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Motivation For Improving Personal Fitness And Sports Performance

Updated on November 29, 2011

Motivation for running- the great outdoors

Getting outside on a beautiful autumn day can be a great motivating factor for running
Getting outside on a beautiful autumn day can be a great motivating factor for running | Source

Workout motivation

What is Motivation?

The word 'motivation' is derived from the Latin for 'to move' and in many ways can be described as

"the internal mechanisms and external stimuli that arouse and direct our behaviour[1]"

A persons' motivation prompts a reaction to the stimuli experienced. Whether it's the case that someone is feeling down after a day at work and decides to head to the gym to work out and get rid of some of their frustration, or someone who's feeling overweight and unfit so decides to choose to consult a personal trainer.

In relation to sport and exercise an individual could have multiple motivating factors at any one time. Those motivations can also change over a period of time based on alternate stimuli- motivation for losing weight may lead to more specific individual performance goals over time and it is important for a fitness instructor, coach or personal trainer to understand this.

The table below shows a selection of common motives people may have for taking part in an exercise and physical fitness regime.

Common motives for starting a fitness/exercise programme

Common Motives
Motivating Factors
Lose weight/ tackle obesity
Pressure from family/friends/loved ones
Medical need to improve fitness
Personal challenge
Compulsive attitude to life
Improve appearance
Desire to live a healthier life
Social contact

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation- Types of Motivation

There are many factors which motivate a person to exercise and it's highly likely that no one person has the exact same motivating factors for sport and fitness as another. Athletes may be more motivated towards competition than motivational factors such as weight loss.

Motivation can come from two distinct sources. Internal (intrinsic motivation) an External (extrinsic motivation).

What is Intrinsic Motivation?

Intrinsic motivation is the internal, personal factors that motivate an individual to exercise or in the case of an athlete- train and compete. This often includes such factors as self-satisfaction and enjoyment. These motivational factors are often linked to positive outcome goals which the participant may have set in the long term.

It is a good idea for a personal trainer or fitness instructor to speak with a client prior to them starting (or during) a course of fitness training sessions to establish their motivating factors and allow positive reinforcement of these factors for the future.

What is Extrinsic Motivation?

Extrinsic motivation is related to the external factors and rewards that the exerciser sees as factors involved with their participation in a programme of sport or fitness training.

In athletes this may be an Olympic Medal, trophy or to be the first to the cafe in their Sunday morning group cycling ride and the psychological bragging rights it provides and the praise they might receive from others. Weight loss is often a very extrinsic motivator as the positive comments from others provide reinforcing motivation.

It is important that a coach, personal trainer or individual doesn't become over reliant on external motivators and has a clear focus on internal motivation factors.

Are you motivated to get to the gym?

Do you enjoy going to the gym? Does the gym help motivate you?
Do you enjoy going to the gym? Does the gym help motivate you? | Source

Motivational Techniques for Fitness Instructors, Personal Trainers, Sports Coaches and Individuals

Why not try some of the below goal setting and motivational techniques.

  • Set short term goals that are achievable (but not too easy to lose focus)
  • Find a training partner/ buddy to exercise with
  • Keep a written/ typed record of your/ your clients fitness that can easily be viewed and referenced in future.
  • Take pictures during the weight loss process so you/ the client can visually see the difference then and now.
  • Make a note of the reasons for exercise/ competition and keep them in a visually prominent place. A pin board on the kitchen wall or post it notes on the biscuit jar saying 'don't eat me' have great visual and mental effect.
  • Add variety into life- try something new every so often- you never know it might be rather enjoyable!.


1. Coulson. M, (2007) The Fitness Instructors Handbook. A & C Black London.


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    • INFJay profile image

      Jay Manriquez 6 years ago from Santa Rosa, California

      Excellent Hub with information that applies to just about any self-development program. We all need regular doses of motivation whether getting up early for a run or sitting down to write the next Hub. Thanks!

    • CyclingFitness profile image

      Liam Hallam 6 years ago from Nottingham UK

      Thanks Cardia, I feel that those who want to read about such issues as motivation within a sport and personal fitness setting would also likely wish to increase their knowledge on particular basic motivational techniques- it adds an interactional approach to the article which I hope most readers like and can relate too. Thanks for your feedback CF

    • Cardia profile image

      Cardia 6 years ago from Barbados.

      Lots of good information! I especially like the Motivational techniques section. Voted Up, and Useful.

    • CyclingFitness profile image

      Liam Hallam 6 years ago from Nottingham UK

      Thanks jbrock- I have always tried to train with the motto- "I'm only racing when there's a number on my back".

    • jbrock2041 profile image

      jbrock2041 6 years ago from Park City, UT

      Great hub! It made me smile when you said extrinsic motivation is the first one in the cafe in their Sunday morning riding group, since that's often what motivates me during a hard, long ride. It's so true that as a personal trainer or coach you can't get too caught up on motivating clients through extrinsic motivation because it doesn't ever seem to last too long, they have to be internally motivated. Another motivation tool I use is having my clients tell other people their goals. I use this one myself.