and energy.

If you chose statement 1 then you have a fixed belief in ability and capacity. If you chose statement 2 then you have an incremental belief in ability and capacity.

Rationally, of course, we all know that we can improve ourselves, right? But, ask yourself honestly, how often do we use the excuse that we are just not good enough, not capable enough, to run a 5k /play a game of 5-a-side/ complete an aerobics class?* (*delete as appropriate!!)

The thing is, whether your belief is fixed or incremental does not just influence your motivation to participate. It also affects your enjoyment of participation. If you believe your ability is fixed then you will not enjoy the process as you do not see the process as leading anywhere.

Motivation and Enjoyment in Practice

To take an example: imagine you are at the gym. You just did 3 goblet squats with a 8kg kettle-bell (well done you!). Thing is, the girl beside you has cracked out 10 perfect-form barbell squats and it looks suspiciously like that bar is laden with 60kg of weight (go her!)

If you have an incremental belief in ability you will applaud the girl next to you and set out to do 4 goblet squats with a 8kg kettle-bell next time you hit the gym. In other words, the girl next to you has no real effect on you and your progress. You’re enjoying the process.

If you have a fixed belief in ability the girl next to you will put you off. It’s a reminder that you aren’t as good. She is better. She is more able. You may turn up the next day to do your 4 squats but it hardly makes for a motivating mind-set does it?

The Lesson?
Think incrementally! You are competing against yourself and if you start competing against others you will quickly find the process demotivating. And, with demotivation comes a loss of enjoyment.

What do you think? Does our mindset influence our motivation and enjoyment?

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