How Do I Find The Motivation To Exercise?

July 29, 2007 by  
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By Zoe Routh

‘Jan’ explained that she knew she wanted to improve her fitness because it would she would feel better about herself as well as improve her job prospects in the acting field.

However, she felt that she lived too far away from her gym; it was inconvenient to get there and interrupted the flow of her day. She also mentioned that she had discovered a yoga class that she enjoyed thoroughly. She felt fantastic afterwards, energised, centred, and really happy. However this was even more out of the way than the gym.

As Jan spoke it was obvious there were various structural and internal blocks to the implementation of an exercise regime.

First of all, determining a motivation that is inspiring rather than a ‘should’ is essential, otherwise she’d just end up resisting the exercise routine all the time. For this client, the ‘should’ was in the pressure she felt to measure up to the other acting class candidates: they were thinner and she felt her chances for employment would improve if she was more fit. There was no joy around this motivation. When she spoke about the yoga, her voice rose with excitement and you could really hear the joy the yoga practise created for her. She also felt that she would not get the physical results she desired if she did the yoga; resistance training and cardio vascular exercise was what she needed.

For this client, motivation was tempered by obligation and expectation from others, rather than an inherent pleasure and joy in the fitness and health itself. This is draining and feels like hard work. In addition, the location of the gym and the yoga classes were also detractors from implementing a solid program.

The solution for this client is multi-faceted:

First, Jan needs to determine a reason to exercise that feels good. The biggest clue here is the feeling she had when she engaged in the yoga: that sense of inner calm. This is the real key to the motivation or inspiration to do exercise. Tangible and physical results will occur as a side effect, but should not be the main reason for engaging in an exercise program. It is the process that needs to be enjoyable; otherwise she is constantly working uphill against herself through the pile of ‘shoulds’, expectations, and external drivers.

Secondly, Jan needs to create environments that support the intention. She needs to make it as easy as possible to follow through on the commitment to fitness and health. This means choosing a gym or location that is convenient and fits in to her routine. It may also mean hiring a personal trainer to create accountability and support for her intentions.

Having discussed these options, the client put forward some further objections in that she thought that there might not be any trainers who would suit her need for flexibility. Jan was trying to figure out how to fit in to the needs of the trainers, rather than asserting her own needs first. By knowing in detail what she desires and wishes, her next job is to focus on finding services that suit her; she is to create an environment that suits her needs, rather than trying to fit in with everyone else’s. This is what it means to live life on one’s own terms. Otherwise she will be constantly putting herself second and complying with other people’s demands and expectations.

Does it work? Nothing works as well as when you feel completely in line with your innermost desires and intentions, and have an environment that supports you effortlessly in achieving this. When it feels good from the inside out, then you know it is working. Exercise becomes an integral part of the routine that inspires and uplifts, rather than feeling like drudgery.

Zoë Routh is the Head Coach at Inner Compass. She has paddled 30 weeks by canoe in northwest Ontario, run 6 marathons, hiked hundreds of kilometres in Australia’s outback, bellydanced at various festivals, written a book, Absolute Productivity, survived cancer, married a fair dinkum Aussie bloke, and wrestled a 6 meter crocodile. It’s all true, except for the crocodile part. Sign up for more inspiration in Compass Bearings at

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