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How to Get Yourself to Exercise No Matter How You Feel

Uncategorized Mar 05, 2021

I work with a lot of people who are extraordinarily successful in their respective careers. It is interesting to me why they are such high performers. Or, more specifically, what is their driving motivation. I think that some people enjoy the challenge, their career is mentally stimulating. Other people have their accomplishments wrapped up in their identity. They are what their job is.

And other people just want to make enough money to get a beach house.  

These motives don’t live in isolation. I could love the challenge of my job, want to make loads of money for a beach house, and have my job integrated into who I am.

Why we do what we do describes our motives.

The concept of “motive” for participating in exercise is interesting to me. It’s interesting for several reasons that must all be considered:

  1. Most people understand that exercise and physical activity is good for them.
  2. Most people at some point in their lives intend to exercise.
  3. Strenuous exercise is generally an unpleasant experience for most people new to exercise.
  4. Exercise takes time, therefore there is an opportunity-cost.

Very easy comparisons to career success (1) most people know having a good job is beneficial (2) most people would love to make more money (3) working hard to get there isn’t fun and (4) it takes time.


So, we combine this understanding that if we exercise over the long term, we will accumulate benefits. But, in there here and now it isn’t pleasant.

Recently, a client asked me how I stayed consistent with my exercise routine. I told him that the reason why I exercise probably wouldn’t solve his issue right away. That’s because it’s just a part of my identity, it’s part of who I am. I exercise irrespective of how I feel that day (tired, stressed, sore) and irrespective of if I think it will be fun or not. But you don’t get there overnight.

That takes time, perceptions of competency, evidence of progress, and other positive benefits (bigger muscles, compliments on new found fitness).

Before that, let’s say you know that exercise is good, you intend to do it, but you also recognize that it won’t be pleasant or comfortable and it will take time away from doing other things.

So, what’s your motive? What “birthed” your intention to exercise. Do you want to look better? To lose weight? Gain confidence? Accumulate health benefits?

All of these motives are great, they may get you in the door. But if you want to stay consistent, exercise is going to have to become a part of who you are.

How does that happen?

Research suggest that any behavior can be integrated into who you are if you feel competent in your skills, if the environment that the behavior occurs in promotes feelings of care and community, and if you receive autonomy support (you’re not force to do something you don’t want to do).

The right environment can meet these needs and the wrong one can thwart them. So, if you have struggled to stay consistent, don’t always worry that it may be something with you. If your motive has not yet risen to the level of identity (I’m exercising because I am an exerciser) then maybe your environment needs to change too.


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