I was doing a training session in Hong Kong two weeks ago and one of the participants pulled me aside to ask me about how to get motivated to exercise. He travels a lot and every morning in the hotel elevator as he’s going down to Starbucks to get his coffee he sees all these people going to the gym. He said he really wanted to be one of those people, but couldn’t find the motivation to do it. The topic came up again last week in another session I was doing: after receiving feedback on his levels of engagement, a client realized there were many things he was passionate about, but exercise was not one of those things and he didn’t ever see how he could become passionate about the act of exercise.
I think there’s a misconception out there in regards to how people who don’t exercise regularly think people who do exercise regularly feel about exercising. The thinking is that exercisers love to exercise.
I’m not so passionate about the actual act of exercising. In fact, I often times dread it. I don’t count down the minutes to discomfort, panting, and burning muscles. I’d prefer not to set the time aside and would much rather be doing something else.
What I am extremely passionate about is personal integrity. I made a commitment to myself and I followed through with it. I said I was going to do something (exercise) and I did it. I feel amazing afterward for doing something for myself that improves who I am as a person – as a mother, a spouse, a professional. It’s integrity. I choose to hold myself responsible. It’s a great feeling to put myself “on the hook” and then rise to the occasion. I’m getting all jacked up just thinking about it.
Research shows that people who exercise for intrinsic reasons – bettering themselves, stress management, having more energy – exercise more consistently than those who exercise for extrinsic reasons like losing weight or fitting into a certain size of clothing. If you’re struggling with being a regular exerciser, spend some time thinking about what exercise can do for you other than the physical aspect. How does it make you feel afterward? What does following through with an important commitment mean to you? What does it say about you as a person? How can it be an illustration of your values?
(Just to make sure I wasn’t a crazy outlier, I did perform an informal poll of people I know who exercise on a regular basis and they confirmed my hypothesis. They did however say I was crazy. But for reasons beyond my ‘scientific’ study.)